Tea Talk: Four Fermilab women share their stories on International Women’s Day

On Thursday, March 8, International Women’s Day, about 70 women gathered at Building 327 to hear from four laboratory employees about the journeys they’ve taken throughout their careers.

Hosted by the Fermilab’s Women’s Initiative, the Fermilab Society of Women Engineers and the Fermilab Young Professionals, the event, “Tea Talks: Women Empowering Women,” celebrated the past, present and future of women at the laboratory.

Valerie Higgins not only told her own story of how she came to be the laboratory’s archivist, but, true to the historian spirit, she also showcased women from the laboratory’s five-decade history, including the lab’s earliest employees, leaders, scientists, engineers, administrative assistants, an artist, a medical scientist and an educator.

“If you want to know how women are contributing to the lab, I’d encourage you to ask the women around you,” Higgins said. “There are so many other women I could have highlighted. I feel like I could do this talk 10 times highlighting different women each time and still have interesting women to talk about.”

FESS Deputy Head Karen Kosky highlighted people in her career who served as mentors, people who could draw the best from their colleagues, supervisors and employees. These special, standout individuals, she said, included professors, supervisors and even an employee who reported to her.

“No matter what position you are in,” she said, “whether you know it or not, you are probably a mentor to someone in some capacity.”

Chief Strategic Partnerships Officer Alison Markovitz came to Fermilab through an unusual route. After working for a justice on the California Supreme Court and at a law firm in California, she went to work at the White House, and then for the Department of Energy. Now she’s chair of the Resources Review Board for the LBNF/DUNE project.

“You never know exactly where your career is going to go,” Markovitz said. “Look for smart, dedicated people to work for – people who care about what they do.”

Aria Soha had similar advice. As an engineering physicist at Fermilab, she actively sought positions that she knew she would enjoy and that would put her talents to the best use. She reflected how her different jobs at Fermilab let her see the lab’s work from multiple angles and interact with people who work in different ways.

“If you want something, ask for it, take it when it’s given, and be good at it,” Soha said. “Don’t be afraid to do something radically different, and don’t be afraid of change.”

After the short presentations, attendees enjoyed beverages, food and good company.

Kathrine Cipriano, Lita Scott, Dawn Staszak, Jeny Teheran and Hannah Ward organized the event.