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Strategies for being successful as a women in STEM: A personal testimony

On Wednesday March 15, Dr. Lynn Mazzoleni, an Associate Professor of Chemistry here at MTU, gave a presentation on some strategies for her personal success as a woman in a STEM field along with general advice for others looking to go into academia or industry after college. The event had a very personal atmosphere, as it started out with food, refreshments, and mingling, and then before beginning the presentation Dr. Mazzoleni asked everyone to introduce themselves with their field of study and what they were hoping to get out of this talk. 

Since this presentation was centered around the idea of success in a new era, the first point the Mazzoleni talked about was “What is success?” along with her various accomplishments she has made in her field. Instead of giving a textbook definition of success, Dr. Mazzoleni views success as “an individual and fluid concept depending on the person…as long as you are always striving for some idea of continuous growth”. In her career, she has published over 40 academic papers, with 31 of them being cited in other work over 30+ times. 

Multiple times throughout this event Mazzoleni reflected that women are more hesitant than men to ask for something if they don’t think that they will get it. This can apply to ideas like applying for jobs or programs in academia, and when asking for a raise or promotion. Dr. Mazzoleni expressed that in order to shift this idea, we as women need to be more unapologetic and willing to take those chances without the fear of failure. 

There were many other topics brought up in this presentation, one of those being different microaggressions for women and non-binary individuals in academia, as well as strategies for handling those microaggressions. Invisibility, like not being heard or listened to when speaking up in a group setting, presumed incompetence, and sexual objectification were just a few that the speaker has experienced. Some ways to mitigate those different microaggressions are to talk to the individuals by expressing how that makes one feel, sharing your own process of thinking, and acknowledging the feelings behind the person making the statement and their motive. Academic burnout, managing a good work-life balance, and statistics on different limitations and barriers for women in STEM fields are a few of the other topics that were discussed as well. 

The presentation concluded with a question and answer session, where the floor was opened up to all undergraduate, graduate, and PhD students in attendance to ask clarifying questions or for further advice from Dr. Mazzoleni.

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