Throughout my academic career, I have felt an invariable attraction to both the world of STEM, and the realm of law and policy. Rather than accept popular advice that I had to choose an academic path in either one field or the other, I decided to “go it alone” and pursue a career that would combine a degree in Law, Societies, and Justice with my background in engineering. Unfortunately for me, it wasn’t until I caught mention of PLEN via a listserv e-mail that I began to realize I might not be companionless in wanting it all.
Since attending PLEN’s Women in STEM Policy seminar, I feel empowered to fervently pursue a career in STEM policy and/or advocacy. Previously, I thought that I would have to extend my time as an undergraduate to get two degrees in order to gain entry into the narrow world of STEM and law. During the seminar, however, I learned that no two paths to the arena of STEM policy are uniform or necessarily better than the other. I now understand that I can study what I love and continue to chase diverse interests throughout my entire professional career. Since hearing about the different career experiences of the panelists and speakers at the seminar, I now feel liberated from naysayers, and understand that I have access to an unlimited world of support—if I just reach out.
While PLEN’s Women in STEM Policy Seminar provided me with invaluable advice and strategies to get through my future career in a male-dominated workplace, the most impactful tip I received was to engage in mentorship. The most helpful and meaningful relationships I have had so far have been ones of mentorship and camaraderie, and PLEN taught me that it is never too early to initiate those relationships with others. I now feel more strongly compelled help those who are disadvantaged in experience or otherwise, and more comfortable in speaking up against discrimination. I’m thankful for PLEN for giving me an optimistic view of my future workplace, and making me aware of the diversity in the roads leading to a career in STEM policy.
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Katie McConville attended the 2017 Women in STEM Policy seminar as a junior at the University of Washington. She received a scholarship sponsored by the Hopper Dean Foundation to attend this seminar.