#WomenofNOAA Spotlight on Program Manager Emily Smith

#WomenofNOAA Spotlight on Program Manager Emily Smith

OOMD Program Manager Emily Smith recently returned from the Women in Sciences Leadership Workshop. In its second year, this workshop doubled in size, with over 100 participants! Emily has been at the helm as a founder and champion of women in sciences. She also organized an event at OceanObs'19, Breaking Waves, Breaking Barriers, which included a panel of international female leaders and a networking event. To learn more about her role, I asked her a few questions...

What led you to organize and create these events?
Passion for women. Growing up and watching my mom get passed over for promotions because she was a woman and "only" had a master's degree gave me a drive to defend and fight for women. I feel this especially for women in the STEM fields.

For the Leadership Workshop, this simply came from a lack of training available to me. I worked with the Earth Science Women's Network (ESWN) after finding that they offered trainings in the past. They were more than happy to help if I could find some funds. I knocked on doors until I secured funding from NOAA/OAR Diversity and Inclusion group. When they funded us for the second year, I wanted to do more. Again, I worked with ESWN and wrote a grant to NSF for funding for travel for participants since this was not something offered in the first year. I'm happy to say that the first year we had 50 women attend. The second year we had over 100 and supported hotel rooms for 57 women and travel for 18, including two international women.

The event at OceanObs'19 was a team effort where I was able to take over the lead after one of our team members had to step back. We had many phone calls and brainstorming of how we could have women be at the forefront, but in our own way, and not the traditional panel. We were also very sensitive to not have all white females on the panel, but to have a true international representation. 

How did you find resources and people to help you?
I found ESWN by simply scouring the Internet looking for leadership training. Finding nothing for the science agency world, I stumbled across an old agenda from ESWN about a training they held for NOAA over a decade ago. The ESWN board members were very supportive and I could have not been successful without them. My connections for the OceansObs'19 event came from life. One team member I had met in Palau at a capacity building workshop in 2015, and the other two were attendees at the first women's leadership workshop.

What are some challenges you faced in developing, preparing for, or leading these events?
Time is probably the biggest factor. I am grateful to have a supervisor who has allowed me to follow my passion for women in the sciences. It is also challenging when planning any event to make everyone happy. I’ve learned to look at the criticism as ways to improve in the future.

What advice would you give to others who want to organize events or professional development or support initiatives like women in science?
Find a team! I could have never accomplished everything without a great team for both events.

What has impacted you the most, or what are some key takeaways?
It always amazes me as to the impact that this is having for other women. After the first year where we had more than 100 women apply for 50 spots, it was overwhelmingly clear what a need there is for this type of training. This year we had over 200 women apply for 100 spots. Women in the sciences are craving training to help them be better leaders and co-workers. And as long as there is a need, I will try to find a way to meet that need.

What's next? Do you have an event on the horizon or are you looking to expand this role?
The short answer is that I’m looking forward to next year’s women’s leadership workshop (pending funding!!). I want to move it geographically to allow a different region to have access. We have held it in Boulder for the last 2 years and next year we will have it in Louisiana. I’m also working with ESWN to find volunteers to help learn how to run these workshops, so that my co-lead (Meredith Hastings) and I can have less of a lift in future years.

“Many people have thanked me for these efforts, but honestly, the only thanks I need is seeing how these women keep pushing science forward and making it easier for the next generation to follow us.”

Thanks Emily, and congratulations on your success leading these efforts to promote women in science and #womenofnoaa!

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