woman in science lab with PPE looking a a slide

If you haven’t checked out Women in Science – PDX, you should

Before I started my career in the lab (more than a decade ago now) I was blissfully unaware of the need for professional women in science organizations. I didn’t realize that I would eventually yearn for a community of other ladies, with a passion for science, that I could go to for advice and insight.

That’s why I was so excited last year when I stumbled upon Women in Science – PDX. While the group originally started at OHSU as a way to foster better academic opportunities for women in research, it’s since grown into a full fledge non-profit that puts on networking events, professional development classes, advocates for girls in STEM and more.

Women in STEM around PDX

Before moving to Portland, I lived in worked in the biotech hub known as Research Triangle Park (RTP) in North Carolina. With multiple large universities nearby (NC State, Carolina, and Duke), the area has a broad pool of talent to supply a growing biotech and engineering community.

However, when I moved to Portland, there was not the same industry and therefore, the networks built around them were more limited. There are certainly large healthcare systems.

OSHU is the state’s only medical school but performs a diverse range of medical research. It’s also the largest employer in Portland.

Just a bit west of Portland you’ll find the Silicon Forest. Semiconductor and hardware companies are scattered throughout Beaverton and Hillsboro.

All of this to say, there is obviously a scientific community in the area. However, there wasn’t a centralized group for women. That’s where WIS-PDX comes in.

Why Do We Need a Group for Women in Science

The first question that many people ask is, “Why do you need a group specifically for women?”

First of all, it’s a group that advocates for all women identifying people within any realm of science. Women are underrepresented across many branches of science. Without the full range of voices present, we’re potentially missing out on creative and innovative discoveries.

In addition, underrepresentation can lead to gaps within research, as we’ve seen before in medicine. The more we can support women pursuing all kinds of scientific careers, the better.

This starts with advocating for more STEM education throughout middle school and high school. It’s been well documented for some time now that girls are less likely to pursue STEM fields when entering their teenage years. WIS-PDX want to show young girls that a career in science, any branch of it, is possible.

Mothers and Scientists

Another point where many women drop out of the science workforce is when they become mothers. While many men become fathers during the course of their graduate degrees, it’s just not the same for women.

It’s incredibly difficult to juggle the responsibilities of motherhood with the requirements of building a career in academia. And no one is really talking about it. Many programs assume you will focus solely on your education and only then will you consider starting a family. But by that time, the window of child bearing years is much smaller.

With limited maternity leave options and sometimes outright discrimination, WIS-PDX is hoping to shed some light on the subject in their new blog series Parenting Pathways. It talks to real mothers in science about the good and the bad of building a career in science and raising children. (Full disclosure, the blog series is edited by yours truly.)

A Gathering Place for Portland Women in Science

In addition to advocating for women in science, WIS-PDX gives us a place to connect. It serves as a judgment-free resource to ask questions and find mentors. If you are a woman with a career in science (or hope to have one), check out all the offerings over at WIS-PDX. This growing community is full of education and support for us all.


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  1. This is a fantastic resource. When I was in high school we had an SMT program, which focused on Science Math and Technology and it is wonderful to see that STEM has really taken off in schools and that there is strong encouragement for women to join and lend their voices.

    1. labmom says:

      That’s great, I wish my high school had something like that. I found a passion for biology (specifically genetics) in high school, but I wish I could have developed more across all STEM fields. Since most girls stop exploring STEM in middle school, the more early programs we can offer the better (IMHO.)

  2. STEM is so vitally important, as are women focused organizations like this. I am no longer in the science arena, but have several friends who are. I didn’t know about this and am so happy to find it – thank you!

    1. labmom says:

      Right?! I worked at OHSU (where they started) for years and had no idea they were there, so now I’m telling every fellow lady in science that I come across.

  3. Thanks for spotlighting an important organization! What an important voice to help bolster and organization to support

    1. labmom says:

      WIS-PDX is all about support and positivity!

  4. This post is so exciting! Community is important, no matter your gender or industry, and we need to get together with other like-minded people to truly connect. I’m so glad science-y women in Portland have organized this group!

    1. labmom says:

      For sure! I really appreciate WIS-PDX because (although it’s not the FOCUS of the group) there are resources and connections for moms in science, which are a lot harder to find that I would have imagined before I started working in science.

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