Sixteen newly minted PhDs and soon-to-be PhDs – all of them young women – recently spent two days together at the Neve Shalom guest house in the Jerusalem hills gaining the leadership skills they will need to go out and make their mark in the world. Over the course of the Young Female Leaders in Science workshop, the women learned about everything from gaining confidence to conflict resolution, from communication skills to balancing work with life outside the lab. “We received tons of practical advice, geared specifically to our academic situation,” says Liron Rozenkrantz. “I even found myself the next day in the lab using the things we had practiced in the sessions.”
The workshop was the initiative of Prof. Daniella Goldfarb
, the President’s Adviser on Advancing Women in Science, and Prof. Uri Alon
. It was supported, in part, by the Charles H. Revson Foundation. Such workshops have been given to young PIs (primary investigators – heads of research groups) at the Weizmann Institute – men and women – but this is the first time that it has been offered to women PhD students. “We realized that women need to develop these skills in the middle of their doctorates – before they have to decide about going for postdoctoral training and competing in the academic world,” says Goldfarb.
Of those who applied, 16 were chosen both for scientific merit and for “seniority,” on the premise that those still here next year will have another chance to apply. The workshop was given by three consultants from hfp consulting, a group that specializes in providing scientific leadership skill training.
“As women, we often lack self-confidence,” says Hilla Afargan. “The lessons on leadership, confidence-building, presenting oneself in interviews – so-called soft skills – these were all really helpful. On top of that, I met an amazing group of women there. If I were to begin my studies again, I would love to have any one of them for a PI.”
“We found we could discuss common problems, and offer one another help and support,” says Dr. Anat Arzi, who will soon be off to conduct postdoctoral research. “The group crystalized so well by the end of the workshop that we decided to keep meeting as a female students’ empowerment group.”
Goldfarb intends to make the workshop a yearly event. “We teach these women great science, but we also need to give them the power to become leaders in their fields,” she says.