EECS Women Leading in Science and Engineering

The attrition of women from science and engineering continues at a troubling pace. The ‘leaking’ of talented women away from the field compromises the competitive position of the United States, sanctions the gender stratification of economic class and power distribution, and erodes the quality and practice of engineering as a discipline.

The logo for the Leaders in Life program for graduate women, summer 2008.

The logo for the Leaders in Life program for graduate women, summer 2008.

“Leaders in Life” was jointly conceived of by Professor Leslie Kolodziejski and Dr. Linda Garverick (PhD ’87) to support women in their quest to become highly successful scientists, engineers and leaders. As creators and co-directors of the program, their deeply held desire is to bring their personal experience in engineering and leadership development to bear on improving the quality, duration, and authenticity of careers for women now embarking on this rewarding journey. The underlying premise of Leaders in Life is that by developing and honing good communication and leadership skills the program will enhance individual effectiveness, contribute to promoting self-confidence, and ultimately will nurture greater career resilience.

Graduate school and post-doctoral research are key transition points in careers for women in engineering. Moreover, graduate women in science and engineering are, typically underrepresented within the graduate student population and possibly in the work force as well. Recognition and validation of the difficulties faced by women at these crucial stages can produce life-changing attitudes and lay the foundation for developing successful and sustainable coping strategies.

Leaders in Life has three principal goals: (1) to build awareness of power dynamics operating in the workforce, (2) to develop communication and leadership skills necessary to survive and thrive, and (3) to nurture a social community among women that is vital to professional success and personal well-being.

Twenty-two participants attended the inaugural leadership retreat held on Cape Cod in July. The intense experiential learning adventure included group instruction, individual skill-building, dialogue, peer-coaching, and authentic situational case studies. The class lived and worked as a community for five days and built friendships and professional connections that will last a lifetime. The program was universally well-received and deeply appreciated by all who participated. Comments offered by one participant: “I have changed my life in the course of one week. The tools and confidence I have gained will not only serve me, but will make my career.”

Along with the co-directors, Dr. Elisabeth Marley (PhD ‘2000) adjunct professor at Southern Methodist University, and Dr. Jacquie McLemore of McLemore Consulting Associates helped facilitate the week-long program. Leaders in Life was sponsored by EECS, CSAIL and RLE and with continuing support, Leaders in Life will be offered in 2009.

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