Local Women Scientists Getting Organized

Mar 6, 2017

Shortly after last fall’s election, there was a rash of open letters from various groups within the science community asking for a range of things - strong climate policy, science-based policy, and multicultural diversity. One such letter came from a group that calls themselves 500 Women Scientists.

That name quickly became a misnomer as more than ten thousand women scientists signed the letter in a matter of weeks. Four months later, nearly 17,000 women have signed.

Not only that, they’ve created a nationwide organization with local chapters across the country, including one right here in Woods Hole. They’re having their first meeting on Wednesday, March 8 – International Women’s Day.

"I went to the Women's March, and I left that feeling very strongly that I had to take action because I didn't think signing and marching were enough," said Sue Natali, an associate scientist at Woods Hole Research Center and founder of the local chapter of 500 Women Scientists. "I felt like I needed to join this group, and I went onto the 500 Women Scientists webpage and realized that there wasn't a group. And one of the things that's nice about that organization is it's very easy to start a group."

Natali says she sees herself less as a leader, and more as a facilitator for a room full of leaders. The original petition included a seven-point action pledge focused on fostering diversity and equity in science. Natali says she has three broad goals for her chapter: supporting women in science; outreach and education; and policy engagement.

"I'd like to think of activities that we can participate in that will address each one of those goals," said Natali.

The group is open to women in any science-related field - not only bench or field scientists, but also educators and administrators - because they all play a role in making science happen, and making sure policymakers and the public know about it.