AMPED EFRC graduate student Leah Bowers is one of five 2019 recipients of the UNC University Award for the Advancement of Women. The award recognizes people on campus who have elevated the status of women, helped improve campus policies and upward mobility of women, and participated in professional development or mentorship for women.
Leah liked the idea behind Women in Science in Engineering (WISE) — women supporting other women in a male-dominated area of academia — but she quickly realized, “We can do more to foster an inclusive environment.” Wanting to expand the group to include men and broaden its scope to include other minorities “to show that these issues were affecting everyone,” she found a fellow chemistry graduate student who shared her vision. Together they re-shaped Allies for Minorities and Women in Science and Engineering (AM-WISE) “to harness the power that WISE had accrued to affect positive change.”
Like good researchers, they began with data, administering a climate survey to their colleagues in the chemistry and physics departments. Based on the survey results, AM_WISE launched several key initiatives: mentorship training for all incoming tenure-track chemistry faculty, a mentee training series for graduate students and postdocs, a town hall meeting where students and postdocs from the chemistry, physics and biology departments were able to share their thoughts. When faculty expressed concern about how to handle reports of sexual harassment, AM_WISE and the faculty Diversity Committee began developing a step-by-step instruction manual with a “clear line of response,” Bowers and her AM-WISE colleagues are working to ensure that all underrepresented groups are strongly supported at work and free to explore both traditional and non-traditional career paths.