What is WISDM?
The Women in Innovation and STEM Database at MIT (WISDM) is in an initiative aimed at promoting the visibility of women within the MIT community. The goal of WISDM is to provide a curated searchable online database of MIT women in STEM, making it easier to find talented and diverse speakers for conference talks, panels, news stories, outreach events, podcasts, YouTube videos, and beyond. WISDM includes women pursuing or holding graduate degrees including faculty, postdocs, research staff, and graduate students from all STEM fields. In addition to including each listed speaker’s name, headshot, educational background, and current job title, the database includes information on their areas of technical expertise (nanotechnology, cancer therapy, 3D printing, etc.) and non-technical expertise (science policy, entrepreneurship, outreach, etc.). Speakers also have the opportunity to link to a personal website with more information about themselves, as well as their contact information. Though the database is freely available to the public, all women listed in WISDM must have an active MIT email address to sign up, ensuring the integrity of their academic credentials.
Women are underrepresented in STEM careers, and this is especially true of women pursuing careers that require graduate degrees.1 One negative consequence of this lack of gender parity is that events featuring STEM speakers, such as university seminars and conference panels, predominantly feature men.2 This has a range of negative consequences: it limits the richness of scientific discourse by ignoring diverse voices, stunts the career growth of early career women by restricting their access to invited talks, and discourages young women in STEM by not recognizing and showcasing the efforts of their female peers and mentors.3 Fortunately, a range of important advocates and allies of women in STEM have recognized this issue and identified the need to provide women and other underrepresented minorities in STEM a voice and platform at scientific meetings.4 There is thus a critical need for a way for event organizers to find, vet, and contact diverse experts in a wide array of scientific disciplines. The Women in Innovation and STEM Database at MIT (WISDM) is an initiative designed to address this need.
Beyond serving as an institutional resource within MIT, WISDM has the potential to grow into a strong local community of and for women in STEM. The database can, in future, accommodate a range of needs including serving as: a resource for identifying women for jobs and fellowships, a touchpoint for individual or group mentorship programs, a home for professional development workshops targeted at the specific needs of STEM women, and a partner for other allied organizations on campus that promote inclusivity and diversity. WISDM aims to be a central node in the MIT ecosystem, connecting STEM women to peers, mentors, allies, and advocates.
The best way to support women in STEM is to support and promote their careers. At WISDM, we believe the best conversations are sparked by diverse voices, and we want to make those voices easier to find. Please join, share, and use WISDM within your community to ensure that women’s voices, stories, and perspectives are a part of every conversation!
She grew up in India, Kenya, and the United States where she learned to appreciate and thrive in diverse and dynamic environments. Her life experiences have forged the belief that technical innovation can drive positive social change, and this inspires her work to democratize and diversify STEM education around the world. Ritu is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the renowned Langer Lab at MIT. She is funded by a Ford Foundation Fellowship by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and a L’Oreal USA For Women in Science Fellowship. She holds many awards and honors, including being named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 Science list and the MIT Technology Review 35 Innovators Under 35 list, as well as being named an Innovation and Technology Delegate to the International Achievement Summit. Ritu is passionate about increasing diversity in STEM and has championed many initiatives to empower women in science, including being named a AAAS IF/THEN ambassador and founding the Women in STEM Database at MIT (WiSDM).
Ritu received her B.S. magna cum laude from Cornell University in 2012, and her M.S. (2013) and Ph.D. (2016) as an NSF Fellow at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Website: RituRaman.com | Twitter: @DrRituRaman