Supporting Women in Science

A Series of Essays about the Earth Science Women’s Network (#ESWN) and #Scienceathon

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In honor of our first weeklong Science-a-Thon, I am writing a few essays about the organization supported by this outreach and fundraising event: the Earth Science Women’s Network (ESWN).

ESWN is a non-profit dedicated to supporting scientists of today, and welcoming the scientists of tomorrow. For over 15 years, we have benefited early-career women working in the earth sciences — from geology to oceanography, soil science to climate change. ESWN provides career resources, peer-mentoring, training workshops, and tackles barriers facing women like sexual harassment.

Perceptions about what a scientist “looks like” pose additional barriers to women’s success. A study from Research!America this year found that 81% of Americans cannot name a living scientists. Of those that could, that vast majority named men.

In an effort to showcase what scientists look like, and what they do in a day, ESWN launched Science-A-Thon. Science-A-Thon is a five-day celebration of science and scientists — from the lab to the field, from learning to teaching, from routine tasks to major discoveries.

Science-A-Thon serves many goals — including raising the visibility of science and scientists, showcasing the different faces of science, and building trust and understanding about what scientists do each day. The event itself is open to all areas of science and science applications, men and women, professionals and hobbyists. Science-a-Thon is fun to do, and fun to watch.

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While Science-a-Thon is all about making science visible, the work of ESWN often happens behind the scenes. This series of essays aims to showcase some of the exciting work of our organization, and a few of the many women working to accomplish big goals.

Each day this week, I’ll tell you about one of my amazing peers on the ESWN Leadership Board. These women all take time from their research, teaching, project management, and other tasks, to do some heavy lifting for ESWN.

In fact, the fuel that drives our organization is the time, energy, and love from the Board. While most non-profits have a staff to take on the day-to-day work, the ESWN Board does most of the hands-on work of the organization. This is great in some ways; you can’t find a more dedicated group. But, it’s also a problem, since we’re all full-time scientists. Many of us are also moms, teachers, volunteers, organizational leaders, communicators, and more.

With over 15 years of dedication from this group, ESWN has done amazing things! It is the largest organization of women in the earth sciences, has a jobs list with nearly 6000 subscribers, and it was awarded the highest U.S. honor for STEM mentoring — a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science,
Mathematics & Engineering Mentoring.

ESWN has a proven track-record for success. Now, we’re hoping to raise funds to hire a staff member or two, so that the ideas and energy of the Board can be amplified for maximum impact. Our first priority in fundraising is to meet a challenge grant from the Madison Community Foundation. If we can raise $50K through Science-A-Thon, it will be matched with an additional $25K! We’ve already had more than 200 people donate, and today is the first day of Science-A-Thon.

Now that you know who we are, and why we’re asking you for support, I hope you’ll read on in the days ahead to find out more about our work and a few of the women behind ESWN!

To donate, go to

Written by

Tracey Holloway is the Gaylord Nelson Distinguished Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and on the Board of ESWN. She leads

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