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Careerwise website and resilience training

Posted by Melissa on November 7, 2010

About a week ago, the NSF Update Daily Digest Bulletin that arrived in my inbox announced “Online Resource Offers Resilience Training for Women in Science.” The announcement rubbed me the wrong way, but I decided to hold my opinion until I could actually access the Careerwise website, which was launched this past Thursday. Now, having poked around the website a bit, I’m still not enthusiastic. The homepage announces, “Are you a woman in science or engineering? You know about problem-solving in technical areas. Now learn how to take on interpersonal and personal issues too.” The website’s purpose is to help women learn problem solving strategies for dealing with graduate school challenges. Rather than trying to change the climate for women, this project tries to improve persistence by teaching women to be more resilient. I find myself bothered by the subtext of this project, namely that women, unlike men, don’t persist in STEM fields because they lack the interpersonal skills and know-how to face difficulties that arise.

I’m uncomfortable with the way in which the website simplifies the messiness of career management. Clicking around Careerwise, I was annoyed by the learning objectives printed at the top of each section and by subsections that included trite titles such as “What is stress?” or “What is optimism?”. The site touts the many video clips of women scientists, but the few I listened to were uninspiring. For example, there is an interview with Dr. Marcia Levitus of Arizona State University with the heading, “Reminder that it is not necessary to feel comfortable socially to do good science.”  While it’s true that one can do good science without feeling comfortable socially, I don’t think one should have to settle for social discomfort in order to maintain a science career.

In an ABC News article, Jennifer Glass, a PhD student who used the website as it was being developed, said, “The Web is taking over the way we communicate, so I don’t think it’s far-fetched at all to have virtual role models. We need mentors and networks, and that’s what this Web site is providing.” As someone who has struggled (and often not succeeded) in finding mentors to help me address career challenges, I am keenly aware of the importance of mentors and networking. However, precisely because I have been without a mentor, I can attest that no amount of information or virtual advice will ever replace a real live human being who knows you and your situation, who can listen critically and work with you to help you address difficult situations.

Have you visited the Careerwise website? If so, what were your impressions? In grad school, would you have benefited from resilience training like that provided by this website?

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2 Responses to “Careerwise website and resilience training”

  1. Hmmm, well, I couldn’t click around to much since most of the site is hidden behind a login but my gut reaction is “are you kidding me?” I find that I have little patience for “solutions” to climate issues that essentially amount to “suck it up, sister, b/c you’re stuck with the culture and you need to find a way to fit in!” and not ones that, say, actually address the climate issues in the first place…sigh.

    And since I didn’t see most of the site, it wasn’t obvious to me how the site was providing mentoring or networks. Are their forums on the site allowing for interaction, or is the site just a clearinghouse of sorts of information? Because if it’s just information, I’m not sure how that is mentoring.

  2. Melissa said

    Amy, I got into the site simply by registering for a login because I was curious to see what the site included. The site seems to me to be focused on providing information; there are no forums for discussion. The only way the site is interactive is by including some self-evaluation exercises, but even these are primarily lists of questions without much tailored feedback depending on your responses.

    Having looked around a bit more, I think there is some good information on the site, but I am still bothered by the way in which the site makes everything appear straightforward to deal with if only you are self-aware and use a reasonable approach/problem-solving process. The site has been getting a lot of positive press so I guess many people think it is a useful, innovative way to help women graduate students. I just don’t think it would have helped my graduate school self.

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