May SgWIS event: Nancy Gray on the power of community

This month SgWIS had the great honour of hosting the indefatigable Dr. Nancy Ryan Gray, CEO of the Gordon Research Conference. Through her career Nancy has shown herself to be a true champion of the power of building strong research communities and supporting the people on the ground making the scientific discoveries. But she reflected during her talk on the systemic ways women are disadvantaged, including how little career advice is given to women. It was for this reason she spent her talk giving us the best career advice she had to offer. 

She recommended everyone learn how to fail, and learn how to fail quickly so you can move on to bigger and better things. To always put yourself out there to meet new people, because you never whom you might meet or what impact these meetings will have on your life. And to always ask questions; in seminars, in meetings, in life.

In terms of building a strong career the most important characteristic she identified was credibility, built through hard work and human relationships. But also that even CEO’s don’t know everything they need to know and that it shows strength and humility to admit there’s more to learn and to go out and educate yourself.

It was clear that one of the things she valued the most was the strength of communities to support each other. Whether that community is built on scientific discoveries and great conferences that bring people together time and again. Or communities of like-minded individuals dedicated to mentorship and supporting each other to achieve lasting structural change in systems which have not always been welcoming. Nancy certainly was leading through example, handing out business cards and offering mentorship to anyone who asked. Despite this she left us with the message that it’s up to us here on the ground to force the changes that we want to see in the field of science.