Sharing experiences

Sharing experiences among people from the same group (women in math, black people in STEM, LGBTQ people in CS, etc) can be a very powerful tool: it can build community; make people feel less isolated and realize they are not the only ones facing these challenges; help people trade advice, tools, help; start some mentoring.

This could also lead to the sharing of such experiences with the greater community (for example, the whole department or university), which might help find allies, build a greater supportive community, and enlighten others as to what it might be like to be from that group. Something else that can be useful sometimes is for people from that group to realize that some of their struggles are also shared by people from the majority. For example, many students might actually feel some professor is rude to them, which could mean the professor is not racist or sexist, simply rude. This is not to say that sexism or racism do not exist! But it can be very isolating for someone to feel they are the only one with that struggle, so finding others who share that struggle can help a lot.

Before (or as you are) asking for people to share their experience, you can show them these few links which might be helpful in making you all reflect on or notice experiences you may have had. Maybe similar things exist related to your own institution, discipline, etc?
-- Gender microaggressions at Harvard in STEM. Try out the Pipeline game mentioned in the top post too!
-- At Stanford:
-- I know various women in math conferences (or even general math conferences) will often have panels or discussions or some other way to encourage participants to share their experiences, and many of my colleagues have found this very empowering, so keep an eye out! You should never feel obligated to share anything though! For some people, just listening to others is helpful.

Here are some sample questions you could ask participants in a discussion or survey, and an opening, feel free to use them or modify them as you wish!


We would like to compile experiences of women who have been in the math department at Harvard, with two different audiences in mind:
- to share experiences and advice with all current women in the department, to encourage a more supportive community, and to spark dialogue about the subject of women in mathematics, in particular at Harvard;
- to gather information for the department so that it is clear from personal narratives what the experience of women is in the department and what could be improved.
Thank you so much for your time and input. We really appreciate it!
1) What would you share with a woman studying or working in math (or thinking of it) at Harvard?
2) Any advice to help the person have the most positive experience possible in the program?
3) What would you share with current department members of any gender about your experience being a woman in math at Harvard?
4) What would you tell to the math department administration about your experience being a woman in math at Harvard?
5) What worked well for you and others? What didn't work so well?
6) Any stories you would like to tell?
7) What were obstacles you encountered? How did you overcome them?
8) Anything else?
9) Identification.Would you prefer your comments remain anonymous? Would you like to leave your name? Or would you like to be cited in some way? For example, you can say "Anonymous", "Class of 2012", "Current sophomore", etc.