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URMC / Clinical & Translational Science Institute / Stories / October 2016 / Junior Women Research Faculty Group: Fostering Camaraderie and Career Development

Junior Women Research Faculty Group: Fostering Camaraderie and Career Development

Despite improvements in gender equity in biomedical research, women still face barriers early in their scientific careers that prevent or delay advancement. According to the National Science Foundation, women made up nearly half of all life science junior research faculty in the U.S. in 2008, but less than a third of senior faculty.

Junior women researchers at meeting

While the reasons behind this attrition and strategies to foster advancement of women in science are debated, Jennifer Gewandter, Ph.D., assistant professor of Anesthesiology and Linda Chaudron, M.D., senior associate dean of Inclusion and Culture Development, believe that promoting community among women at early stages of their careers is a step in the right direction.

Most people experience transitions in their social support networks at early stages of their careers. Many of the tight bonds created during graduate and medical school are stretched and weakened as graduates disperse for new jobs.  It can be hard to develop new networks when the demands of career and home life keep you too busy to leave your office and if you’re only one of a few junior women research faculty in your department, like Gewandter, it can be difficult to find female peer mentors.

Gewandter and Chaudron recently established the Junior Women Research Faculty group to help provide peer mentoring opportunities for women. The group will hold seminars, discussions, and workshops every other month on topics like creating an Individual Development Plan (IDP) that truly reflects what you are passionate about, negotiating, writing letters of recommendation for yourself and others, imposter syndrome, and mentoring. 

“I tried to fill this seminar series with things that I would leave my office for, things that I could use help on that I might not be able to get anywhere else,” said Gewandter.

The group will also hold panel discussions in which senior women faculty can discuss their experiences and offer advice to their junior faculty cohorts with the hope of sparking mentoring relationships. In turn, they will hold workshops for young female faculty to "pay it forward” and practice their mentoring skills with postdoctoral fellows and graduate students.

For their first meeting, the group hosted a breakfast with Elizabeth Travis, Ph.D., associate vice president of Women Faculty Programs at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, who discussed her career path and strategies for advancing women faculty. Future session will be led by senior women faculty at the University of Rochester Medical Center who are long-time advocates for women’s equality.

Catherine Cerulli, J.D., Ph.D., associate professor of Psychiatry and director of the Susan B. Anthony Center, will lead the IDP workshop at the next meeting at noon on December 16. Cerulli and Chaudron will co-lead a series of workshops on negotiation on February 2 and 9.

"Having women who are really dedicated to helping other women become successful and who have a lot of experience giving these lectures is a big draw for me,” said Gewandter. “These women are a great resource that we can take advantage of right here."

For more information or to sign up for meeting announcements, contact Jennifer Gewandter

Susanne Pritchard Pallo | 10/27/2016

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