Tracey Holloway was a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University in 2002, Ph.D. from Princeton University freshly in hand, when she and five colleagues teamed up to create an informal support network for other women in their field.
“We wanted to provide an environment to connect with women at a similar level, to share experiences and share advice,” says Holloway, now a professor in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Today, the Earth Science Women’s Network (ESWN) is a diverse group of more than 2,000 women across the globe, including 56 members from Wisconsin, and Holloway is proud to announce that the once-fledgling group has grown up to become a nonprofit organization.
“We have a lot of big ideas and a lot of little ideas and we can finally advance them all,” says Holloway, who is hopeful ESWN’s nonprofit status can help connect the group with supporters who “feel passionate about increasing diversity in science and helping early career scientists get established.”
UW-Madison has long supported Holloway as co-founder of the group: Nelson hosted events and an early website for the network and the UW-Madison 4W Initiative currently funds an undergraduate staff member, Colleen Schmit, to work with the leadership board and manage ESWN’s social media. The university is also one of the best-represented institutions in the network.
But as the organization has grown, its leaders — including co-founder Meredith Hastings, an assistant professor at Brown University; UW-Madison assistant professor of geography Erika Marín-Spiotta; and colleagues from institutions and organizations around the U.S. — have sought to make it more structured and formal.
In 2009, the group was awarded a $1 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to develop the network, which included the launch of its social media website. Once the grant ran out in 2013, Holloway and her co-leaders began contemplating ESWN’s next steps.
They wanted a structure that would allow them to continue ESWN’s online and in-person peer mentoring activities, and help them develop new initiatives to support women in the earth sciences at all career stages, such as providing travel grants to conferences, supporting efforts to overcome barriers to women’s success in science, and extending the outreach activities of the group.
“I think women are facing different challenges: balancing family and work, navigating situations designed for men,” says Holloway. “The career trajectory was not intended for women trying to achieve other goals in life.”
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