This week, we took part in the IUPAC Empowering Women in Chemistry Global Breakfast event. It happened during a time when I’m swamped in grading (which reproducibly happens from week 2 to week 15 of each semester). Nevertheless, I thought it would be worthwhile to record some thoughts about the event. Plus, I want to learn how to embed tweets in a blog post.
The goal of the breakfast is to assit women chemists to expand their network of contacts. Women come together to share career advice and explore professional development opportunities. At Brockport, we took a little different approach to the event because – well, I’m not a woman but I wanted breakfast.
Because this year is the International Year of the Periodic Table, I wanted to incorporate the periodic table theme into our breakfast. So I reached out to my colleague Carly Reed and we came up with the idea of having the Chemistry Club students create short poster presentations of women who contributed to the discovery of elements. Quickly, we expanded that to include those who won a Nobel Prize in chemistry. We now had an interesting hook to keep our breakfast focused on women in chemistry but also make it a more inviting and inclusive event.
The IUPAC website had a cool map feature where participants in the breakfast could post a brief announcement and place a pin on the world map. As locations checked in on social media, the pins would change to hearts.
Another interesting feature of the Breakfast was an email chain. We received an announcement with some suggested powerpoint slides and a video to show at the breakfast (which we did). People started responded to the email with “thanks” and I dreaded the number of “me too” type Reply-All goofs. Quickly, though, the email chain turned into a mini-networking event where organizers were reporting in and sending greetings from around the globe. The list became something like an electronic penpal flashmob and while the flood of emails was very quickly overwhelming, it was somewhat humbling to think that we were a small part of something much bigger. It’s perhaps the first time I’ve felt that with the internet.
I do have to take a moment to step up onto my soapbox here. Our IT department has made the oh-so-brilliant decision of vandalizing nearly every email sent to my inbox. You see, they are concerned about the proliferation of phishing attempts and have therefore decided the “solution” is to emblazon every email not from a Brockport email account as potentially dangerous.
This is a really stupid policy that does nothing to improve the security of our systems but simultaneously absolve the IT department of doing their job while pissing off (or at the very least, embarrasing) users of the system they maintain. This little piece of security theater needs to stop (as does my rant). There were some amazing photos from across the globe that really showcased the diversity in chemistry, and I hope others have had a chance to reflect on how our field is improved by having such a varity of practitioners.
I mentioned earlier that we used this time to celebrate women in Chemistry by highlighting those who earned a Nobel Prize or participated in the discovery of an element. There are 9 women in this group (by my reckoning), and one of them, Lise Meitner, didn’t make it onto our wall (not enough chem club members and I ran out of time). I used this opportunity to talk to the students briefly about Meitner and the challenges she faced not only as a women in chemistry, but as a Jew. After becoming the first female full professor of physics in Germany, she was stripped of the title and had to leave the country in 1938. Like Meitner, many of these women faced cultural and societal challenges that could have impeded their research goals (and probably did). Only through grit and perseverance did they achieve the level of success that they are now recognized for, and all of us, women and men, should look to these histories for guidance when we are faced with what seems like insurmountable odds.
…like the ever growing pile of ungraded lab reports on my desk.