Every month, for you, EPWS presents the characteristics and activities of one Member Association.
Our member for September is the Belgian association BeWiSe, Belgian Women in Science.
For BeWiSe, the current Board member Tania Van Loon (Secretary) and founding member Patricia Lampens have accepted to answer the EPWS questionnaire.
Contact this association: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact these members: email@example.com – Carole.Paleco@naturalsciences.be – firstname.lastname@example.org
Association website: www.bewise.be
EPWS: If you wanted to describe your association in one sentence, what would you say?
Board M: Our association consists of women and men, scientists and engineers, from across the whole Belgium, who are supportive of equal and full participation of women in all scientific disciplines and at all levels, because diversity in research is indispensable to ensure progress, quality and scientific excellence.
EPWS: What are the objectives of your association?
Board M: Our main objectives are to support the position of women in science, both in the public and the private sectors and to improve the communication among women from the Belgian and the European scientific communities, as well as to provide role models for young women and men who are tempted to engage into a scientific career.
• Equal opportunities for both women and men to reach the most senior levels in scientific research
• Appropriate actions to achieve equal participation of women and men in science
• Laws and regulations that promote an increased participation by women in science, also at the decision level,
• Measures that facilitate the reconciliation of men’s and women’s professional and family lifes
• Equal participation of women in decision-making bodies
EPWS: what is the history of BeWiSe, in a few words?
Board M: We started with two major meetings in which the basic idea of forming an association with the name of BeWiSe took shape. In the first 3 years, the effort was mainly on achieving the legal status of “association” and developing the network across the language frontier in Belgium. This phase was followed by several years in which regular “hands-on” workshops were set-up in order to attract more young scientists and a special annual activity was held with the General Assembly. BeWiSe took also part in some interesting school-oriented projects with the financial support of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation. We also took great care and efforts in selecting, attracting and celebrating our first Honorary Members as inspiring role models! They are passionate and accomplished scientists recognized at international level and they embody, each in her own ways, the attractiveness of scientific careers for women.
EPWS: Could you explain the organization of your association?
Board M: We are a small team of volunteers who are promoting BeWiSe’s objectives by carefully selecting and helping, with the organization of specific actions and events (e.g. the mentor-mentee programme) and well-focused projects, as well as through our attitudes and reflections in our daily working environment.
EPWS: What are its recent achievements?
Board M: We have just finalized an interactive on-line toolkit, to stimulate girls and boys (typical age from 12 to 16 years) to choose scientific studies by showing that science is interesting, can be fun and can be practiced in varied ways. This is done by a richly illustrated compilation of stories of five scientists (both women and men) working in various research fields and having different backgrounds, also based on true experiences www.go4sciences.be
Another concrete result is the movie “Science needs you !” featuring the portraits of six scientists talking about science, their career, their passion and hobbies, which can inspire young people to choose scientific studies and work.
Addressing a different need in a different shape, BeWiSe mentoring programme is a good example of how personalized support to young scientists can improve their skills and self-confidence. The programme is equally appreciated by mentees and mentors, and is delivered across universities and communities (in both French and Dutch languages as well as in English, depending on the mentor and mentee’s preference).
EPWS: What is your agenda for the coming months?
Board M: In September, we will pursue the dissemination of the www.go4science.be toolkit in secondary schools, so that it becomes a better known tool to raise awareness and enthusiasm of teachers and pupils.
We will also hold our yearly general assembly to discuss which priority actions will be launched next year.
And we are pursuing our mentoring programme throughout the year. In our experience, this is a simple and powerful way for young and experienced researchers to exchange experiences of concrete situations, to support and build up confidence of researchers in the early career stages, and to broaden all researchers’ views about gender.
EPWS: Are you collaborating with other EPWS members?
Board M : We are joining forces with other EPWS members on specific actions, such as a seminar with the French Femmes & Sciences in Nov. 2015 about gender aspects in Research and Innovation
For several years, BeWiSe representatives fulfilled the task of EPWS treasurer with great care and commitment.
EPWS: What do you expect from EPWS? In what ways can it help you develop your action?
Board M: We count on EPWS to increase the impact of our actions through communication and networking with similar-minded organisations, and we like to be inspired by diverse actions from its members.