In July, WEST said a heartfelt thank you to the previous leadership and welcomed several new faces. Elena Spencer moved from Vice President to President, Karin von Hodenberg stepped into the Vice President role, Kristen Lorentz joined the leadership team as the Treasurer, and Jen Reilly is returning to the Clerk role. With all these new faces, WEST wants to allow our community to get to know your leadership a little better. Read our conversations with the new WEST leadership members below.
When you ask someone the best thing their boss can do for them, the answer is straightforward: “Tell me what is expected of me, present me with growth opportunities, give me clear deadlines, and trust me to do my job.” If you ask them what's the worst thing their boss can do, the number one answer is: “micromanage.”
What is the connection here? Trust. As Etta Jacobs, MA, PCC, told us: “A boss who micromanages, gives their direct reports the impression that they don’t trust them to do the work.” When an employee does not feel valued for their expertise and empowered to solve problems on their own, they begin to lose interest. This leads to the number one reason employees leave their job: a bad manager.
In 1920, women earned the right to vote. In 1963,
congress passed the Equal Pay Act of 1963, protecting women from being paid a lower rate than men for substantially similar work. As part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it became illegal to discriminate in employment based on race, sex, color, religion, and national origin. It’s now 2023 and women have been making progress towards equality in the workplace for over 100 years now. While there’s still room for major improvements, women have come a long way in the workplace.
Topics: Gender Balance, STEM, STEM, Gender Balance, Women, Career, Women in STEM, Annual Theme, Equal Pay, Change, Making a Difference, Gender Pay Gap, Challenges, Career Development, Organizational Culture, D&I, Gender Parity, Equity, Organizational Change, STEM Women, STEM Leadership, Female Representation STEM, Hiring Women in STEM, International Women's Day, Women's History Month, Strong Women, Strong World
When we consider a traditional career ‘path,’ we are often looking at the educational background, first steps into professional positions, and growth path into a goal position or leadership role. When we ask a high schoolers, for example, what they want to do after they graduate, many will give you a step-by-step guide that they have attached themselves to in order to get into whatever job or industry is their goal. The reality is, even the best-laid plans are subject to change. Diane Ma has experienced these plan changes at a variety of points throughout her education and professional journeys.
Often we misunderstand confidence to be a magical feeling that we either possess or it will elude us forever. We then find ourselves wondering how we can create this magical feeling of confidence. However, in reality, confidence is less of a magical gift and more a result of the everyday work of taking on difficult things, learning, failing, growing, and succeeding. In other words, it is not a question of whether you are a confident person or not, but a result of showing up courageously and authentically to things that feel hard (even impossible), scare us, and doing our best. Repeatedly showing up in those difficult situations courageously would slowly build that trust for you in your abilities, and that’s what confidence in self is: a feeling of trust in one's abilities, qualities, and judgment. Confidence is an outcome of courage, not the other way around. This is what Pallavi Srivastava will focus on in her workshop for the WEST community “Nurturing Confidence: The Path Through Courage & Authenticity.”
On January 11th, WEST held “The Journey Starts Now: Q&A Sessions With Women in STEM and What You Can Do Starting in High School,” a guest speaker panel moderated by Suhanee Mitragotri (Harvard College 2025. During this event, we had the pleasure of hearing from three incredible speakers: Dr. Cristina Almansa, Dr. Ambika Bajpayee, and Dr. Lesley Chan. Dr. Almansa is the Head of Clinical Sciences, Translational Medicine Immunology at Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson. She is leading a team of scientists responsible for the design and execution of early development trials to evaluate the safety and determine the mechanism of action of new molecular entities for the treatment of patients with immunological disorders. Dr. Bajpayee is a professor of bioengineering at Northeastern University. Her lab is focused on nanomedicine and bioelectrics designed for delivery of small-molecule drugs, antibodies, and genetic materials to tissue. Dr. Chan is the Senior Director of Process Sciences and Innovations at bluebird bio. She drives initiatives for implementing new manufacturing processes in gene-modified stem and progenitor cell therapy.
I have been thinking deeply about how women in STEM can have more seats at the table and not the kiddie table where one goes to do tidying up and office housework. The table where their voices are heard, acknowledged, and acted upon. Working in tech myself, I notice particularly how women of color are under-represented and white men are over-represented. Is this a result of the ways in which women are conditioned since childhood? The subtle messages they receive again and again? Are women being excluded in important conversations and meetings? Are their thoughts discarded or ignored? Are they not being given credit for their contributions? Is a lack of mentorship and sponsorship the problem? Is the motherhood bias compiled in under-represented fields? Do women of color experience this even more than any other intersectionality? In many ways women are made to feel as if they don’t belong and speaking up about it can come at the detriment of one’s job and security. However, this narrative needs to change. If we want more women leaders and more of them at the top, we need to be able to approach these conversations calmly and strategically. We need a framework for having inclusive conversations and with that framework we need to use it as a piece of workplace culture that emanates throughout the rest of the organization.
Topics: Events, Leadership, Women, Career, Communication, Network, Culture, Women in STEM, Upcoming Events, Professional, Tools, Trust, Conflict Resolution, Challenges, Inclusion, Ally, Allyship, Strong Women, Strong World
Another day headed into work, and you’re stressed about it before you even leave the house. You get to work and find that something just isn’t going your way, and you haven’t even finished your morning coffee yet. You’ve been stressed at work, about work, just thinking about work for weeks now and you know something’s got to give. Finally, it does. Your boss sends an email that just sends you over the edge and you decide you just can’t deal with it right now and take an early lunch. At lunch, you find yourself sitting there thinking, “It’s just me. This job doesn’t seem this stressful to anyone else, there must be something wrong with me.”
Mary Cheyne recounts sitting in a corporate meeting with approximately 25 other people, after a major issue with a project they had been working on. Every person around her had spoken up and provided their input, except her. She managed to leave the meeting without having shared any of her ideas, no matter how brilliant they may have been, because she was afraid of the judgment of everyone else in the room. Feeling ashamed, disappointed in herself, and unable to get out of her own way, she recognized something had to change.
I have been thinking a lot about the success of women who work in Engineering, Science, and Technology from a post-pandemic lens. As more and more women considered dropping back, or out of the workforce in the past two years, I began to wonder what strategies and behaviors could be used to keep them in their professional careers. There is a large body of work dedicated to uncovering research behind women in the workforce and their reasons for leaving yet not much has been written about the support systems women have that enable their rise in the workforce to be successful. I decided to interview a couple of women in engineering, science, and technology to learn a little bit more about the workforce policies that helped them rise and the kinds of people that have lifted, mentored, or supported them along their journey including both professionally and personally.
Topics: Gender Balance, STEM, Gender Balance, Career, Interview, Work Life Balance, Success, Network, Inspire, Mom, Leader, Women in STEM, Working Remotely, Professional, Relationships, Resources, Solutions, Connect, Career Path, Values, Support, Impact, Career Possibilities, Empowerment, New Opportunities, Learn, Inclusion, Diversity, #WESTorg, Parenting, Equity, STEM Women, Female Representation STEM, Hiring Women in STEM, Experience, Ally, Allyship, Strategies, Reflect, Reimagine, Emerge Stronger