To encourage and develop talented scientific leaders of the future, the Leadership Academy for Women in Science and Engineering (LAWISE) task force brought together a cohort of approximately 55 high-potential women from across Argonne National Laboratory, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, and the University of Chicago for a new leadership development series.

The October 12 event, held at Argonne, was the first of five sessions aimed at giving potential leaders a roadmap to identify, embrace, and amplify their leadership skills. Participants were nominated by their managers and selected by senior leadership to participate in the series, which explores topics that help women advance their careers, expand their influence, and take ownership of their career trajectory.

The program is the latest offered by LAWISE, a task force established in 2019 that provides programming to increase the number of women scientist and engineer leaders at the national laboratories and UChicago.

“We are incredibly excited to offer this opportunity to support leadership development for women scientists, engineers, and professionals,” said Young-Kee Kim, Professor of Physics and senior advisor to the provost at UChicago, who leads the LAWISE steering committee. “LAWISE has continually embraced real investment in programs like this, and we look forward to watching these women continue to add to the mission of the laboratories and the University.”

At the kick-off event, participants heard from university and lab leaders about the importance of leadership and then participated in a workshop to help them craft a leadership brand statement.

The program included a welcome from Paul Kearns, director of Argonne, who said “people are everything” at national labs and that future leaders will both help labs succeed and drive U.S. prosperity and security.

“The development of future leaders is one of the most important responsibilities we have,” he said. “Leadership programs such as this one foster the next generation of scientists, engineers, and operational professionals. Together, we will continue to diversify and strengthen our workforce, which directly empowers the impact that we deliver.”

The LAWISE task force is part of the Joint Task Force Initiative (JTFI), a signature University of Chicago program that helps Argonne and Fermilab achieve mission success by opening channels of frequent communication and collaboration across institutions.

Juan de Pablo, executive vice president for science, innovation, national laboratories, and global initiatives at UChicago and sponsor of all JTFI task forces, including LAWISE, encouraged participants to ask questions, push themselves, and help create a program that will position everyone in the room for success.

“You each represent the future of science, and the future of the labs. It is our hope that over the next seven months you’ll use your time together under this initiative to forge relationships that will help you achieve both your own goals and the mission for your organization,” he said.

The series was facilitated by Jo Miller, an expert on women’s leadership, and included a panel of senior university and lab leaders who reflected on leadership qualities, advocating for yourself, and dealing with setbacks.

Panelists included Young-Kee Kim; Bonnie Fleming, deputy laboratory director, science & technology, and chief research officer at Fermilab; Kirsten Laurin-Kovitz, associate laboratory director, nuclear technologies and national security at Argonne; Matthew Tirrell, interim deputy laboratory director, science & technology, chief research officer at Argonne, and dean of the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering; and Lia Merminga, director of Fermilab.

Merminga, the first female director of Fermilab who was appointed in April, said that while the field of physics is still male dominated, she hopes to help continue to change that through support of LAWISE and programs like this.

“The complex and challenging questions we are facing today in research and society require diverse, multifaceted, comprehensive perspectives to solve. Everyone needs to contribute and apply their expertise and unique points of view. We must continue to create an environment where women claim their leadership, advocate for their views, and elevate others as they grow,” Merminga said. “Together we can help shape the future of our research and operations for the better and transform the scientific landscape.”

-by Emily Ayshford


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