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In many cases, the length of a relatively informal event is more telling than the number of people in attendance.
In the case of the Da Vinci Science Center’s first Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Advisory Council meeting recently, both indicators reflect the potential start of something big.
The first meeting – held as a networking reception followed by an information session – was attended by more than 60 women from a variety of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – of STEM – fields. That number of participants far exceeded expectations for a new venture on a Thursday evening right before Halloween. Many participants commented how a group dedicated to females in STEM professions is long overdue and how happy they are that the Da Vinci Science Center is addressing that need.
What was even more telling was the infectious energy that flowed throughout the Center as the professional women spoke about the challenges and opportunities they experience in their careers. Among the speakers were the WISE Advisory Council Co-Chairs – former Da Vinci Science Center Trustee Kathryn C. Worrilow, Ph.D., of LifeAire Systems in Allentown, Pa., and Erin Armstrong of B. Braun in Allentown, Pa. While the event was scheduled to end at 7 p.m., the passion of the professionals carried proceedings closer to 9 p.m.
“I felt inspired and very excited for what’s to come,” Armstrong said after the event. “My only complaint from the evening was that it flew by too fast.”
The first WISE Advisory Council meeting formalized Da Vinci Science Center efforts since 2011 to encourage young women to pursue STEM careers. Efforts led by the Center produced a Women in Science Week of visitor activities in 2011 and the Lehigh Valley area’s first formal Women in Science event in Sept. 2014. The initiative will hold its 2016 WISE Academy for middle school students and 2016 WISE Forum for high school students in Feb. 2016. Both 2016 WISE events are presented by Daiichi Sankyo. The WISE Advisory Council also has established a LinkedIn page to continue conversation among members between meetings and events.
The Advisory Council’s three goals are to connect professional women employed in STEM fields, thereby creating a community of STEM professionals who support one another through networking, social events, and mentoring; to bring passion, insight, expertise, and resources to advise the Center on strategies for developing girls’ interest and achievement in STEM; and to mentor young girls who are interested in STEM through the STEM Valley Mentoring Coalition, which is led by the Da Vinci Science Center.
Advisory Council members will meet 3-4 times each year. Membership is free and open to all. Members will receive e-mail updates about WISE Advisory Council events and Da Vinci Science Center programs as well as information about internship and mentorship opportunities at the Center and with other organizations. The council is working with Lehigh University and other area colleges to seek other opportunities to collaborate with established female STEM groups.