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Celebrating Women in Science & Engineering Grant Program: Resources for applicants and recipients

Advice for addressing issues of underrepresentation in science and engineering

WISELI’s Celebrating Women in Science and Engineering Grant programs are expected to include a forum for discussing issues of underrepresentation in science and engineering. These discussion forums provide opportunities for students and faculty in the department or organization to increase their awareness of gender issues relevant to women in science and engineering and to understand how gender and other aspects of human identity such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and/or disability intersect to influence the experiences and advancement of women scientists and engineers. The goals of these forums is to learn more about how successful women in science and engineering approach these issues as they play out in their careers.

These discussions have typically been held as brown bag lunches, or other informal gatherings, during which the invited speaker engages in discussion with the attendees. At times the speaker has chosen the topic/s of discussion and at times the discussion is driven by questions from the attendees. Occasionally the event has been more formal, with the speaker presenting some information about her career and how it has been influenced by or interacted with aspects of her identity. This presentation is usually followed by questions from the audience.

A list of possible questions/topics speakers or participants could choose to address is provided below. Please note, this list is not necessarily comprehensive. It aims merely to provide you with some initial questions to explore with your invited speaker/s. Please feel free to adapt and/or add to the list. We welcome suggestions for additional questions.

When inviting a speaker to participate in such a discussion forum, we recommend that you share this list of possible questions/topics with the speaker and consult with her about which questions she is comfortable addressing and whether she has any additional questions or topics she would prefer to address.

We further recommend that you think carefully about the group and/or attendees participating in this conversation. Is this a conversation/discussion in which all departmental members will be involved? Or will it be held for a specific group (e.g., for women graduate students and faculty only, for women graduate students only, for an organization of students of color, etc.)? We strongly recommend that you consult with your invited speaker to determine what she is comfortable with. Speakers' comfort levels may vary substantially depending not only on their individual personalities, but also on factors such as their stage of career.


Potential Discussion Questions:

Guidelines for hosting a succesful event or program

Please note: We are providing these guidelines at the request of past grant recipients. They are intended to assist grant recipients with no or little past experience in event planning. We hope that they will also be of some use to experienced event planners, but understand that experienced planners will already be familiar with the details and processes described herein. We also provide an accompanying checklist/quick reference guide of these items for your convenience.

  1. Accept or decline the award.
    Upon receiving notification of your award, consult with your program/department chair and then, as soon as possible, let WISELI know whether or not you intend to accept the award.
    NOTE: Accepting the award allows WISELI to budget the funds for your speaker. You do not need to have confirmation from your speaker in order to accept the award. The funds for your speaker will be transferred to your department once you provide WISELI with a confirmed date of the speaker's visit, see #4 below).
  2. Contact and invite your speaker/s to participate. If they accept your invitation, schedule a date/time for their visit as soon as possible—or, at the very least, set a deadline for determining a date and time of their visit.
    • If you would like your speaker/s to visit during the Fall Semester, we recommend that you set this deadline for Sept. 30 (their visit would then occur sometime between October and December).
    • If you prefer that your speaker/s visit during the Spring Semester, we recommend that you set your deadline for Jan. 15 (their visit would then occur sometime between January and May, or possibly during the summer).
    • NOTE: If you are planning for your speaker/s to conduct a research presentation, lecture, or symposium for your department, you will maximize attendance at your event if you can schedule the talk in conjunction with regularly scheduled departmental events. Consult with the coordinator of your department’s symposia, colloquia, or seminars and determine whether your event can be part of the department’s lecture series. Alternatively, schedule your event at a date and time consistent with the department’s series (e.g., if the department typically holds a research talk once a month on a Thursday at 4pm, hold your event on a different Thursday at 4pm when no other departmental event is scheduled. The faculty, students, and staff will likely have this time slot open and be accustomed to attending departmental events at that time).
  3. Once you have confirmed a date/dates for your speaker/s, consult with your department chair and/or administrator to determine:
    • What departmental fund number WISELI should transfer funds to, and
    • What procedures and policies you should follow in arranging for flights, accommodations, meals, reimbursement of expenses, necessary documentation, etc.
  4. Contact WISELI to provide us with confirmation of your speaker/s dates and the following information about the fund number to use:
    • Fund number
    • Name of dept. administrator responsible for managing this fund
    • Contact information for this dept. administrator

    WISELI will transfer the awarded funds to this account after receiving this information.

  5. Reserve rooms needed for your event/s. Lecture and conference rooms tend to fill up fast, so the sooner you accomplish this task, the more options you will have. Reserve your rooms as soon as possible after confirming dates.
    NOTE: You will want to match the room size to your estimated/desired number of attendees.
    • For lecture-style presentations, there is a large risk of over-estimating your attendance size. Several previous recipients of Celebrating awards were surprised to discover that attendance was actually half of their original estimate—especially if the lecture was not held in conjunction with regularly scheduled departmental lecture series. We recommend that you take their experience into account and reduce your estimates of audience size—unless you have a good idea of the typical attendance attracted by invited speakers in your department, or your speaker is exceptionally well known and highly regarded, or the topic is of exceptional public interest.
    • For networking-style events, we recommend keeping attendance small (not more than 15) as you will not achieve your networking goals if the group is too large.
    • For small group or one-on-one meetings with the speaker/s, make sure that you have commitments or RSVPs from those you expect to meet with the speaker.
    • Options for reserving rooms include:
  6. Make travel arrangements for your speaker/s.
    • Hotel: We recommend that you make the reservation for the speaker and pay for it with departmental funds (see #3 above) thus minimizing the need for the speaker to spend their own funds and await reimbursement. Make the reservation as soon as possible after receiving confirmation of your speaker/s’ availability. Changes can be made quite easily if necessary.
      Be aware of university requirements for making and paying for accommodations. Use the University Lodging Directory to select a hotel that offers UW System contracted rates and that is convenient and desirable for your speaker/s. If possible provide them with a choice from among these hotels—would they prefer to be near campus, near State Street, or near the Capitol?
    • Airfare: Make reservation at least 2 months in advance of the visit to take advantage of best rates and availability. As with the hotel, if you make and pay for the reservation using departmental funds it prevents the speaker/s from having to use their own funds and await reimbursement – but the speaker/s may prefer having the flexibility to make their own reservations. Consult with your speaker/s about their preferences. Be aware of university requirements for air travel arrangements initiated by university employees.
      NOTE: We strongly recommend that you plan for your guest/s to arrive in Madison during the afternoon/evening prior to their speaking event/s. Given the frequency of airline delays and/or cancellations it is risky to assume that a guest scheduled to arrive here in the morning will arrive in time for a lunchtime or afternoon event.
    • Transportation to/from the airport: A good and welcoming host will meet the visiting speaker at the airport, drive them to their hotel in a clean and reliable vehicle, and return them to the airport at the end of the event. If you, as the primary organizer of the event cannot do this, we recommend asking a colleague (a graduate student, postdoc, or faculty member). Doing this is not only friendly and polite, but it also provides the driver with valuable one-on-one time with the guest. If the speaker is arriving very late at night and it is not practical to provide a ride, arrange for a hotel shuttle or a taxicab to transport your guest. Be sure to arrange for this in advance as shuttles and taxicabs frequently do not wait for passengers at the airport late at night. Also let your speaker know exactly where to meet the shuttle/cab (the cab stand is at the very North end of the airport, door #7, beyond all the luggage carousels – not at all obvious). Remind your speaker to keep receipts for taxi rides and to provide them to you.
      NOTE: If your speaker/speakers arrive at or before the dinner hour, arrange for a few people to take the speaker out for dinner. Similarly, you may want to arrange for a few people to join your speaker for breakfast the next morning.
    • Transportation to/from program events: Make sure to arrange for transportation for your speaker/s to and from all events. Pick the speaker up from the hotel in a clean and reliable car and transport her to the first event. Make sure to designate someone to be responsible for escorting your speaker to subsequent events (or driving her there if weather is bad, distance is far, or if the speaker prefers).
    • Expenses: Though many of your speakers’ costs for meals will be covered by meals you provide or host as part of the program, the speaker can be reimbursed for meals and other costs (e.g. airport parking, cab fares, internet access) they incur. The UW Office of Business Services’ guidelines for reimbursement allow $60 per day: $12 for breakfast, $18 for lunch, and $30 for dinner. (See #3 above -- consult with your departmental administrator about permissible expenses and reimbursement.) Let your speaker know what receipts, if any, you will need for reimbursement.
  7. Plan your agenda with the guest/s’ comfort in mind (4-6 weeks in advance).
    • Ask your speaker/s if they have any dietary restrictions and/or preferences to guide you in your choice of restaurants, meals, receptions.
    • Ask your speaker/s if they have any special transportation needs and if they would prefer to drive or walk between program events.
    • Ask your speaker/s how they prefer to deliver presentations – do they prefer standing, do they need a podium, do they prefer or need to be seated?
    • Ask your speaker/s about any audio-visual needs they may have. Be sure to ask your speaker/s about which computer operating system they use (PC/Mac/other) so that you can have the necessary equipment, software, and connections available.
    • Arrange for necessary audio-visual and electronic equipment to be available in the room/s you have reserved, and make sure that you are able to either operate this equipment successfully yourself or have technical assistance in operating the equipment from facility staff. Be sure to have contact information for technical support in hand on the day of the event in case any difficulties arise.
    • As you plan events and meetings for your speaker/s, be sure to build in sufficient breaks.
      • Allow sufficient time between meetings for traveling/walking to the next meeting, and for bathroom breaks.
      • If you plan a lunch event that requires the speaker/s to answer questions and/or engage with attendees over lunch, build in some quiet time after the lunch for them to actually finish eating their meal.
      • Provide the speaker/s with a break of 45 minutes to 1 hour before the main research presentation, and with a comfortable space that will allow them to rest, gather their thoughts, or do some last minute preparation.
      • See "Advice for addressing issues of underrepresentation in science and engineering" and consult with your speaker about incorporating discussion of topis related to underrepresentation in science and engineering into your program
  8. Make arrangements for meals/receptions.
    • If catering meals/receptions—make initial arrangements at least 4-6 weeks before the event. Be sure to consult with your departmental administrator about what documentation is needed to cover costs and be aware that for meals the UW policy sets a maximum cost of $10/person for receptions, $18/person for lunch, and $30/person for dinner.
    • If ordering food for lunches from local restaurants (sandwiches, pizza, etc.)—place your order at least 24 hours in advance. We strongly recommend ordering from places that will deliver food to campus—this will save you considerable time and effort. Again, consult with your departmental administration about what documentation (receipts, attendee list) is needed and be aware of the UW policy regarding maximum meal costs of $18/person for lunch.
    • If hosting the speaker/s for dinner at local restaurants, be aware of the UW policy regarding maximum meal costs of $30/person for dinner and of the policy that prevents state funds for being used to purchase alcoholic beverages. Consult with your department chair and/or administrator regarding the possible use of other funds (foundation/gift funds) to cover expenses that exceed $30/person and/or the purchase of alcoholic beverages. Please also check into the food/catering rules for the building where you host your event.
  9. Publicize your event/s.
    Prepare and disseminate publicity about your event early—as soon as you have a confirmed date. If you don’t have all the details for the event, you can send out a “save the date” notification that includes the name of the speaker/s, date, and time. We recommend you strive to send out this first notification at least 2 months prior to the visit. Send a subsequent announcement that includes more details—the speakers name, title of talk, date and time of talk, location of talk and information about any other events associated with the visit—at least 1 month prior to the visit. Send a final reminder of the event approximately 1 week before the event.
    Where to announce the event:
    • Include it on departmental/college calendars and newsletters.
    • Prepare an email announcement and ask your department chair/administrator to distribute it to the department at large.
    • Contact the chairs of related departments that will have an interest in your speaker/s and the topic/s they address and ask them to distribute your announcement to their departmental members.
    • Send an announcement to WISELI for inclusion on our calendar.
    • Send an announcement to relevant campus organizations and ask them to forward it to their members. See the following for possible organizations to contact:
  10. Confirm agenda with others on campus.
    One to two weeks prior to the visit, contact others on campus who will be meeting with, dining with, and/or transporting the speaker/s and confirm arrangements.
  11. Communicate with your invited speaker/s.
    Stay in communication with your speaker as you make travel arrangements and plan your agenda. Contact your speaker 1-2 weeks prior to their visit to review final details for their visit.
    • Provide them with information about the arrangements you have made for their transportation.
    • Provide them with an agenda that lists all events and names the people with whom they will be meeting.
  12. Complete and return your program evaluation to WISELI
    Complete the required program evaluation and return it to WISELI 4 weeks after your event.