Monday, April 28, 2008

WISE and Balancing Research and Life

The next year or so is going to be an exciting one for the Women in Science and Engineering here at Carleton University. That's right, there's a new branch of WISE Ottawa in town! Thanks to a group of enthusiastic women who see a bright future for females in our field, the Carleton branch of WISE is in the process of being reformed, and already has a few great events under its belt.

There's a lot of work to do this summer, like finding a way to brand ourselves with a fresh new logo, and finishing up a new website, but things are looking really good. We had a couple of talks during the winter semester, including one with Google door prizes and delicious food. I'd like to focus on that one for the rest of this post.

The poster for our April event can still be found here. Our guest speaker was Kamilla Run Johannsdottir, PhD., and she spoke about her experiences with balancing life in research with family.

I know that I personally found this talk very interesting and informative. Being recently married and hoping to have kids before I'm 30, I really wanted to know when the best time was according to someone who has already done it.

Kamilla had her kids after getting her PhD, largely based on when she actually got married and therefore had the opportunity. She had decided to work a couple of years in a full time position before having her first child. A large part of this decision came from the fact that the first few years as a professor can be very stressful and demanding. Apparently newbies often have to work very hard to impress their superiors with their performance in order to prove themselves. This makes it difficult to have the flexibility required when you are the mother of a young child.

Kamilla's talk was very good, especially because she promoted an excellent discussion session afterwards. From this, I think I concluded that, since I do have to opportunity, the best time to have kids would be after courses and comprehensives during the PhD, but before the end when the thesis needs to be defended. Apparently, even the part-time hours available to work on the thesis are enough to get by during that period. It was relieving and encouraging to get this kind of information, even though it may not apply when the time comes.

As usual, we served food at this event, thanks to the Faculty of Engineering and the Google Ambassador program. In addition, both Google and the Carleton Bookstore were very generous and provided us with some goodies to give away as door prizes.

At the end of the evening, we facilitated some discussion to get feedback on how the girls liked our events and what they'd like to see in the future. Some of the ideas included having a summer get together to play Frisbee or soccer, talks on public speaking, talks for elementary and high school students, a mentoring program, frosh week events, financial help in attending conferences for women in the field, advice on transitioning from high school to university, and a few talks focussed on industry. Like I said, the coming year should be really exciting, so stay tuned!


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