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The FAU SHEer Power community

The founders of the SHEer Power community (from left to right): Patrícia Rita, Kyra Walenga, Cindy Montenegro and Lee Krutsch. (Image: FAU/SHEer Power community)

A community to support female scientists and students at FAU

Women in Science: Fortunately, more and more women are finding their way into research and are also taking senior positions in research projects and institutions.

Nevertheless, women who want to pursue a career in science still might face some hurdles. These could be the difficulty of reconciling work and family, (hidden) discrimination, beeing disadvanted compared to male colleagues or being bullied, also by other female scientists. At FAU, women scientists and female students have recently set up a community – the SHEer Power community – to support and help other female students and researchers who struggle with such problems as mentioned above.

We talked to some members of the SHEer Power community to find out more about this fascinatig project.

When and why did you come up with the idea to start the SHEer Power community at FAU?

Patrícia Rita, doctorale candidate in the Department of Palaeontology, Faculty of Sciences at FAU: The last months of a PhD are very challenging because there’s a lot of pressure regarding the future, searching for opportunities and making important decisions, all while having to be extremely productive in your studies. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with negative feelings and have trouble focusing on work. I found myself in that situation. However, it was always helpful to share these feelings with my girlfriends because they could often provide fresh perspectives and give me unexpected advice. I always felt empowered and boosted by spending time with other women in their early careers. One night, after attending the opera “Madama Butterfly” with Lee, I realized how simply sharing with other people is an amazing tool I had in my life. On top of that, recognizing that a play written in the beggining of the 20th century was still so up-to-date regarding the role of women in society, we said: why don’t we focus on women, as an attempt to support each other and lift each other up, instead of sabotaging each other through unhealthy competition. Eventually I shared this idea with other female friends and colleagues, and I could see their eyes shining by the possibility of such community! I had the most  support and useful insights from Kyra and Cindy, and just like that, the team was set up!

What is the aim of the SHEer Power community?

SHEer Power community team: SHEer Power aims to create a chain of optimism among female FAU students, regardless of the stage of their studies, by offering a community where they can connect, ask questions and share testimonials in a safe and supportive environment. Through various initiatives we aim to prevent stress, isolation and anxiety among women who are beginning to plan their professional careers. The ultimate goal is to empower these women to seek bright futures!

How would you like to achieve this aim?

Dr.-Ing. Cindy Montenegro, FAU alumna, Faculty of Engineering,working as Test Planning Engineer: Creating a network where we can offer each other support, advice, and share resources and tools externally as well as FAU-related to wellness and career planning. We aim to do this by gathering the students through various initiatives:

We offer informal regular meetings called “SHEer Power U’night” events. Here the students can connect and share their experiences in a safe and supportive environment. We usually decide on a topic and the discussion is focused around it. The first of these took place at a bar and the topic was “Career options: what’s next?” Our second meeting happened in the Schlossgarten and the topic was “Time Management: Tips and Tools.”

We also offer formal meetings called “Knowledge is Power” seminars. These are discussion panels with female alumni, where they share their experiences and decisions they made on their career paths; workshops with experts in soft skills development, and talks on a variety of relevant topics.

What advantages does the community offer its members?

SHEer Power community team: A supportive and comfortable environment with an understanding atmosphere. Importantly, it builds a bridge between women from different faculties who might not interact otherwise, offering a range of experiences and perspectives. It promotes meaningful networking and encourages women to be inspired about their futures.

In your opinion: How will FAU benefit from the community?

Lee Krutsch, Master student of Art and Education, Faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Theology at FAU: Aside from supporting FAU women, we gather tools and resources from the university, and also from outside, and promote them in one place that is accessible to international as well as national students. Information that is spread across various offices is made available in English on our social media channels. This allows people to go to one place for everything, instead of wasting time searching different sites for different resources. As such, we extend the offer that exists already and provide a space specifically for women which had not existed before.

What are your plans for the future?

Kyra Walenga, Master student of The Americas/Las Américas, Faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Theology at FAU: In the immediate future, we have some exciting workshops and seminars planned! We have a female alumni discussion panel scheduled on July 5th, a talk on gender bias in the workplace with Dr. Emilia Jarochowska on July 25th, and a workshop on communication skills with Shira Richman from the Writing Center where we will cover topics from interview tips to writing cover letters, tracking your confidence and owning your story in order to best position yourself as a young woman in the workplace/academia and in general. Meanwhile, we’ll continue gathering the SHEer Power community with informal meetings where we can network, support one another and discuss various topics. The future is bright!

Is there anything else you would like to mention?

SHEer Power community team: We are open to ideas and suggestions, so if there is a topic you would like to have discussed, please let us know. Also, if you know of any strong or inspiring women that might be interested in giving a talk or workshop, don’t hesitate to contact us on Facebook, Instagram (@sheer.pwr) or email patricia.rita@fau.de.

Thank you for the opportunity to share our community with everyone!

Thank you for the interview.

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