The students discussed these questions, and others which arose. They then separated into smaller groups. Each group invented, and described in detail on paper, a day in the life of a woman scientist. As they did this, they started to discuss issues such as the relationship between work and child care, family life, interests and housework. Each small group presented their work. Finally, the presenters introduced a questionnaire about statistics on women in the work force. After the students completed it collaborative, they discussed the implications of these statistics.
Gender stereotyping appeared to be an excellent point of departure for the other aspects of the careers workshop. The young women were genuinely thrilled by the realizations exposed by the session, to which their comments attest:
- "Many of these discussions related an inspiration, a pride in the achievement of women and freed me of certain gender stereotype borders that I thought might limit me."
- "Female scientists are real people!"
- "[I have] more faith in my ability as a woman."
- "I reassured myself that yes, I am capable of becoming an engineer, and that I probably will enjoy it."
The lack of role models for many of the participants was addressed by a careers seminar one evening. The speakers were all local women in science: a doctor, an optometrist, a chemist, a psychology professor, and a computer systems analyst. Each speaker described herself, her background and her working conditions, and an extensive question period followed where students asked about professional demands, stereotyping, and personal challenges. The experience was enlightening and stimulating for the students.
Many left the seminar with a renewed feeling of confidence in themselves as females, and as potential female scientists. The speakers were living proof that their gender was not a burden. As one student said "They weren't really intimidated by male-dominated fields; they said it just takes determination to make it." After meeting some women in "non-traditional" fields another student commented that she was "extremely impressed by their qualifications and the success they have achieved, and the respect they seem to generate from the community."
Other seminars and sessions covered such topics as engineering, environment issues, and graduate studies. Engineering proved to be popular: "Engineering is a very possible career for me since this workshop," commented one of the participants. As a result of the broad scope covered, numerous career possibilities were opened up to the students. Many of these were new and exciting.
Student interaction was the key to the success of the workshop. Participants discussed issues openly from the beginning, and student and residence advisors assisted with every aspect of the workshop. The students felt cared for and responsible, and left with new friendships and broader perspectives. One student described the advantages of the student-centered approach: "It does not only provide you with excellent scientific education but it also permits the girls to grow within themselves and develop emotionally as well as intellectually through the close relationships and memorable experiences with other participants." Some planned a camping trip for the summer, others are in regular contact by letter.