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The University has received nearly $600,000 from the National Science Foundation to expand its support of a grassroots organization seeking to promote the development of women scientists.

The Earth Science Women's Network, a self-identified international grassroots organization, was founded in 2002 by eight young women in the field of earth sciences who had met at various academic conferences and social venues, said Assistant Professor of Geological Sciences Meredith Hastings, the group's co-founder and board member.

The young women, including Hastings, were in graduate school or starting their academic careers and struggling to find a place in science, she said. They found the opportunity to share experiences with one another so helpful that they decided to formalize their relationships by maintaining an e-mail list to keep in touch.

Seven years later, the original e-mail list has grown into a support network of 800 women from 19 countries. Most members are either in grad school or starting careers in research, management or consulting  in various sub-fields related to earth science, according to Hastings.

The organization will use the foundation's grant, which totals $1 million (including the $600,000 that will go to the University), to further formalize the network, through efforts such as reaching out to more women by publishing a newsletter and holding career development workshops and impersonal networking events. The University will play host to many of the group's activities.

"Many people are surprised there are even 800 women in earth sciences at all," Hastings said, citing a study conducted by the National Science Foundation that reported that the number of women getting Ph.D.s in the sciences has increased, but the number of women entering research and holding positions at the university level is still small.

Brown's Department of Geological Sciences, for example, has only two female junior professors and three female tenured professors, who comprise one-fifth of the department's faculty.

"The prime years of starting a family intersect with the years of starting a career — many women do not even think of starting a 10-year track in academia because they are afraid they can't balance it, or that they will be the only women there," Hastings said.

Being a part of the organization and knowing that other women face similar problems has helped Hastings become more confident and overcome the barriers and "invisible biases" she has faced in her field.




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