When I arrived in Washington, DC for PLEN’s Women in STEM Policy seminar, I had no idea that I was about to embark on one of the most influential and exciting experiences of my life. As soon as I entered the hotel lobby on Monday morning, I was greeted by the most supportive and driven group of young women that I had ever met. Throughout the entire seminar, my fellow attendees encouraged one another, myself included, to step out of our comfort zones and pursue ambitions that we never thought possible.
The seminar taught me so much about how public policy is established and the processes that must take place in order for this to happen. It was interesting to learn about how science policy has shaped our country as a whole and the influence that it has on our day-to-day lives. I was surprised how many federal agencies are associated with science and it was interesting to learn how they directly influence policy. I had no idea that there were so many policy positions available to people with STEM backgrounds and I was unaware that my STEM education could give me an advantage, even in careers that I wouldn’t immediately associate with science.
I especially enjoyed meeting women who have incredibly powerful positions in Washington, and listening to them speak about their experiences and how their STEM backgrounds have influenced their careers. They spoke so candidly and gave us great advice for dealing with adversity and overcoming obstacles that are associated with working in a traditionally male-dominated field. Hearing them speak about their career paths and what they did to get to where they are today was very encouraging.
It was really nice networking with these women as well as with my fellow attendees. The atmosphere of the entire week was extremely welcoming and reassuring and I left feeling incredibly motivated and capable. I feel that the skills I learned from the seminar have given me the confidence to pursue my career goals and push myself to my full potential.
Erin Dowd attended the 2016 Women in STEM Policy seminar as a senior at Chatham University.