2021 Wonder Women Networking Evening: 30 Years Strong!

On March 11, 2021, SCWIST and Science World hosted the 30th annual Wonder Women Networking Evening—and this time: virtually!

Networking in a pandemic: can it be done?

Networking virtually: truly an experiment…  and who better to conduct such an experiment than a group of rock star women in STEM?

Since 1991, the annual Wonder Women Networking Evening (WWNE) brings together those who identify as women in STEM and want to learn where their degree can take them. Undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral researchers and working professionals find the event particularly relevant to hone their networking skills and connect with leading women in their fields.

Usually the event takes place at Science World in Vancouver. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic made that not a possibility this year: instead, we took it online. We’re all Zoom experts now, right? We’ve been reminded again and again that these are uncertain times, and this was no exception. The Wonder Women Networking Evening has always been popular—but would it be in the virtual world?

Yes and yes!

Happily, it was! A few things remained the same. As always, we were honoured by the participation of amazing Wonder Women mentors. This year we were inspired by 37 successful women who lead in their respective STEM fields, who love to share their expertise and stories with the next generation.

A perk to having a virtual event was that women from across Canada—even the world—could join us. (Although it made for a later evening on the East coast!) We were thrilled to host women from across Canada (all the way to Newfoundland & Labrador), the USA, and Asia; we even networked with women from Oman, Mongolia, and Indonesia!

The evening’s emcee and host, Danniele Livengood, welcomed everyone and introduced the panel discussion, featuring: Melanie Vig, product manager at the intersection of business and science innovation; Megan Leslie, engineer and sustainability consultant; and Anna Stukas, engineer and past SCWIST President. Danniele asked them:

  • What led you to a career in a STEM field?
  • What role have mentors or networking played in your career path so far?
  • What new superpower have you developed since the pandemic began?
  • What advice would you give to our attendees tonight?

After the panel (featuring cameo appearances from some adorable young children), it was time to network!

Each attendee received a PDF program, dubbed the Wonder Women Field Guide, to navigate the networking breakout rooms. The Field Guide contained the bios and contact details of all the Wonder Women, and their breakout room locations. Teams of two or three Wonder Women were stationary while attendees were encouraged to circulate the rooms according to which Wonder Women they wished to talk to.

The breakout rooms were warm, lively, and abuzz! Circulating SCWISTies kept an eye on things and it warmed their hearts to see the connections being forged, and the fun being had.

It was tough to call everyone back to the main room at 7:00 PM, as everyone had enjoyed their discussions! But, as they say, “all good things must end someday,” so we reconvened to officially conclude the evening. Danniele encouraged participants to keep the networking going, reminding us that the Wonder Women were open to connecting afterwards and their contact information was in the Field Guide.

And that’s a wrap…

In previous years the event would close with an OMNIMAX® movie-screening, but this year we had an exclusive live performance by Kiki Kirkpatrick. Kiki is a wonder woman who runs the Super Science Club at Science World, an after-school hands-on science program for kids in East Vancouver schools. Kiki treated us to a science feast-for-the-eyes to prove that “networking makes great chemistry” (you had to be there!), then played “happy birthday to SCWIST” on a musical Tesla coil! (Did you know SCWIST is turning 40 this year?)

After Kiki’s fizzy, foamy, music-y send-off, Danniele thanked everyone who played a part in this unusual edition of WWNE: Sandy Eix, SCWIST Member and Director of STEM Learning at Science World; Director of Events at SCWIST, Khristine Cariño; WWNE Coordinator, Jordana Smith; co-hosts/moderators, Nöen Malik and Nirali Rathwa; the SCWIST Board of Directors; Science World, for letting us produce the event from their studio; and of course, all of the attendees and our amazing Wonder Women. … and although she didn’t thank herself, a huge thanks was given to Danniele, emcee extraordinaire, for her commitment, planning, and expert hosting!

It was a treat to read the thanks and warm fuzzies being shared in the Zoom chat. Here are some comments from some of our attendees, post-event:

“Thank you so much for this amazing networking event! I loved the diversity of mentors, and was blown away by how willing they were to share their time and experience. Can’t wait for the next event!” – WWNE 2021 Attendee

“Being a Wonder Woman and having the opportunity to mentor younger women is immensely fulfilling. Thanks SCWIST for giving everyone this wonderful opportunity!” – WWNE 2021 Mentor

“I really enjoyed the networking event – it was fantastic to meet the wonder women, successful and self-confident professionals, and the other participants. I loved the insights about the job search, networking, and interviewing.” – WWNE 2021 Attendee

“This event was terrific, and wowzer the ladies participating were amazing. What synergy developed. I was totally energized. I even volunteered for more women mentoring and support efforts of our union afterwards. Everything seemed more positive and doable afterwards…I hope others felt the same way. We are so blessed to have such wonderful well balanced, professional women in our province. I feel so proud to be a part of that and will try to offer ways to help women and help anyone trying to get ahead.”  – WWNE 2021 Mentor

I can’t think of a better way to conclude this—they said it all—so thank you to all the Wonder Women, be they mentors or mentees, and to those who made the event happen. We’ll see you next year:  in-person, or virtually. Until then—stay Wonder-ful.