Each year WISE hosts the Launching Your Career Symposium, a networking and professional development symposium that aims to help female-identifying STEM students and allies gain the skills, knowledge, and relationships necessary to succeed along their STEM journeys and into the workforce. The COVID-19 pandemic challenged us to reimagine this event to take place 100% remotely. The virtual symposium offered a series of 11 workshops, panels, and presentations that covered a range of topics important to STEM students like interviewing skills and strategies, the ability to identify one's own strengths in order to land a job, and how to cope with mental health issues in academically and professionally.
This year’s symposium highlighted the intersectionality of being a woman in STEM through a panel entitled “True Diversity is Intersectional” that featured women of color who talked about their experiences in STEM and the importance of thinking about the various identities that shape women’s experiences in STEM. This topic was also picked up by the keynote speaker, Dr. Jessica Esquivel. As a Black, Afro LatinX woman, Dr. Esquivel’s Keynote Session focused on the importance of diversity and inclusion in STEM. In advocating for herself and others in STEM, Dr. Esquivel shared the struggles and experiences of her own journey thus far. In the session Dr. Esquivel shared times in her PhD program at Syracuse University where she was consistently underestimated and assumed to “not belong” in the space and the strategies she used to overcome these challenges. Although the challenges she faced were strenuous, she has had a support system which has given her more fuel to continue in spaces where she is “the first” or “the only”.
Another highlight from this year’s LYC was having the opportunity to collaborate with the department of Mexico Initiatives. Yearly, they organize a seminar for Mexican undergraduate and graduate students in STEM fields, called “Amplifying the Voices of Women in STEM”. WISE worked alongside with Dr. Nadia Álvarez-Mexía, who leads the seminar each year, to organize the symposium in a way that would ensure that the over 100 students participating in this program could also participate in the symposium.
While it was unfortunate to not have the event in person, the on-line format broadened participation in the event, with a record 400+ students registering to participate and each session having over 100 people in attendance.
Special thanks to the sponsors and donors who made this event possible including WL Gore and Associates, the UA Office of Societal Impact, and the Colleges of Science, Engineering, Agriculture and Life Science, and Social and Behavioral Sciences. Without this support, this event would not have been possible!