The Women’s Initiative is starting a grassroots effort to publish profiles of the lab’s women employees. The goal is to showcase the diversity of the women who work at Fermilab — their jobs, their training, their backgrounds — to give the next generation of women many different examples of role models in the professions represented at Fermilab.
The inspiration for this was a book on veterans, where each page told a vet’s story. Profiles of women in STEM have been written before, but rather than focusing on just the STEM careers, this project endeavors to underscore the many job categories necessary to make great physics happen. And while profiles in the past have focused on the participant’s current career, the particularly interesting part of this project focuses on the question, “How did you get here?”
There are women who grew up across the street and some who grew up across the country, and some who grew up in another country. There are women whose parents were scientists at Fermilab, and there are women whose parents don’t know what physics is. I found the few stories I’ve heard so far fascinating, even though some people think their own story is boring.
The primary audience for these profiles is middle school girls, but the content will be of interest to audiences beyond them. My hope is that girls can read through them and find a woman that they connect with and that inspires them. (“She looks like me. I went to that school. My parent does that for a living too!”)
A side-effect of this project is that, because it is being carried out entirely by Fermilab women, for Fermilab women, we will necessarily engage in network-building. Many of us will be exposed to aspects of the lab we didn’t know existed. Some of us are taking this as an opportunity to talk to a woman we’ve always admired, but never before had a chance to speak with.
The Women’s Initiative has put together a team of about 15 women who will interview other women at the lab, write the profiles and work with the Photo Club to get the women’s photos taken. The final product will be a website managed by the Women’s Initiative where all the profiles are collected in one place, plus a postcard or printed handout that points visiting students and others to the website.
Aria Soha is an engineering physicist and member of the Fermilab Women’s Initiative.