Dr. Susan Hockfield: Keynote talk

Our keynote speaker for our 2018 Leadership Conference: Connecting women, creating leaders, was Dr. Susan Hockfield! We had a fireside chat followed by open Q&A. She discussed her path to taking on leadership roles, her tenure as President of MIT, and advice for women related to leadership and life skills. To see her talk click on the links below.

Susan Hockfield video-1

Susan Hockfield video-2

Susan Hockfield video-3

Susan Hockfield video-4

More info about Dr. Susan Hockfield:

Dr. Susan Hockfield served from 2004 to 2012 as the sixteenth president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the first life scientist and first woman in that role. She is now President Emerita, Professor of Neuroscience and a member of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. As president, Hockfield strengthened the foundations of MIT’s finances and campus planning while advancing Institute-wide programs in sustainable energy and the convergence of the life, physical and engineering sciences. She helped shape national policy for energy and next-generation manufacturing, appointed by President Obama in 2011 to co-chair the steering committee of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership and by serving as a member of a Congressional Commission evaluating the Department of Energy laboratories in 2015. As a biologist, she pioneered the use of monoclonal antibody technology in brain research, identifying proteins through which neural activity early in life affect brain development. She discovered a gene implicated in the spread of cancer in the brain, providing a link between her research and human health. Prior to MIT, she was the William Edward Gilbert Professor of Neurobiology, Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (1998-2002), and Provost (2003-2004) at Yale University. She studied at the University of Rochester and Georgetown University and carried out research at the NIH and UCSF before joining the faculty at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and then Yale. She has published extensively, in scientific and public media. She is chairman of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and currently serves as a director of General Electric, Partners HealthCare System, and the Council on Foreign Relations, is a life member of the MIT Corporation, a trustee of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and a board member of the Belfer Center at the Harvard Kennedy School. She has received many academic and civic awards, as well as numerous honorary degrees from national and international universities.

GWAMIT: Lobby day

On April 10, 2018, two GWAMIT executive board members, Molly and Elizabeth, went to the Massachusetts State House to take part in a Lobby day, advocating for two bills relating to campus sexual assault awareness and prevention. One bill would call for all universities in Massachusetts to administer an anonymous survey to determine the prevalence of sexual assault on campus, while the other calls for universities to create and implement clear policies on sexual and gender-based violence. Students from colleges and universities across Massachusetts gathered for the rally and met with State Representatives to advocate for passage of the bills, both of which are currently in the House Ways and Means Committee.
Read more about the effort: Boston Globe article

Moving Forward

The past week has been filled with many strong emotions following our country’s presidential election. As your representatives in the MIT community, the Graduate Women at MIT (GWAMIT) organization extends our support and openness to all of you. In times such as these, we look inward to reflect on our values and mission, and we reach outward to bring our community together. We value and welcome kindness, inclusiveness, and constructive dialogue to build mutual understanding. We celebrate our diversity and the qualities that make us all unique, and we will stand against any attempts to divide us. It is our continued mission to fight for equal rights and respect, to reject bigotry and discrimination, and to support you to our fullest extent as you develop personally and professionally.

There are several events coming up at MIT to help facilitate constructive conversations, including an Election Debrief Panel co-sponsored by the GSC, starting soon at 4pm in 32-123. If there is need from our community to hold such an event that is specific for graduate women, please let us know and we will work to find a way. We encourage anyone who is struggling to take advantage of your resources on campus, and to reach out to us as your advocates.

In everything we do, we must help each other to keep moving forward. In times like these, we are reminded of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr:

“If you can’t fly, then run,

If you can’t run, then walk,

If you can’t walk, then crawl,

But whatever you do,

You have to keep moving forward.”


We are here to help you keep moving forward.


With warmth and gratitude towards all of our members,

The GWAMIT Executive Board

Lady Bosses: Leadership Conference 2016

Last week, Graduate Women at MIT held our annual Leadership Conference, with the theme “Lady Bosses: Women in Leadership and Entrepreneurship.” We had a blast organizing and attending this conference. The conference committee, led by the fearless Chairs, Nil and Mahsa, was a great group of grad and post-doc women who poured their heart into this awesome week of events.


The week started with an opening keynote by Christine Souffrant Ntim, a fabulous entrepreneur featured in this year’s “Forbes 30 Under 30”, among other accolades. She had some beautiful advice for us, including her main tagline – not “Follow Your Passion”, but “Follow Your Patterns”. She advocates auditing your life to find out where your true strengths and interests lie and letting those lead you to your next goal, whether for a new business or any venture.

Other events included Movie Night, with PBS documentaries about Women in Politics and Women in Business, panels on “Succeeding in Male-Dominated Fields” and “Changing the World Through Entrepreneurship”, popular workshops with knowledgeable mentors on “Taking Control of a Meeting” and “Negotiating Your First Job Offer”, and a mixer with MIT alumnae.

Our incredible “Succeeding in Male-Dominated Fields” panelists

In fact, alumnae were involved in almost every event during the conference. We sent an email out to members of Alumnae Association’s and AMITA’s email lists, and we were shocked at the number of responses we got from amazingly qualified women who wanted to help us! It makes me excited about the culture of MIT and the appeal of GWAMIT to know how involved our alumnae are.

Finally, the week ended with a closing keynote by (another alumna!) Nidhi Kulkarni, Co-Founder and CTO of Spitfire Athlete, a strength training app for women that focuses on helping women achieve their athletic goals (no weight loss talk here!). Nidhi’s talk was one of my favorites – she went into some real detail about the process of building her company from the perspective of an engineer-turned-entrepreneur. She talked about the decisions she and her co-founder made along the way, from business models to growth rates, and about the culture for women entrepreneurs in tech in Silicon Valley. After her talk, we hosted a strength training class with MIT Recreation and all got a little bit stronger.


I hope some of you were among the hundreds of people who attended our conference! Thank you so much to our sponsors and participants: Graduate Student CouncilPOWER, the ODGE, Venture Mentoring Service, and all our speakers and panelists!

Have a good summer!

Yesterday, GWAMIT hosted a Beach Day at Revere Beach. This weekend was the annual International Sand Sculpture Festival. The weather was perfect, the sand sculptures were incredible, and the best part was the company of so many of you lovely GWAMIT members. We hope you had as much fun as we did!


Whether you could make it or not, we hope you are enjoying the summer. We have big plans for next semester – not least of which the Leadership Conference in October! As always, contact us if you want to get involved or have suggestions for us.

Gutsy Girls: Spring Empowerment Recap

We just wrapped up our Spring Empowerment Conference!

The theme of this years conference was Be Gutsy, inspired by our keynote speaker Caroline Paul, who recently wrote a book for pre-teen girls about the value of adventure and bravery. Paul talked about how we condition young girls to let their fear keep them from having adventures, all while encouraging young boys to be brave. “When girls become women, this fear manifests as deference and timid decision making” (NYT). She talked about her joy in having adventures, from firefighting to skydiving to writing a book.

The rest of the Empowerment Conference week was filled with events designed to empower and inspire the grad women of MIT to Be Gutsy. We had a belly dancing class. We had a movie night featuring a 14 year old girl who traveled around the world alone. We had a panel of women at MIT who do “Extreme Science” (including two awesome grad students, Laura Stevens and Mariana Matus, and two of our science heroines, Susan Solomon and Nergis Mavalvala). And much more. It was incredible. Thank you to POWER and WIC for collaborating with us for the conference!

We were inspired by the speakers and workshops at the conference – and by the amazing group of women who helped plan and put on the conference – to be more gutsy in our own lives. This Tuesday, after the conference, the GWAMIT Executive Board volunteered for MIT’s CityDays. We were assigned to Habitat for Humanity and, incredibly, we actually helped to build a house. We learned a lot about this amazing organization which provides affordable homes for low-income families. And by the time we left, there was wall sheathing and housewrap on a home that had not been there before. We are so proud of that. Check out the rest of the MIT 2016 events this month!

We encourage you all to Be Gutsy, and seek out adventure. It is such a rewarding way to live.

Spring Empowerment Conference is Live!

Hey MIT! Our conference planning team has put together a fantastic set of events for you this spring for our annual Spring Empowerment Conference.

Our theme this year is Be Gutsy, and all of the events embody this idea in some way.

We’re kicking off our week with a keynote by Caroline Paul, New York Times Bestselling author of the new book The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure. She’s lived an extremely bold life and we’re so excited for her to empower us with her stories. The MIT COOP will be there after to sell her books with a book signing, which sounds like a great gift for any young women you have in your lives!

On Tuesday we’re going to focus on empowerment through fun, with a ladies-only belly dancing class in the afternoon (if moving those hips like no one’s watching isn’t empowering, I don’t know what is), and an all-female stand-up comedy night at the Thirsty Ear in the evening (free drink tickets and snacks to those to RSVP!). https://views.guru/

Wednesday we’ll shift gears to internal empowerment and what it means to be gutsy in a quieter way. In the morning we’ll have a mindfulness workshop that runs the gamut of mindfulness training, stress reduction, and even mindful eating. In the evening we will be joined by the fantastic local Kate Robinson, who will teach a ~slow flow and funk yoga~ class followed by a self-care dinner discussion. Yes, get excited, there is free yoga.

On Thursday we’ll change it up with a panel on How To Be A Gusty Communicator. What do an author/carpenter, professor, honey bee researcher, and a social entrepreneur have in common? You’ll be surprised with the awesome diversity we’ve got on this panel, and how much you can learn from their wide range of experiences that can help YOU be more gutsy in your own life! This panel will be followed by another book signing with the help of the MIT COOP by the amazing Nina MacLaughlin.

To wind down on Friday, we’ll kick it up a notch to go out on an EXTREME note with our panel of women who do extreme science. These women will blow your mind. They study glaciers, black holes, the ozone layer and even… the Cambridge sewage system. In my book, you have to be gutsy to go there!

Now, this is all just a sneak peak. Believe it or not, there’s even more. And believe it or not, at every single one of these events, there will be food. Tell your friends! Check out the events on our website for full details and to RSVP!

Huge shout-out to POWER and WIC for their collab efforts! 

Spring Empowerment Conference… get stoked and get gutsy!

Hey graduate women, it’s been a while. Our entire executive board turned over last month, and during our transition we’ve been coming up with some awesome new ideas for GW@MIT and for our Spring Empowerment Conference. Conference planning and website design are currently underway, but here is a little teaser so that you can get excited and tell all of your friends. 

The theme of this year’s Spring Empowerment Conference is Be Gutsy.Do you have guts? Do you know someone who has guts? Come share your ideas at our next conference planning meeting taking place Next Tuesday, March 22 at 10:00am in the Stata Cafe.  We’re still looking for event leads!! http://followersguru.net/

The reason that we’ve decided to go with the theme Be Gutsy is because of our opening keynote speaker who we’re extremely excited about, Caroline Paul. She is the author of the recent New York Times Bestselling book The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure.  Not only that, she was one of San Francisco’s first female firefighters, performed rescue missions that involved parachuting and scuba diving, and was an olympic-level ice luger. She’s all-around a total badass. She’s got guts. http://followersguru.net/buy-instagram-likes/

Other amazing events on our agenda include an all-female comedy night, inner empowerment through yoga and meditation, and lots more. Excited? We are. Hope to see you there. Stay tuned for the conference website, and stay gutsy. 

Leadership Conference 2014 Recap


Thank you all for making this academic year’s Leadership Conference a success! Below is a recap of each event and links to additional materials. Special thanks goes to our co-chairs Emily Mackevicius, Mallory Sheth for spearheading the conference and to SWIM for co-sponsoring several events.

Opening Keynote with Jenn Gustetic
In ‘Wear Many Hats: Catalyzing Breakthroughs and Solving Complex Problems by Engaging New Communities,’ Jenn Gustetic, the Assistant Director for Open Innovation in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy walked the audience through her path from a kid fascinated with space and flying to being charged with facilitating and encouraging US innovation as the Prizes and Challenges Program Executive at NASA. Jenn described how with the right amount of luck, dedication to public service and interest in the private-public intersection, she became the administrator of one of the most creative ways to address grand socio-technical challenges – after all, crowdsourcing solutions has only emerged as a practice in the past few decades. She urged audiences to go forth and change the world with curiosity, adaptability and tenacity!

Education Panel with Wendy Cebula and Cynthia Orellana
Though the two speakers came from different types of educational institutions, both Wendy Cebula and Cynthia Orellana spoke of their educational organization’s focus on underserved populations, private and public partnerships, and re-framed their organization’s goals in the bigger educational picture. After contributing to Vistaprint’s growth, as the edX COO, Wendy Cebula was tasked with the mission of guiding its growth from a startup-sized organization to the goal of a much larger one with the intent to bring MOOCs to an even larger audience. On the other hand, as the Director of Policy and Collaborative Initiatives at the MA Department of Higher Education, Cynthia Orellana works with different private and public stakeholders (including those like edX) to meet larger state-level education goals. Both panelists discussed the challenges of persuading communities, whether those were universities, residential or political to support and invest in their causes. Both also emphasized the intent of their work to reach underserved communities – Wendy highlighted that many of the MOOC users were from developing nations and Cynthia noted that her work sought to increase the level of educational opportunities for underprivileged communities. In concluding remarks, both panelists additionally discussed how the educational space is ultimately one that encourages, thrives and necessitates collaboration to work towards success.

Implicit Bias Workshop with Carlee Beth Hawkins
Do you recognize your own biases? During this workshop, Dr. Carlee Beth Hawkins, a researcher with Project Implicit, showed us that unconscious decision making occurs and can lead to implicit associations or biases. As an audience, we took an implicit association test where we were asked to match words related to family, career, men, and women. Even among the mostly female audience, our results showed an implicit male-career and female-family bias, and Dr. Hawkins explained that implicit bias can be present regardless of explicit attitude. In the second half of the talk, we learned that when we acknowledge that implicit associations exist, we can set up decision making processes that lessen or eliminate their effect.

Keynote Address with Susana Malcorra: “From Technology to the United Nations”
Susana Malcorra, Chief de Cabinet to the United Nations Secretary, was a great closing keynote speaker for this year’s conference theme: Leading in Our Community. Originally from Argentina, she was an inspiring example for the MIT audience, populated of scientists and engineers, of how an initially tech-based career can evolve to working at the public sector. After 25 years as a leader in the telecommunications private sector, Ms. Malcorra switched gears and joined the United Nations as Deputy Executive Director of the World Food Program (WFP). One of the most moving experiences that she shared with us at the conference was how she led the initial phase of the operational response to the tsunami emergency in December 2004, only weeks after she joined the UN. After working in the WFP, she moved on to de Department of Field Support before she was appointed by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as his Chief de Cabinet, a role in which she is responsible of advising the Secretary General in a wide range of sensitive global and organizational issues, as well as representing him worldwide when necessary. After listening to Ms. Malcorra’s life journey and her transferable leadership skills from the private to the public world, our take-home message from her talk was: “Always wear a suit that it is a little too large for you; at the moment when the suit perfectly fits you, it is time for you to take on to the next new challenge!”

Status of Women Faculty in Science Documentary and Panel
The Status of Women panel showcased the power of speaking out and how the discussion of challenges faced by female professionals can have significant impact in the community. The event included the screening of a short documentary produced by MIT video on the 1999 report on the status of women, featuring how female faculties in the past spoke out at MIT and significantly changed the way gender bias was addressed in academic institutions. Following the screening was a live panel discussion with current female leaders at MIT and current undergraduate students, Kamilla Tekiela and Caroline Chin, who were involved in surveying and analyzing the current status of women at MIT. See the video here.