Podcast

The Women in Bio Advantage

April 27, 2022

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Join Melissa as she talks with Stephanie Davis, Chair of the Capital Region Women in Bio and Small Business Program Coordinator at the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Stephanie and Melissa discuss Women in Bio and how Stephanie’s leadership and volunteer efforts have contributed to success in her career.  She is also sharing how you can leverage Women in Bio for your own career whether you are entry level or C-Suite. 

We are also talking about the unique challenges of women in the workplace and how to overcome them and get to your next level.

Please note: Stephanie joins the podcast in her personal capacity and the views expressed on this podcast do not represent the views of the National Institutes of Health or the Department of Health and Human Services.



What You’ll Learn

Stephanie’s career path and philosophy on career development

How Women in Bio can help you get to your next level whether you’re entry level, an Executive, or anywhere in between

The current obstacles facing women who work in the sciences and what both companies and individuals can do to overcome them

One piece of advice Stephanie wished she had earlier in her career

Featured in This Episode

Learn more about Women in Bio

Connect with Stephanie on LinkedIn
Supporting (Postdoctoral) Women in Bio (Stephanie’s article)

Work with Melissa 1-1 by scheduling a consultation.

Connect with me on Social:
LinkedIn
Instagram

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Transcript

Transcript

Melissa

Welcome to Navigating Your Career, the only podcast that blends personal development, professional skills, and psychology to help you get happy at work and live the life you want. If you want to stop feeling stuck and starts feeling better, this is the place for you. I’m your host, Melissa Lawrence. Let’s get started. Hello, and welcome to this week’s episode of the podcast. I have another great guest for you today. Today I’m talking to Stephanie Davis. Stephanie Davis is the chair of the Capital Region Women and Bio. She’s also the Small Business program coordinator at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute for NIH. And we have a great conversation about her career path and what led her to women and bio all of the different ways that Women and Bio, which is a national organization to advance women in the Sciences, has helped her with her career and can help women at any level of their career. And I also want to note it’s really open to all identities as well. And we talk about that. We talk about all of the benefits as far as the opportunities available to you to grow in your career, to get you to your next level, whether you are entry level all the way through executive and C suite.

Melissa

We also talk about some advice that Stephanie wish she would have had earlier in her career. So it is a really great episode. I can’t wait for you to give it a listen. And before we dive in, I just want to mention that Stephanie is here in her personal capacity. And the views expressed on this podcast today do not represent the views of the National Institutes of Health or the Department of Health and Human Services. All right. Let’s go ahead and dive in. Hi, Stephanie. I’m so happy to have you on the podcast today to talk about the work that you do and career development and your role within women and bio. So can you give the listener just a little bit of information about who you are and what you do both in your day job and for women in bio?

Stephanie

Thank you so much, Melissa. For those who are listening, my name is Stephanie Davis, and I am currently the chair of the Women in Biochemical Region chapters. So we cater towards women in the life Sciences that are located within the general DMV region. So Washington, DC, Baltimore, and the immediate surrounding areas. So a little bit about me. My training is in pharmacology, so I went to graduate school at the University of South Florida to get my PhD in pharmacology. And after I completed my degree in 2016, I went on to the University of Kentucky to do my post doctoral fellowship in the Department of Neurology. And during that time, I started getting more involved with advocacy efforts, specifically as it related to both early career scientists and career development. And I also became more interested in how research is translated from the bench to the bedside. So during that time, I became involved with the University of Kentucky Office of Technology Commercialization through an internship that I did while I was still a postdoc. And after I did that internship, I realized that there were a lot of areas in which there was an intersection between policy and biotech.

Stephanie

So as a result of that internship, I started at the National Institutes of Health as AAS Science Technology Policy Fellow. Just a bit about this fellowship. It puts doctoral scientists in different agency offices so they can learn more about how science plays a role in the federal government as well as making new policies. So I did that for about a year and a half, and I started my current role, which is at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute overseeing their small business program. I did that in December of 2020. So it’s a really great role. One of the things that it allows me to do is it allows me to have the ability to interact with biotech companies that are looking for small business funding. And one thing that I have been trying to do in both my live role and my day job is to really promote and provide more resources to women who are looking to start and lead biotech, Pharma and medical device companies.

Melissa

That is a really impressive background. I think we’re really going to learn a lot from you in this episode. I’m really excited to dive in. So before we get really deep into women and bio, I’m curious what kind of called you to this? Why are you passionate about this space? Why is it something that you really care about?

Stephanie

Absolutely. So one of the things that I really love about women and bio is that while it does cater towards girls and women who are interested in Stem and the Bioscience field, there is a really strong emphasis on specifically preparing women for careers in entrepreneurship and fields that are outside of academia. So when I was a graduate student, I was mainly prepared to be an academic researcher. But I wasn’t entirely sure that I ever wanted to go that route. And women in bio really stood out to me because not only does it cater towards women who are established in their career, but there are also programs and opportunities for graduate students and post doctoral women, as well as early career women who are maybe looking to be able to use their love of science and their talents outside of an academic research lab. So I started kind of getting more involved with ways to train graduate students and post docs for careers outside of the lab. And it makes sense because I eventually did find my way out of the academic lab and into the federal government. But what really drew me to women in bio is the fact that I wanted an opportunity to network with other women who were outside of the federal government.

Stephanie

Even though I do love my job and I love my network here, I wanted to be able to be connected to the local biotech leaders, especially those who are women. So that’s initially how I became involved with women in bio, and I started volunteering for them in January of 2020 on their communications committee, and the rest is history. Yeah.

Melissa

And now you chair the entire committee for the capital region. So what do you do as chair? I mean, I know because we work together. I’ve talked a little bit about the maps, programming, and the mentoring women of Bio provides, but I think there’s so many opportunities we’re going to really dig into a little bit more. But from a volunteer standpoint and the way that you can demonstrate leadership skills and do a lot of things that you might not have the opportunity to do in your role, but then also the ability to give back into mentor and network and the things that you get as well. But what do you do as a chair?

Stephanie

Yeah, that’s a great question. So it was definitely a unique experience going from my role leading the communications committee, where there are some very distinct roles and deliverables. You manage the social media. You are in charge of coming up with event recaps and interviews with different members of the chapter towards more of the vice chair, which I served in before the chair role and then the chair role. Part of my responsibility as the chapter chair, in addition to overseeing the roles of the committee leaders, is also to help build strategic connections with other stakeholders and organizations in the general capital region that can help us achieve our goals. So, for instance, one of the things that I try to do is I try to reach out to different organizations, such as universities, such as biotech companies, to tell them more about what we’ve done and how we could potentially work together. What a lot of people don’t know is that there are opportunities for things like universities and biotech companies and other organizations to be able to purchase bulk memberships for their employees. So that way they are able to take advantages of the women in biomembership benefits.

Stephanie

Additionally, I am kind of the master of referrals. So when I find a potential connection or somebody who wants to get involved with the chapter, one of my main roles is going to be to help take that person and connect them with the appropriate committee leader who can help them be more involved with the chapter. And finally, one of the things that myself and my vice chair are responsible for doing is bringing in new leadership. So while each committee leader is responsible for ensuring that they have a successor and they have somebody to take over the committee once their term is done, I have taken it upon myself to keep on the lookout for talented individuals who would like to donate their time and their efforts to the chapter. So what I will do, along with my vice chair, is we’ll go and we’ll try to find people to fill these different roles, and then we will oversee the process of bringing them on board, facilitating a group interview, and connecting them with the appropriate committee leader to get them appropriately onboarded. So it’s a really great role. It allows me to kind of have a bird’s eye view of everything, even though it is different from my previous role.

Stephanie

But it’s been extremely rewarding because I feel like being chair has given me the opportunity to work one on one with pretty much every leader on the committee. And that has been extremely rewarding because these are women that I probably wouldn’t have met otherwise if I wasn’t involved with women in Bio. So because of that being chair, while it is a demanding role, it’s been an extremely rewarding role, and I am so glad that I have had a chance to serve in this capacity.

Melissa

Yeah. Just listening to talk about everything that you do in that role, it really likens itself to a lot of other leadership roles. Like, you talk about leading a leadership team and making connections, the visibility that you have, the network that you build, and for people that work in this industry or in this space, it’s very well connected. So it’s really important. You have a strong network and that you have people you can refer to that people know you at the companies that you’re applying for, because referrals really are strong when it comes to getting the type of position that you want. They’re really important, and you get a lot of really good visibility as well. Right. Because we have a board of directors for Women and Bio, so these are really high level executive team members at other companies. And so you get to build relationships with them as well as to everyone that works really are that is part of Women and Bio through the networking events, the Herstory Gala that at the time this comes up would have already happened. But I think the opportunities that you get in this space are just far beyond really, even with the best company can offer because of that matrix ability to network with different companies in and out of industry, meet people like you said that you hadn’t met before, and then the ability to really develop as a person and as a leader in a safe space.

Melissa

So can you talk about that a little bit more? Because I think that’s really important. Like, you are demonstrating all of these leadership capabilities, but it’s without the pressure of necessarily working and doing that for your company. So you can practice and see what you like and also see what your strengths are, what your development plan is. On a deeper level, how has Women and Bio benefited you from that perspective?

Stephanie

Oh, it has benefited me immensely. So one of the things that, as I mentioned, this role is very rewarding, but it has offered its challenges. So being in charge of the chapter and this is the chapter of nearly 300 members. I’m in charge of a team of 20 plus women. And it’s really taught me how to supervise other people and to kind of strike that balance between being hands on enough that they know that they can come to me if needed, but not being so hands on that I turn into a micromanager. And this has been very valuable because in my day job and in my career progression, I’m getting to the point where I’m hoping in a few years that the role I’m going to be applying for and trying to pursue in my capacity as a public service are going to be supervisory roles. And Web has really given me kind of a crash course in how to manage people and to work together when people have conflicting ideas. And we have a chapter of very passionate and intelligent women, and sometimes we don’t always agree on things. So it’s also given me the ability to do things like solve conflicts, manage risks, identify potential solutions, come up with new ideas in terms of kind of building those soft or transferable skills.

Stephanie

It’s really such a valuable opportunity. And I recently wrote an article about basically how serving on women in bio or being involved with the chapter can really be a valuable career development experience for women who are early on in their careers. So this article was published very recently in the newsletter for the National Post Doctoral Association. And the gist of the article was that I, as a postdoc, was not located near a women in biochaper, nor was I located near a woman in biochaster as a graduate student. And while I am extremely lucky to be able to be involved with Web at this point in my career, one of the things that I do wish I had was access to this organization, or better yet, I wish I had just known that we’ve existed when I was in that stage of my career because it really could have helped me so much, not only with the leadership aspect, but also just giving me access to women who have built success in all of these different careers. Our chapter has women who are in government, such as myself, women who are entrepreneurs, those who work in consulting, who work in law, who work in academia and private industry.

Stephanie

And it’s really so fantastic when you think about that, because as an early career scientist, all I really wanted to do is be able to reach out to other women and say, I’d like to know about your job. It really could have saved me a lot of time and heartache trying to figure out what it was that I wanted to do. And while I don’t regret anything, the reason why I put this article out is because I do hope that it helps put Lib on the radar of other postdoctoral women who might be wondering, how do I build my network? How do I connect with other women who are in the bio science sector who have found success in their respective careers?

Melissa

And so Congratulations on your article. Is that something that we can link to in the show notes so people can read that if they want to?

Stephanie

We can absolutely do that. And even though it is associated with the National Postdoctoral Association newsletter, it is, for the moment, open to the public and will be so for at least the next year. So if you all have any graduate student or postdoctoral women who are not involved with Web and you think that they would benefit from reading this article, please feel free to send it their way, because I really can see the value that this organization offers women at that point in their career. And since I didn’t get the benefit from it at that point, I’m really hoping that I can change that by getting the word out now.

Melissa

Yeah, that’d be great. We’ll definitely link that up. So all of you listening can definitely pull that, send it to someone who you think might find value in it and read it yourself. And so you talked a little bit about early career and how valuable it would have been to have earlier in your career. And I know that women in bio really caters to kind of all levels within the career life cycle. So can you talk a little bit about how women and bio would support you in the middle of your career or even at the executive level?

Stephanie

Absolutely. So one of the things that I do love about Web, as you said, is that it really does cater towards everybody from girls who are new to high school to women who are very, very established in their careers. So in terms of women who are kind of mid to later career, while we do have events that cater towards women in these stages in our regular chapter programming, one thing that I really encourage women to get involved with if they are eligible to do so is we have a subcommittee under women and bio called EWEB, or Executive Women in Bio. So women who are in the C suite or who are VP level and up. This is a really great opportunity for you all to network and connect with other women at this stage of their careers. And EWEB is really great because they have a lot of special events that are usually closed to women who are in this group. So that way it’s a little bit more targeted, and it really allows them to kind of build those connections and grow in their careers. And in addition to EWEB, there is a program that is affiliated with EWEB called the Boardroom Ready Program.

Stephanie

So we actually just had an application cycle for Boardroom Ready, and that closed in March of this year. Boardroom Ready is affiliated with EWEB, and it basically prepares C level and VP and up level women or those that would normally be eligible for the EWEB programming. It basically prepares them for board service. So this is something where if you are a member of with and you do have to be a member to take advantage of these programs, and you really feel that this program would be of benefit to your career, and I definitely think it would be I would highly encourage you all to check that out. And in addition, another thing that Web overseas is the Entrepreneur Center. So the Entrepreneur Center is not necessarily connected to EWEB, but they do have a lot of overlap. This is specifically a program that is targeted towards women who are founders of their companies or cofounders. And one of the things that this program has allowed women to do is they have mentoring groups that will allow these female founders to connect with each other and be mentored by more experienced founders if they’re a little bit earlier in their careers.

Stephanie

Additionally, it also allows them the opportunity to present at different investor showcases. So, for example, we have an upcoming event at the Bio International meeting, which is going to basically give some of these founders the opportunity to pitch in front of an audience and be able to kind of increase their visibility and potentially attract new investors and strategic partners at this event. But specifically, one thing that differentiates our showcase from the regular Bioprogramming is this is putting a spotlight specifically on women founders. And due to the still very low representation of women sea level and founders in the biotech sector, these events are really important because it’s giving them that much needed visibility that they might not have gotten otherwise.

Melissa

Yeah, I love that. It’s like Shark Tank for what it is. That’s great. So women of Bio clearly helps women at any stage in their career. There’s something really for everyone. Is women to buy only open to women?

Stephanie

Actually, no. And this is a common misconception that I think a lot of people believe about Web. So Web is dedicated towards advancing and uplifting women in Stem, but it is not open only to women. In fact, recently Webb has started doing a series that specifically focuses on some of our male allies. So we actually have a male ally of the Capital Region chapter, and his interview should be coming out probably sometime next month. But we really encourage a lot of men, especially those who supervise women and mentor women, to be more involved with Web, just to kind of I believe that being involved with Web gives them a little bit more insight than they might get normally into what these women need in order to be successful. Because even if you’re not a women in Stem, even if you are. A lot of my mentors have been male, and they have mentored other women, and they’ve been very good about being able to figure out what I need to be successful. But I think that for a lot of men in supervisory or mentor positions, they don’t always know that, but they want to be good allies and supporters and sponsors of women.

Stephanie

So for those in that position, if you are not involved with Web, I highly encourage you all to become members. Additionally, because membership will also bring you access to a lot of our really great programming. And no matter what your identity is, you can still benefit from a lot of the great educational content from our chapter and a lot of other chapters as well. So I basically encourage with membership for anybody who’s interested.

Melissa

Yeah, it’s inclusive to everyone, and the dues each year are very affordable and accessible. I’m always surprised at how low the annual fee is. It’s under $100, I think, and a lot of professional associations are double that, at least. And so what you get with the Maps, programming, the mentoring, the events that you get access to, the executive women and Bio, there’s really so many benefits that you get, including the networking, which is really invaluable. And there’s a lot of networking events. So we talk a lot about the Capital Region. That’s where we are. But for those listening that are not in this area, I know Women and Bio is national. So can you talk a little bit about the other chapters that people might be able to get involved with?

Stephanie

Yes, absolutely. So one thing I will mention before I go into the other chapters is that even if you are not located near a chapter, you can still get involved with with, and that means being a member. You could also volunteer on the national level. I guess the silver linings to the pandemic, it’s really made those distances shorter. So, for example, it’s given us the opportunity to collaborate with other chapters and to get to know each other in a way that maybe we wouldn’t have done. So if everything was in person. Just to give you a good example, I actually got to know several of the leaders of the Chicago Web chapter. I had gone to one of their events last April. It was an open house type event because I was considering setting up a similar event for the Capital Region chapter. So I was able to register and pop in this event just to see how the format was. But I also got a really great opportunity to network with the other women and get to know the chair and vice chair and introduce myself. And it was lovely. And even though I’m not in the Chicago area, I really encourage members of Web to pop in and say Hi to some of the other members in other chapter events.

Stephanie

A because often the programming, and the topics are really of use no matter where you’re located. But also it’s just a great networking opportunity, and I’ve really been grateful to be able to do that. But if you are located near a chapter, there are 14 chapters in North America, 13 in the US, and one in Canada. So for the most part, there are a lot of chapters located in the northeastern US. So these include a chapter in the Boston area, Connecticut, the New York Metro area, Philadelphia Metro area, Pittsburgh, the Capital region, Research Triangle Park in the Raleigh Durham area, and the Atlanta chapter are all on the East Coast and in the center of the country. We have the Chicago Web chapter and the Texas Web chapter. And then if you go to the West Coast, you’ll have the Seattle chapter, the San Francisco Bay area chapter, and the Southern California chapter. And then, of course, we have our Canadian chapter in Montreal. So if you are located in one of these areas, these opportunities to get involved at the chapter level and be able to attend in person programming as it comes back are really valuable as well.

Stephanie

So while you can be involved with Web, no matter where you are, I really would encourage those of you who are located near a chapter to connect to your chapters leaders and see how you can get involved.

Melissa

Yeah, there’s definitely something for everyone, and you are not bound to where you’re located. So no matter where you’re listening, there’s something that you can get involved with, something you can learn or take advantage of by being part of women and bio. And you don’t even have to join to get information about women and bio or even attend some of the events. Some of the events are open to everyone, so you can learn more about it. I just attended one recently that was hosted by national that was speed networking, where you were in breakout rooms and Zoom. But you also learned a lot about what women and bio does and how to get involved. So I want to pivot a little bit and talk about just general career development and just pick your brain. So when you think about career development either related to you or how you’re supporting Web or just in general, what is your philosophy on developing your career?

Stephanie

Yes. So in terms of my philosophy on developing my career, I am a big fan of being able to visualize all of my options before making a decision. And so one of the things I did mention earlier about Web that I think is so valuable is that it really gives women who are maybe at that junction point where they’re trying to decide which way they want to go to advance their career. It gives them the visibility of all of those different options. So I’m actually going to give a really good example that I know you are involved with as the Maps committee coach here. But we have actually a set aside mentoring group called Career Maps, which is really great for those women who are looking to possibly make a career transition. And even if you’re not looking to make a career transition, it’s just a really valuable group to be a part of in terms of being able to brush up on your interview skills, being able to expand your network and just grow your professional skills, even if you’re not going to be making a transition. But one thing that’s really great about this is being able to have these contacts with women in different career fields.

Stephanie

I always encourage people if you see a speaker, for example, and you have heard them talk at a Web event and you think, oh, I would really love to do what she’s doing, that visibility is important because it gives people who might not be sure about which way they want to go with their career the ability to say, I know who to talk to now. And I think that being someone who’s a little bit earlier in my career, I think that is really the most valuable thing that Web and other organizations like Web can give people is just the ability to show them these are the options available to you. And part of the thing that I think really is lacking in Stem education and graduate training programs these days is this notion that you have options. I think that for a lot of people, like I said, myself included, we’re trying to be academics. And in terms of developing your career, it’s all focused on how are you going to develop as a professional and as a scientist so you can be a good academic. And I think that with is so valuable because it kind of says we’re not going to pitch and hold you in this one career path.

Stephanie

We’re going to show you you can do a lot of things as a women in Stem, and we’re going to give you the ability to kind of make these informed decisions and give you the resources you need. So in addition to exposing women to a variety of different career options, it also gives them the ability to hear from mentor figures and being able to establish that support system through the Maps group and other resources that help women build their network and kind of develop those connections and those mentoring relationships.

Melissa

So what I’m hearing you say is to really own your development. So regardless of what your company might offer, being part of Web or organizations like Web will help you determine for yourself what you want. And when you’re attending these events, don’t be afraid to schedule coffee chats and really explore the opportunities that might be available to you because you only know what you’ve done so far. And so when we go to make decisions in our career, we often just look at what we’ve done. So far, like our resume is a document of what we’ve done so far. It doesn’t tell you what you can do for the future. So these opportunities help you see what might be possible for you in the future. And that can all start with a conversation. When we did a networking event for the Capital region recently, that was something that I shared there as well is when you’re making connections on LinkedIn, don’t be afraid to go beyond just the hit connect and reach out and ask people if they’re open to having a coffee chat. If you want to learn more about their role and what they do, ask for 15 minutes.

Melissa

People are generally very open to that, especially now. I think people are really hungry for that connection after being isolated for so long, and you never know what you might learn and what path that might take you on. And again, that networking and those connections are really important as well.

Stephanie

Absolutely. I think, Melissa, you just summed it up better than I could have done. So just giving I really think that it allows women to be able to kind of take control and steer their career development in the way that they want to. So some companies have really great professional development programs available to their employees, and that is wonderful. Other companies maybe don’t have those programs available yet. And I think that being a part of Web and giving these members access to a lot of these resources and experts and professional development resources kind of gives them the ability to say, okay, well, I’m not just limited to what my employer provides. I can take this into my own hands and be able to make the connections and learn what I need to know to be able to make that next big step. And I’m really glad you mentioned the virtual copy chats and being able to reach out to other women for informational interviews. One of the things that’s been so great about being involved with Web is that everybody I’ve reached out to, whether it’s to ask them to collaborate on an event or just to hear more about being involved with a certain field or a certain organization, they’ve been so kind and so willing to take their time and tell me about it.

Stephanie

For example, I’ll just give a very recent example. I have a colleague. She is finishing her graduate degree, and she is looking for kind of the next big step. And she’s in the Chicago area. So I reached out to my colleague, Dr. Angela James, who leads the Chicago chapter, and I said, Hi, Angela, I hope you’re doing well. And I have this friend who’s looking for potentially exploring careers in this area. Do you have any members or leadership team members on the Chicago chapter who are in this area? And she’s like, absolutely send her my way. And I just think that that kindness and generosity and this willingness to pay it forward is so important. And that’s kind of something that I hope to do as well. If there are any members or earlier career graduate postdoc members who are interested in maybe what I’m doing or something similar to what I’m doing, I want to be that person who they could use as a resource.

Melissa

Yeah, that was a great example also of how you’re a connector. You said earlier how you connect people to other people. That was another way that you did that. So what do you think are some challenges that women and bio have in the first place? Yes, that could be a whole episode.

Stephanie

So in terms of right now, I would say a lot of the challenges that women face. The biggest one I can see is that women are expected to perform very highly in their workplaces. And then for a lot of women, they’re expected to go home and take on the majority of the household responsibilities, including childcare chores, just general household management. And there’s that expectation there. I don’t think that it’s really there in the same way for men. So, for example, I’m just going to use the academia as an example. Academia is really the way that the job is set up, is really designed for a married man who has a partner who is able to take care of their children and take care of the household. So that way he could devote all of his time to being in the lab and advancing his research. And for women, when we’re expected to do a lot of the same things, we still have other responsibilities to ballots. And for a lot of people, I’ve seen where you have two people, two partners who are both in academia, there becomes that challenge on who’s going to really balance what.

Stephanie

And I’m sure that everyone who’s listening has probably seen this, but this has really become worse with the pandemic. For example, I worked at home for about two years, since March of 2020. And a lot of my colleagues who I interact with a lot really expressed having struggles where they were expected to do their job, especially my female colleagues. But at the same time, they also had to look at their children and supervise them for their virtual schooling. And it was just this huge challenge where a lot of people had to change their work hours and adjust their schedules accordingly so they could get their work done, but also be there for their children and be there to help them with their virtual school and everything else when they’re home during the day. Another huge issue that I’d like to touch on, and this is more of an issue in academia, probably less so in government and industry. But a lot of women, especially early in their careers, when they’re getting their graduate degrees and they’re doing postbacoral training, they really don’t have a lot of benefits to provide that safety net for them. So for instance, for women who are mothers who are getting their graduate degrees or who are doing post doctoral training, many of these places do not have paid maternity leave or paid child care, or maybe they do have these in certain areas, but the pay is low and it doesn’t allow them to really support their families.

Stephanie

So I think for a lot of women where they’re expected to be the caregivers and the providers and still they want to be able to advance in their careers, it really can be very exclusive if they have to make that choice between supporting their family and advancing in their career. And I think that you lose a lot of talent that way. I think when you give people that ultimatum and you say you have to choose between your career and your family, you’re going to lose a lot of people because family is going to take precedence. So I would say specifically in the Bioscience sector, I think it’s getting better, but I think there’s a lot of improvement in terms of making sure that women have what they need to be supported, not just as a scientist, but as a whole person. I think that when women are expected to put work above all else and they are still expected to carry the brunt of other responsibilities, they are the ones that often get the shaft. And I’m really hoping that with the pandemic, it’s allowing us to have these conversations about how to make things better and how to avoid putting female scientists in this position.

Stephanie

But I’m not sure we’ll have to see how it goes in the future, but I think that it really has brought up a lot of important conversations that have been long overdue.

Melissa

Yeah, I would agree with you. And so I know there are a lot of leaders that listen to this. Maybe heads of HR might be listening. So what advice would you give both to companies and maybe to individuals experiencing this to better balance or create that experience where they can have that flow, so to speak, between work and home and not be so overburdened?

Stephanie

That’s a great question. So that’s another topic where I could have a whole session just devoted to changes that these workplaces can do. But I definitely think that one of the best, I guess silver linings to come out of the pandemic is that a lot of workplaces are seeing that we don’t need to be in person at the office every day to be productive. In fact, with a lot of people and a lot of my coworkers and colleagues in other areas have been saying is that this ability to work remotely or do a hybrid schedule where they’re in the office some days and outside of the office other days, it’s really helped them be more productive because they’re shaving maybe 2 hours off of their day or more in some cases from their commute they’re not having to get up as early. They’re able to spend more time with their families when they’re done with work. And this is really helping them become more fulfilled. I believe one of the things that I’ve heard from a lot of HR professionals and employers during the pandemic is that people are leaving because they’re burnt out, because they’re feeling like they’re at the end of their ropes.

Stephanie

And I think one of the ways in which employers can prevent it from getting to that point where they feel like they’re losing talented people is to make sure that they are offering them that support and balance. Another thing that they can do, in my opinion, other than offering things such as paid maternity and familial leave, which really should be a given for everybody, is also just offering flexibility. So I’ve been very fortunate in my workplace to have supervisors and who basically said, listen, we understand that everyone’s life situation is different. And there might be some days where you have to take care of a family member or you have to go do this. And we’re letting you know that you need to be able to adjust your schedule as needed to be able to get this done. And I think once again, offering that flexibility and not putting women in this situation where they feel like they have to choose between one or the other is really the best way that companies can retain their talented workforce. Because even though these women are very talented scientists and professionals, they are whole people. And you never want to put these women in a position where they feel like they have to choose between their identities, because usually when that happens, somebody’s going to lose yeah.

Melissa

I think that’s great advice. I think the unofficial motto of the private industry at least, has been doing more with less and an effort of lean, especially in those areas that are really trying to create maximum efficiency, that is looking all at the process and not necessarily the people. And I think that should be switched a little bit to look at the people first and then look at the process. So I think that’s really important. And the only other thing that I would add there is that I don’t think we can expect our employers to create the type of lifestyle or work environment that is best for us. They create that for themselves based on their business and what their values are and their bottom line, the decisions they’re going to make. And so I think it’s important that if you’re suffering with this that you advocate for yourself and decide what your work boundaries are, what are those things that you need to do to take care of yourself and your health? Because that is more important than the job that you have. And it doesn’t always seem that way because our jobs become our identities and it’s hard to separate them, but it’s really important to look beyond the paycheck and these other things that are very important.

Melissa

And I’m just saying that you have to also look at where can you delegate, where can you push things back? What is your standard you want to have? How can you manage up with your boss to get that implemented? How can you bring up the conversation to your HR? Because I see a lot of people expect their employers to do the right thing or to know what they want, and they have to be able to advocate for themselves and say what they want as well.

Stephanie

Absolutely. And I’m so glad you brought up managing up because that’s been a huge theme in my current position. And also I think it also applies to volunteering with Web, for example. So one of the things that I’ve always told the leaders of my committees in the Capital Region chapter is if there is something you need from myself or Vice Chair Gita, if we can help you in any way and there is a problem, please tell us. We try to be very hands on and to pay attention to what’s going on. So there’s not too many unforeseen issues, but sometimes things come up and being in charge of that many committees and having to oversee all of that, we’re only human and sometimes we miss these things. So I encourage people in a volunteer capacity. If you need to manage me up, please do that, because if I don’t know something, I can’t help. And likewise, that’s been something that has been a huge refrain in my current job is if you have an issue, talk to your supervisor. Basically, everyone’s life situations are different, and even the best of supervisors are not going to know what’s going on with everybody if the employees aren’t talking to them.

Stephanie

So you absolutely do have to be able to build those skills and advocate for yourself, because in many cases, supervisors, they mean well, they want what’s best for their employees, but they don’t know what their employees need. And so I think that one of the biggest skills that we as women can have as a professional is being able to articulate what we need and also importantly, what others can do to support us with those needs.

Melissa

Yeah, absolutely. I agree. So as we close out, I like to ask everyone that comes on the podcast, what is a piece of advice that you wish that you had earlier in your career?

Stephanie

That is a really great question. So one of the things that has been a reoccurring theme throughout my career, and it’s advice that I had to learn the hard way is choose the environment above all else. So what I mean by that is one of the roadblocks that nearly derailed my entire scientific career was when I was a graduate student. I chose a lab where I loved the project, but the environment was very ill suited for me and my needs, and I had some inklings that maybe it wouldn’t be the best fit, but I kind of ignored those inklings because I was just so focused on the project and how in line it was with my scientific interests. And because of that, I suffered a lot of pain and difficulties, and eventually it all worked out. I was able to get into a much better lab that fit both my scientific interests and gave me what I need as a graduate student. But I think that a lot of people are kind of told like to chase the job or chase the title or chase the project if you’re looking in a research set, but the people, including your supervisor, your coworkers, the general environment, are kind of secondary, but I don’t think that’s how it should be at all.

Stephanie

I think that before you look at the title, before you look at necessarily the focus of a job, you should look at, are the people there supported? Is this a place that people enjoy working, or is it some place that is very toxic and has a lot of turnover because people can’t stay there for longer than a year before burning out or losing their minds? My advice I’d have to any woman in Stem is basically when you’re trying to make those career moves and you’re looking for your next step when you’re evaluating where you should go, the people always went out to me. I’ve been able to be successful in my career thus far at the NIH because I had an amazing mentor figure who advocated for me, and he really put my needs and my development first. And a lot of people aren’t fortunate enough to have that. And I do pride myself in being able to kind of pick them out as the best mentor, because when I was choosing between my fellowship offices, I had several that were really strong offices, but what was the deciding factor was the mentor. And so because of that, because I ended up saying, all right, I really think this is going to be a great office for me to grow.

Stephanie

And because of the people, it ended up really being the best decision I could have made. So choose people. Job titles are great. Science is great, but choose people above all else, because even if you’re really passionate about the responsibilities and the scientific aspects of a role, if the people are not great, you are going to be miserable.

Melissa

No, that’s great advice, because I think that happens a lot where people they’re frustrated, they’re not getting promoted, so they go somewhere else where they get the title they want or get a little bit more money, but then they have a longer commute and they thought it would be fine and it’s not, or they have a bad boss or all sorts of things can come up that just aren’t a good fit for them, that don’t make that change worth it? The grass is not always greener.

Stephanie

Absolutely. And one more thing I’d like to add on that is, like you said about the bad boss of the long commute. A lot of times when you’re feeling frustrated or you think, oh, the grass is greener, you’ll look at that other option and you’ll say, oh, well, there are these minor downsides, but I can deal with that. But sometimes those little minor things can add up. So like you said, the grass isn’t always greener. And you really want to be careful about when you’re evaluating those other options. Is this something that be honest with yourself? Is this something you could deal with long term? Because sometimes it seems like you can and you can’t.

Melissa

Right. That’s great. Ok. So for Women and Bio, how can people get involved? Where can they go to learn more about it?

Stephanie

So basically, if you go to our website, www.womeninbio.org, that will pretty much show you everything you need to know about what the organization can offer you. And there is a membership tab. And Alyssa, if you could include the link in the show notes. Perfect. I would encourage everybody to go check out the membership link. It provides a general overview of the benefits as well as the member rates. And yes, if you’re not involved with Web, I highly encourage you to do so. It’s a wonderful organization.

Melissa

And are there any events that you want to mention that are coming up in the next couple of months?

Stephanie

Nothing right now. But I really encourage people if you are in the Capital Region or if you are located near another Web chapter on the Web website, there are several web pages that are specifically for each of the chapters. And under those web pages, there is an events page and that shows all of the upcoming events for that chapter. So definitely go and visit the events page to see what’s upcoming in your area.

Melissa

Yeah, definitely. And I will mention just because I am part of Career Map, that we do have a couple of events coming up around Career Map. So in May, we have an event hosted by our friends at Bio Buzz. And then in June, we have an event that is going to be hosted by someone at AstraZeneca. So those are both going to be opportunities for you to learn a new skill, learn some new knowledge that is going to help you advance in your career. So if you go to the events section on the Women and Bio page, which I’ll link to, that registration information will be up there very soon. And we also post all of this information on LinkedIn as well. So there is a LinkedIn community for Women and Bio specifically for the Capital Region and also for the other Women and Bio chapters that you can also get involved with the stay informed. I guess I wanted to mention on LinkedIn to Stephanie if people want to reach out to you are you okay with people connecting with you? Can we link to your LinkedIn in the show notes?

Stephanie

Absolutely. So please feel free to connect with me via LinkedIn. I will also include my Women in Bio email in the show notes as well. So if you’re curious about getting involved with the capital region chapter or another chapter, please feel free to reach out to me and I’d be happy to have a chat okay well.

Melissa

It was a pleasure having you on the podcast. Do you have any parting words before we end today?

Stephanie

Nothing really except it’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much, Melissa.

Melissa

Thank you so much for listening to today’s episode. I truly hope you enjoyed it. If this episode resonated with you or helped you in any way, please share it on your social media and tag me. I love seeing what you’re up to. Also please make sure make sure to subscribe and leave a review and until next time have fun navigating your career knowing the life you want is totally possible.

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