As anyone with their pulse on higher education and/or trending twitter topics knows, female leadership and opportunities for women are being discussed, created, and critiqued around the US and the world. This February, Columbia and NYU invited scholars to New York to join the dialogue; they hosted the Womensphere Summit and Awards on Innovation, Invention, and Exploration.
This meeting was produced and moderated by Womensphere (and creator Analisa Balares), whose goal is to increase women’s presence in leadership roles across the board, through mentoring initiatives and community building. GSAS, our professional development initiative GSAS futures, and Fordham Biological Sciences department sponsored three female students to go attend this cutting-edge event.
Below, students Beth Ansaldi, Chelsea Butcher, and Marly Katz describe the event and the important dialogues that came out of it.
Women and men in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) from across the globe convened on February 25th and 26th, 2015 to inspire and initiate the advancement of women in STEM disciplines. Day one of the summit incorporated inspiring and insightful talks by distinguished speakers from a broad range of institutions representing academia, entrepreneurship and industry. Several themes from the speakers’ most potent ideas emerged. Key advice delivered at the summit to emerging women leaders in STEM include:
- Adaptation: Constantly change yourself. Ironically, what gets you to one point in your career may not be what enables you to push past that point. How you build a life and a career is a continuous and creative project requiring many iterations.
- Figure out your niche. Figure out what differentiates you from your peers.
- Outside of your comfort zone is where the magic happens.
- The ability to learn is the only skill you really need to succeed.
- Be self-aware. Know your strengths and weaknesses.
- Cut your losses and be able to let go. Learn from your mistakes, and failed projects and move forward.
- Surround yourself by strengthening alliances. Find complements, not replicates to your own strengths. Innovation is the product of collaboration between people with diverse backgrounds.
- Authenticity. Represent yourself honestly, aligning your words and actions with your self.
Day two, a smaller and more intimate event, focused on promoting the advancement of female entrepreneurs from STEM fields. Many attendees had projects and inventions in mind, while others, just starting out, were hoping to gain insight for future endeavors. A number of topics were covered including identifying business opportunities, building teams and networks, and developing business models.
One of the main themes of the day was money and how to acquire enough of it to build and maintain a successful business. Once you propose a product or project, how do you overcome the hurdle of financially supporting it from start to finish? One strategy discussed was crowdsourcing, or soliciting contributions from a large group of people. This can be achieved by posting your proposed plan or project on a crowdsourcing website. The project creators choose a deadline and funding goal and provide rewards to those who donate. A number of sites were discussed, including the following:
- Kickstarter – The most popular website, with the highest site traffic.
- Indiegogo – This site has no application process and is accessible world-wide, allowing it to host a wide variety of projects and inventions.
- Plum Alley – Although not as well known as the first two, this site prides itself on helping female entrepreneurs achieve their goals, with 75% of the audience (i.e. donors, funders) being women.
Although all of these websites offer the opportunity to showcase and receive funding for your projects, it also affords the opportunity for you to support other innovators through funding contributions!
We are pleased to have been given the opportunity to attend the Womensphere Summit and Awards on Innovation, Invention, and Exploration. For more information on advice for women in STEM fields and entrepreneurial tips, attend our workshop on Wednesday, April 1st at 4 pm in Larkin 150!
Beth Ansaldi ‘16
Chelsea Butcher ‘17
Marly Katz ‘17