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Women in Graphene: Empowering Women in Science Through Honest Discourse

​By: Rebecca Waters

Elaine Eksvärd presented methods to master suppression techniques at the Graphene Flagship's Women in Graphene and Science workshop.

The Graphene Flagship's Women in Graphene and Science workshop held at AstraZeneca on 8 March 2018 was an opportunity for women and men in the flagship and beyond to consider the challenges and opportunities presented to women working in the traditionally male dominated science field and to empower them to succeed.

A series of invited speakers highlighted the importance of diversity to successful research and development projects, the importance of female role models and ways to identify suppression techniques and combat them to ensure valuable team members are not being silenced or sidelined by their peers. Lively discussions following the presentations allowed the women in attendance to share their experiences and suggestions for coping with challenges unique to women in science.

In her presentation, "Yes, I Can," Helena Theander of the Chalmers Industriteknik noted that she never had any female role models as she started her journey as a scientist. I had to learn to be a better version of myself rather than a male version of myself, she said.

"I hope that you, the women of the Graphene Flagship, here today can show that you are interested in taking leadership positions, because success requires diversity," she said. "We owe it to ourselves as women to make an impact and show that, "Yes, we can."

The theme of equality and inclusion in science was also prevalent in AstraZeneca Site Director Matti Ahlqvist's introduction in which he outlined the company's recent push to improve diversity. Catherine Boissier, a principal scientist at AstraZeneca, echoed his sentiment, noting the importance of interdisciplinarity in scientific research. We must be humble, and brave enough to open our work to experts in related fields so that we may benefit from their unique perspectives and experience, she said.

A presentation on combatting suppression techniques by communications consultant Elaine Eksvärd highlighted the many subtle ways that people are silenced. Many suppression techniques can be combatted in a positive and non-aggressive way, she says. If someone pays you a mixed compliment, ask them curiously, "was that a compliment?". Clearly communicating your feelings or the facts at hand can resolve difficult situations from inappropriate humor to age and rank related suppression techniques.

Most importantly, Eksvärd warned against self-inflicted suppression by which individuals undermine their own authority by qualifying their statements, apologizing for offering their opinions or ending their speech with a question or a nervous laugh. Present yourself with confidence and help others in your workplace do the same, she says.

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Publishing date: 12 March 2018 14:46

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