AWIS pushes for inclusion within STEM with kick off event


COURTESY / Karen Gibson

Autumn Pitchure, Staff Reporter

The West Michigan chapter of the Association of Women in Science (AWIS) remains the largest multidisciplinary organization for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). This organization continues to impact others daily by pushing towards gender equity in science.

“It’s open to anyone, and students are very, very welcome,” said Karen Gipson, Professor of Physics, Associate Dean of Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies and President of the West Michigan AWIS chapter. “Networking, professional development and outreach are the three things we have done a lot of in the past and I think we will continue to do it for the future.”

AWIS will be holding an evening including connection and empowerment to kick off the year Tuesday, Sept. 10 at the Van Andel Institute in Grand Rapids. The kick-off will begin at 5 p.m. and continue through 7:30 p.m.

There will be a networking reception to start off the evening, followed by a lively discussion on the infamous “Imposter Syndrome,” a disconcertingly common psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their worthiness and skills, struggling with an internalized fear of being discovered as not good enough — an “impostor” taking a job from a more qualified individual.

“The discussion on the ‘Imposter Syndrome’ will include how it affects women in other marginalized groups in STEM fields,” Gipson said.

AWIS provides multiple opportunities for women in STEM to reach their full potential, leading to a bright future. The organization provides professional development at all career stages and in all workplace settings. The kick off event will end with a debriefing on planning for AWIS-WM for the year ahead, informing attendees on how AWIS can assist them with their own ambitions.

“We have networking events and professional development events,” Gipson said. “We also rent workshops for faculty and students to take that next step in their career. We participate in a lot of outreach events like the Math and Science Center, Chemistry at the Mall, and even our own event: Fall in Love with STEM. This is at Grand Valley, GRCC and Hope college. GVSU students and faculty host middle school students during this event.”

AWIS meets once a month and hosts professional development events. The organization puts emphasis on informing the public about science and STEM fields.

The group was formed 48 years ago, in recognition of how discrimination against women in male dominated professions like physics was pushing great minds out of fields that would have greatly benefited from their work. AWIS began as a response in order to eliminate biases and push towards gender equity, and welcomes both men and women invested in these goals into their organization on the local and national levels.

AWIS has been continually recognized over the years for their outstanding and notable scientific achievements. However, the under-representation of women in STEM fields still exists. Over time, the group strives to eliminate this and continue to create high-quality opportunities in West Michigan for those to thrive in STEM fields.

“I have never had a female colleague in my physics courses or a female physics professor at any level,” Gipson said. “Without this group, I would have been very isolated.”

For those feeling similarly isolated, want to support those who do or would simply enjoy a night of intelligent conversation, attending the kick off event for AWIS is a perfect way to get involved and start a new journey to an intelligent future.