Sep 11 2017

AK CASC Leadership Workshop brings together women scientists and supporters

Leadership, inspiration, and relentless optimism are just a few values that AK CASC graduate fellow Joanna Young brought back with her from a 3-week Homeward Bound expedition to Antarctica.

Young returned with a mission to share these values and more from her trip with others by organizing a workshop to discuss what it means to be an early career woman in science.

The AK CASC sponsored a two-day Leadership Workshop for Early Career Women in Science on August 24th and 25th, 2017 in Fairbanks, AK. The workshop brought together 45 women scientists and supporters with a variety of backgrounds from science education to natural resource management.

“I wanted to host this workshop to bring the things I learned from my incredible Antarctic experience back to my community,” says Young. “There are so many talented, powerful, motivated women and allies in Alaska who I knew would also be interested in learning how to be more effective leaders in their fields.”

“Helping Joanna plan and host the workshop has been one of the more meaningful aspects of my job,” said Jane Wolken, AK CASC program coordinator. “This workshop brought together an amazing group of speakers and participants.”

Each day consisted of guest speakers in leadership positions at the University of Alaska and in the Fairbanks community sharing insight into different aspects of leadership as well as their experiences as women in science.

Discussions ranged from personal to professional development with topics including navigating work-life satisfaction, collaboration strategies, communication techniques, awareness of cultural differences, visibility, and inclusivity. These topics connected the overarching mission of the workshop: to increase the capacity of women in science to have a voice at the leadership table, in any field they are passionate about.

“One thing I learned in Antarctica is that effective leadership isn't just a matter of directing workers around - it is a matter of knowing yourself and your team members,” explains Young. “This is why focusing on things like communication techniques and inclusivity were such a crucial part of our training.”

These discussions also brought up many of the challenges that women face in academia and as early career scientists. These challenges include sexual harassment, implicit bias, and work-life balance. Of the many challenges discussed, the limited number of women in science-related fields was prominent.

Emilie Sinkler, PhD student in glaciology at UAF, explains that as a physics major, she was often the only woman in her classes and got involved in the workshop to hopefully change that. “I want to prepare myself for more leadership roles and to gain these skills to be a role model for other women in these programs,” she explains.

The workshop also provided the participants with several activities to help explore personal and professional leadership qualities. One activity included a deck of customized cards that listed a hundred different values and traits, which included terms such as courage, personal power, curiosity, diversity, and respect. Participants were asked to identify and rank their top 10 values associated with their time devoted to work. This created a chance for participants to identify what is most important to them in the workplace in order to align their careers with what they care about most.

“It really allowed me to do some self-reflection and determine what’s important to me,” explains Katherine Trahanovsky, PhD student in oceanography at UAF.

It also helped participants to recognize that other team members at work will have different values and having that knowledge makes navigating those differences much easier.

“This is important when it comes to leadership in general,” explains Erin Trochim, AK CASC postdoctoral fellow in hydrology and remote sensing. “It allowed me to identify challenges and limitations from a personal and professional lens.”

With the workshop concluded, organizers and participants are still hard at work. In fact, one of the outcomes of the workshop was an invitation from Larry Hinzman, Vice Chancellor for Research at UAF, to generate a list of institutional recommendations for better supporting women in science. 

"The feedback from participants has been incredibly positive, and we have had several requests from within and outside of UAF to host more of these events,” says Young. “I think we're onto something truly helpful and important, and I look forward to seeing how we can continue offering this kind of opportunity in the future."