Co-founded ADVANCE Hispanic Women in STEM Network Conference & thoughts on the Double Bind

We’ve just concluded the first ADVANCE Hispanic Women in STEM Networking Conference in Puerto Rico, which brought together women faculty in science, technology, engineering, and math disciplines from across the island. It was a wonderful experience! I helped to co-found the conference with my colleagues from Universidad Metropolitana (UMET):  Beatriz Zayas (Assoc. Professor of Toxicology), Carlos Padin (Dean of the School of Environmental Affairs), and Molly Hardigree (Assist. Vice Chancellor for Sponsored Programs and Research). We had a fabulous team of advisors, speakers, and evaluators from the mainland U.S. and PR who helped to make the conference a success.

This conference was sponsored by the ADVANCE program of the National Science Foundation and was a joint effort between UMET and UMBC, utilizing some of the best practices from UMBC’s ADVANCE program.  Our program brought together 50 women faculty from across the island for intensive days of training, sharing, learning, laughing, evaluation, and assessment. We tackled issues of advancement for women in the academy, mentoring, course loads, teaching, community, family, work/life balance, research, and scholarship.

After I left the lab and my former faculty position at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, most of my time in administration at UMBC and with the College Park and UMB campuses in Maryland has been spent developing training and opportunities for graduate students. More recently, I’ve been working with postdoctoral fellows.  I’d given a few talks about faculty diversity in the past, but the expansion of my passion for developing diverse faculty started last year.  As my graduate students and postdoctoral fellows from NSF’s PROMISE: Maryland’s AGEP began to get faculty positions, I wanted to make sure that I was providing them with enough training to be successful … not just to get a job, but to get tenure, have great scholarship, and have good work/life balance in the process. I believe that it can be done. It may not be easy, but our programs strongly emphasize the importance of networks and support during the journey.  Thanks to an invitation from the Institute for Broadening Participation, I was a guest speaker for the Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN) in Seattle in 2011, for  the 2012 ADVANCE conference for the ADVANCE Rising Tide Conference in Maine this past spring.  In preparation for my talk for ADVANCE in Maine, I did some more research about women faculty of color in STEM and learned more about the “Double Bind” study from the 1970’s.   As a minority woman in STEM, I was further intrigued by research that chronicled the continuation of the problem. In 2011, the Harvard Educational Review published a piece on the next generation of the Double Bind, and then there are people like me who are in the category of the “Double Bind Daughters.”  Here is one of my favorite quotes about the issue:

“The next-generation women, the Double Bind Daughters, face different challenges from those faced by their mothers,” … “Now it is less about rights versus wrongs and more about support versus neglect; less about the behavior of individuals and a culture that was accepting of bias as the ‘natural order of things’ and more about the responsibilities and action (or inaction) of institutions.”

(Ref:  Lempenin (2011). Thirty-Five Years after “The Double Bind,” Obstacles Remain for Minority Women in STEM. AAAS. org)

There is so much more to say on this topic, but I want to leave this thought particularly for my friends in Puerto Rico who took their precious time to talk with me about the intersections of work, life, family, and faith — especially where faith and family are the priorities. In some cases, we work very hard, but we don’t know what’s going to happen later in life.  Ironically, these thoughts came in imperfect Spanish instead of English, so I’ll give it to you as it came. This thought came after a particular conversation about “God-jobs”  where everything doesn’t always line up according to the text book plan, but you feel that you are on the path to doing what you’re being divinely led to do.  (La Dra. ______, este mesaje es para ti.)

     El mundo no es perfecto, pero nuestro Dios es perfecto.

     Nuestras futuras no es una linea, pero nuestro Dios pinta nuestras caminos.

     No te preocupes sobre tu futura cuando el Señor es tu guia.

     Por eso, mi amiga, no te preocupes.    

Here is the newspaper article that was published in the “San Juan Daily Star” newspaper on Thursday, October 4, 2012,  opening day of the conference:

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