At a conference this summer, I attended a lunch discussion on gender equality in science, and diversity and equity in the workplace in general, hosted by the activist group; 500 Women Scientists. What was planned to be a small meeting of 20-30 women very quickly turned into a standing-room-only event as an unexpected number of women and allies arrived; a momentum which has been gathering since the inception of 500WS. Following the 2016 presidential election, four women decided it was time to act and founded the organization with the goal of getting 500 women in STEM to sign an open letter in support of science. As of writing this, more than 20,000 supporters from over 100 countries have joined the movement, which has sparked a number of actions.
First, 500WS seeks to spread awareness of issues and provide resources towards improving life in the workplace. In particular; recognizing, preventing, and providing justice for sexual harassment in the workplace has been a large focus of the 500WS group, among many other organizations and individuals in the #MeToo movement.
Second, 500WS aims to create gender equality in STEM and the workplace in general, by promoting inclusion, by advocating for employee-friendly practices, and by reducing bias. These policies not only help women, for example; they help working parents of all genders through the implementation of policies like parental leave. One of the 500WS measures is providing an online resource for people to Request A Scientist, to promote the visibility of women in STEM and support their inclusion in news articles, on panels, as speakers, and in leadership positions. This visibility in the media reinforces the idea that women are actively working in STEM, are making important contributions to it, and can help dispel gender stereotypes and bias which lead to pay discrepancies and missed career opportunities. Along with similar resources like the Diverse Sources Database, 500WS seeks to reinforce the idea that scientists come in all sorts of formats.
Third, 500WS is an activist group. In addition to promoting the March for Science movement last year and this year, they regularly post actionable items for women in STEM and supporters on their Take Action Tuesday blog posts. Most recently, 500WS is also launching a Science Salon campaign to raise money for Puerto Rico, which has yet to recover from catastrophic hurricane damage due to insufficient US recovery funds and a lack of media attention.
501 Women Scientists
Those of you following my blog know that I am a firm supporter of equity in science (although largely from the point of view of women in STEM – write what you know, after all); I have debated the existence of the pay gap with others online; I have written about the lack of women in STEM, the disparity between what women are expected to do at work and how their performance is judged, the awkward problem of name changes and publication records, and not missing out on brilliant researchers because of bias; I have hosted a STEM workshop for girls, been a mentor to an elementary student, attended Meet a Scientist day at the Eugene Science Center; and I have marched for science, equality, and human rights when I could.
I am thrilled to announce that I’m also joining the 500 Women Scientists Eugene Pod as a co-coordinator! The Eugene Pod leadership has been working hard to develop a Eugene Science Salon, and we hope to make it a reoccurring event which will promote local women in STEM, increase public engagement and education in STEM, and raise money for a variety of causes.
Connect with 500WS
You can find the Eugene Pod online on Facebook and Twitter and both women in STEM and supporters of any gender, sexuality, ethnicity, nationality, age, career path, field, and preferred Oregon college sports’ mascot are welcome to join. If you are a woman (the inclusive definition of woman) in the Eugene area who would like to join the group and attend meetings to plan larger events, please join our Meetup group.