Monday, May 24, 2010

Spring Kick-off 2010 in Review

Graduate Women at MIT had our first series of events April 26-30, 2010. The goal of the week was to get our name out to the MIT community and to publicly establish our goals of promoting professional and personal development for graduate women in novel ways.

Keynote, "The Evolution of Bias." [photos] Dr. Freada Kapor Klein, founder of the Level Playing Field Institute for promoting workplace fairness, gave the keynote talk on the evolution of bias. In her talk, Dr. Klein discussed research results on how implicit bias affects hiring and promotion, citing studies including one in which screenplay manuscripts were received differently based on whether they were associated with male and female authors. Many of the talk attendees (which numbered over 50 and, in addition to female grad students, included men and alumni) stayed for the Clover-catered reception to meet Freada and to discuss the talk. A female graduate student said, "For so many of [the situations Freada mentioned] I said to myself, 'That is my boss.'" A male graduate student said, "Anyone interested in doing a startup should understand implicit bias."

Negotiating Difficult Situations Workshop. [photos] Toni Robinson and Mary Rowe, the MIT Ombudspeople, led exercises demonstrating how to handle situations including negotiating credit, dealing with harassment, and negotiating attention from supervisors. The focus of this workshop was on negotiation in academic settings. After a short presentation on general negotiation tactics, the 40 participants were divided into groups of five to tackle case studies, then reconvened for a discussion of potential strategies for addressing each situation. Over 80% of the participants surveyed found the content to be "insightful" or "interesting" and over 75% of them would attend a similar event in the future. "I didn't expect it to be interactive, but I liked it!" said one attendee.

Panel: Collaboration. [photos] Panelists Aviva Presser Aiden (MIT Ph.D. and Lemelson-MIT Student Prize finalist), Yael Kalai (MIT Ph.D. and computer science researcher at Microsoft Research New England), and Gigliola Staffilani (professor in the MIT math department) discussed how to establish productive collaborations, how to communicate during collaborations, how to end collaborations, and how their collaborations have changed during their careers at our panel sponsored by the Lemelson-MIT Foundation. GWAMIT members Cathy Lennon (Math) and Jean Yang (EECS) moderated the discussion. The panelists, who were at different stages of their careers, each provided distinct points of view to the discussion. One attendee said, "Great mix! I am not in any of the fields represented and found it very interesting to find out about how collaborations work in so many different ways."

Panel: Life Choices. [photos] This panel, sponsored by the MIT Alumni Association, was moderated by Margery Resnick (MIT professor in Foreign Languages and Literatures) and had panelists Jennifer Chayes (director, Microsoft Research New England), Elizabeth Nolan (MIT assistant professor in Chemistry), Julie Schedock (MIT alumna at Rapid Micro Biosystems), and Jacqueline Yanch (MIT professor in Nuclear Engineering). The panelists, who were diverse in terms of their fields, where they were in their careers, and life choices they have made, discussed work/life trade-offs they faced, the choices they made, and how they made those choices. Almost 60 graduate women and alumna attended the panel.

Grad Women Mixer. [photos] We wound down the week with all kinds of treats: heavy hors-d'oeuvre, drinks, and an improvisational leadership exercise led by MIT Sloan's Lakshmi Balachandra. Lakshmi is known for helping people apply lessons from improvisational comedy to real-life situations such as presentations and business meetings that require quick thinking. Survey responses revealed that though many people did not initially know what to expect, they were pleasantly surprised about the content of the event. About 25 graduate women attended.

GWAMIT co-chairs Kay Furman (HST) and Jean Yang (EECS) led the planning; the planning committee consisted of board members Veena Jayaveda (Sloan), Clarissa Lee (Biology), Cathy Lennon (Math), Teasel Muir-Harmony (History) Julia Robinson-Surry (Chemistry), Carrie Thompson (Bio. Eng.), and Sonia Tikoo (EAPS). Kick-off week sponsors included the MIT Division of Student Life, the MIT Alumni Association, the Lemelson-MIT Foundation, the Graduate Student Council, Microsoft, and Google.

To learn about future events, join our Facebook page here.

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