Last week, Professor Alexes Harris of the UW Sociology Department discussed ways to combat imposter syndrome with us during one of our lunch-time workshops. Prof. Harris shared her own struggles with imposter syndrome as well as techniques she continues to use to overcome it. Below are some key points and suggestions from the discussion that resonated with us chemistry graduate students. Thank you to everyone who came for your excellent questions and participation!
– Develop a support group of your peers. Find people with whom you feel safe sharing your concerns and struggles. You will probably find many of your peers are dealing with the same issues as you and also feel like they are imposters. You will gain a sense of belonging and strength from your support group, as well as valuable advice and insight.
– Ask your friends/support group for a confidence boost when you need it. Let them know exactly what you need and when. For example, you may want an (honest!) compliment before an important presentation or exam to remind you of your strengths and calm your nerves.
– Seek out people with a positive outlook and don’t let yourself be brought down by negativity. Politely minimize your interactions with negative people.
– End the self-doubt and guilt today! Promise yourself to not allow these unhelpful emotions to affect you. After all, they are only emotions, not facts.
– Give yourself time to decompress and relax, but most importantly, don’t allow yourself to feel guilty about it! You deserve (and need) at least a few hours a week to do something for yourself that you truly enjoy. Don’t feel guilty about the work you’re missing. Don’t be embarrassed about what you enjoy doing, no matter what it is (even trashy TV).
– Make a list of your goals and reward yourself when you complete them. Breaking projects down into small tasks will help you complete the larger goals. Perhaps make a board of post-it notes so that finishing a task requires the physical motion of removing the post-it note. Congratulate yourself for finishing even the smallest tasks.
– Regularly remind yourself of why you are here and what your end-goal is. Use your end-goal to motivate you to finish!
Jessica Wittman, WCS-UW Treasurer
Yesterday, Shoshanna Barnett hosted a workshop on pregnancy during graduate school at the University of Washington. We discussed some of the more common issues that you might expect (what concerns should lab workers have if they are expecting?) as well as some that were surprising (did you know UW doesn’t have a policy in place for maternity leave for its graduate students?).
Shoshanna brought up many good points, including a discussion on the predominant cultural idea within science that graduate students should wait until after our degrees to start families. How does this idea affect us and how does it lead to hidden sexism within our workplace?
This was a very valuable workshop for those who are considering families but also for those who are not, but want to support gender equality in the workplace through both policy and attitudes. Thanks, Shoshanna!
Last week, we celebrated one year of WCS-UW (pictures to come)! Here’s a quick timeline of what we’ve done in the past year:
October 18, 2012: Our very first meeting!
November 29: Our first speaker, Professor Brandi Cossairt, discusses her career in a talk entitled “Paths Through Academia: First Generation College Student to Assistant Professor.”
December 6: Jessica Wittman leads a discussion on “Effects of Gender Preconceptions on Scientific Careers: Stereotype Threat.”
January 18: Professor Sarah Keller gives a talk entitled “My Nonlinear Career Path and Random Walks Through Other Topics.”
February 22: Sarah Vorpahl leads a discussion: “It’s Not Just You!: A Workshop on Impostor Syndrome.”
March 1: Dr. Colleen Craig provides her perspective on science in a presentation called “How to think about science without doing scientific research: A lecturer’s story.”
March 16: WCS members volunteer at the Expanding Your Horizons conference at Seattle University, helping to supervise and organize middle school girls interested in STEM.
April 24: Mackenzie Barton-Rowledge leads a gender workshop for chemistry graduate students, discussing gender stereotypes and preconceptions in society and how they affect our everyday lives.
May 11: WCS members volunteer at the Girl Scouts Discover STEM Science Fair at Einstein Middle School in Shoreline, demonstrating the properties of nanomaterials with iridescent thin films.
May 23: Professor Wendy Thomas from the UW Bioengineering Department, our first non-chemistry speaker, talks about “My Experience Being a Woman and a STEM Professor.”
June 19: Jessica Wittman leads a science communication workshop in which participants are challenged to describe their research using only the 1000 most common English words.
Ongoing projects also include bringing Dr. Amy Cuddy to campus this November as part of the UW Graduate School Public Lecture Series, and planning a symposium focused on international research collaborations for the fall 2014 ACS National Meeting.
Our first speaker of the new year will be Betsy Harasek, J.D., Associate General Counsel at the Xerox Corporation. On Thursday, October 24th, at 11:30 A.M. in CHB 102, she’ll discuss her career in a talk entitled “From chemistry major to patent attorney for General Motors, Boeing, and Xerox: My life in science and patent law.”
Thanks so much to everyone who’s attended these events and supported our group, and especially to all of the members who have helped with planning and organization, and most especially to Sarah Vorpahl, our president and the driving force behind WCS-UW. It’s been a great year and we’re all excited for what the next year has in store. Keep reading this blog, join our members and/or events mailing lists, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about our upcoming events and projects!