Women of Science Christmas gift list

Written by Cátia Bandeiras

Hello! Here is my first feature on the Women of Science initiative and I will just take a few words to introduce myself. My name is Cátia Bandeiras and I am a Bioengineering PhD student at the University of Lisbon, Portugal. So, this qualifies me as an European PhD student and, since I love to travel and even blog about it, my column is called “Journeys of an European PhD student”. Keep reading with me to know what it’s like to be a female PhD student in the EU - I'll be happy to answer any questions you might have in the future!

Getting on with the real deal for this feature, since we are approaching Christmas, I started thinking about what I want to give back to the community and what I would like to receive as a female member of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) community. My gift to the Women of Science community will be this post and I hope you enjoy it - it's even ecologically friendly!

If you are like me, a member of the research community, you are probably surrounded by two types of people: your co-workers who know a lot about related subjects to your research, and on the other hand, family and friends who range from knowing what a doctoral degree is and maybe having knowledge in an unrelated area, to having no idea why the hell you spend so much time working to have another university degree and when are you going to get “a real job”. If you can relate, raise your hands! You might also have younger family members or friends who are curious about which career to follow in the future have a lot of questions. I will focus myself on intangible gifts, however some material gift suggestions might pop up. Starting by which gift to give to your co-workers.

"...the first gift I would suggest is to listen and share with a close colleague."

We all know the PhD can be draining at times, so the first gift I would suggest is to listen and share with a close colleague. It is so important to have someone to relate to at work. Also, since gender equality is far from being reached, even in science, a gift you can give to any of your colleagues, regardless of gender, is education on the subject. The most recent data from the European Commission on the subject shows that women make 47% of the PhD graduates in the 28 European Union Members States, but only 33% of researchers and 21% of Principal Investigators are women [1]. Even for those who think there is no gender equality because fellowship values are equal for everyone, there is a bias on the rise to the top, and having a debate about why this happens might be heated, but helps to create more awareness on how these issues.

Finally, help your fellow women in science by suggesting grabbing a coffee with your lab mates and going to one of the multiple meetups for women in tech/STEM afterwards. Just this week I went to the first meeting here in Lisbon for women who work with a programming language commonly used in research and it was great! Who knows who you might meet with inspiring experiences! 

"...give them the gift of science communication."

Giving science related gifts to your family and friends can be more general. First of all, give them the gift of science communication. I know how hard it is to explain your thesis to people who have zero knowledge on the field and to avoid getting into too much detail, but this is both a good practice for them, who will get to know you better, and for you, to become a better communicator. Answer any science related questions that they might have and offer a critical view of the latest news in science in the best way you can. I admit this is hard for me in fields that are quite separate from my own, but I always try to learn.

You can also offer tickets to go to a museum or an exhibition related to science. Most science education centres have really fun experiments for children and who knows what calling might the children in your family find?

"Maybe you are the role model to another girl you know, if so, be the most helpful you can!" 

Finally, to that young person in your life who would like a certain career but know no role models of the same gender in the career and may shy away from it, you can help in finding a role model in the career they wish to pursue. Of course an online article can help, but if you happen to personally know someone who would be willing to give them a few tips, why not grab a meal together and talk about it? Maybe you are the role model to another girl you know, if so, be the most helpful you can!

"give us the gift of letting us know about other women who are killing it in their fields"

Now to the people who have a women in STEM in their world. First of all, give us the gift of patience. Sometimes we are not as present as we would like due to work, but we truly appreciate all the understanding and even the help from our partners and families in daily chores. Also, give us the gift of letting us know about other women who are killing it in their fields and even sharing stories in social media about them. Finally, help us keep our grounding. Take us out to a cafe to get us out of the lab or writing the thesis when times get tough. Help us remind ourselves about our interests when they seem lost too. And even something as simple as a mug of coffee or tea supplies may mean the world to us and even help decorate our desk!

Merry Christmas to all of you and, most of all, spend quality time with your loved ones! If you find this post helpful, why not give us the gift of spreading the word for Women of Science and sharing this post, and also subscribing to the newsletter? You can also follow us on social media below.

See you in 2017!


Read more from Cátia in this blog post she wrote for us in March, by checking out her blog, and following her on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.


[1] http://ec.europa.eu/research/swafs/index.cfm?pg=policy&lib=gender

Rhys Archer