Building a Supportive Network for Women in STEM

I have always been curious. As a young girl, I reveled in the intricacies of the simplest things, always wondering “why”. After immigrating to the U.S. from China at the age of 12, I sought refuge in my math classes, because that’s one language I understood. Upon entering high school, I became particularly drawn to physics because the simple elegance of the laws revealed such humbling beauty of our universe. It was no surprise to anyone, especially my parents (scientists themselves), that I pursued a career in physics.

One reality of physics is that it’s a traditionally male-dominated field. Throughout my educational career, I typically found myself to be the only woman in a class, the only woman at a conference, the only woman in a lab. It occurred so often that I stopped noticing. Personally, I always felt that I could do whatever men could do; nobody ever told me otherwise. That, in many ways, was because I had been fortunate enough to grow up with many generously supportive, encouraging mentors and parents who offered me opportunities. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for everyone, but it makes a big difference.

I never thought my gender made me any different than my male scientific colleagues until my daughter was born last year. I quickly discovered that being a mom presented its own challenges that were unique to women. As a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, motherhood came at a period in my career when I needed to move my research forward. More broadly, postdoctoral work is an important and critical time for many female scientists to maintain their role in their field and can be the most difficult for many women because these are their childbearing years. At the same time, we’re taking on new roles —> Read More