STEM equity is on the cards

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Daneet Steffens, public relations manager at SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, details newly-launched initiatives aimed at advancing diversity

The new year, 2020, doesn’t just mark the shining 60th anniversary – think Diamond Jubilee, baby! – of the birth of the laser, it is also the 15th anniversary of the SPIE Women in Optics planner. The annual planner, originally established to support and promote the work of women scientists, has grown into an engaging tool that introduces girls and young women to the possibilities of careers across STEM. Each issue includes inspiring, informative words from a selection of pioneering scientists, and is distributed – free of charge, while supplies last – across more than 25 countries to SPIE members, career counselors, science teachers and community clubs.

To mark the anniversary, SPIE has created something new: a deck of cards featuring 52 women scientists and their salient quotes, drawn from a decade and a half of SPIE Women in Optics planners. The scientists range from young, emerging researchers to established industry voices, but all share the vision, urgency and excitement around being a female scientist in our rapidly changing world.

SPIE is evolving its Women in Optics initiative more completely into its Equity, Diversity and Inclusion programme; including a rich range of diversity programming at SPIE events – from facilitating executive women’s meet-ups and LGBTQ+ socials, to interactive Wikipedia Edit-A-Thons – plus recently created childcare grants and EDI activity grants.


‘SPIE believes that bringing people together from different backgrounds and different experiences and perspectives will support innovation through a diversity of ideas and solve challenges faced by our world,’ noted SPIE career and diversity specialist Meg All, at SPIE Photonics West in February at an equity, diversity and inclusion event.

‘We also believe that it’s the duty of professional societies like SPIE to help spread ideas and resources, and to help attendees shift the culture when you return to your own workplaces. Last year we held 16 equity, diversity, and inclusion events at eight different meetings, and we’ll probably eclipse that number this month [February] alone. We’re really ramping up our support of this programme; it’s wonderful seeing SPIE growing in this way.’

And, she noted, producing engaging, informative resources – such as the celebratory playing cards – is a fun and important reminder that equity for women ‘is definitely on the cards’.



SPIE Women in Optics