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Women Inspiring Innovation through Imagination: ECBC Celebrates Women in STEM

February 2013

The Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) is working to shatter the notion that Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) career fields are dominated by men. With personnel and programs committed to inspiring the females of today and tomorrow’s workforce to pursue career paths in the STEM fields, ECBC continually puts equality and employee development at the forefront. “As a senior leader at ECBC, it energizes me to see women succeed here at the Center,” says ECBC Director of Program Integration Suzanne Milchling. “ECBC’s goal is to attract and retain talented STEM professionals, and therefore we strive to help female workforce members excel in their careers and to ensure their jobs are meaningful.”

Nichole Mortin, a civilian chemical engineer with the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, and her colleagues travel to military installations across the United States to field, test, maintain and repair chemical detectors for all services.

Nichole Mortin, a civilian chemical engineer with the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, and her colleagues travel to military installations across the United States to field, test, maintain and repair chemical detectors for all services.

In 2011 and 2012, ECBC delivered engaging and educational Women’s History Month activities, with the purpose of providing a forum where female peers and leaders across generations and career levels shared their occupational experiences within the science and engineering fields. These events earned the Center recognition from the Federal Women’s Program (FWP) in 2011 and 2012. ECBC earned the Activity Most Supportive of FWP Goals Award for implementing programs and initiatives that give women guidance on career development and long-term training as well as the opportunity to prepare for supervisor or manager roles in high visibility projects.

For the third year, ECBC will host its annual Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Leadership Event during March National Women’s History Month. In past events, influential females from across the Center’s workforce levels were selected to answer questions about their experiences, challenges and career development in a panel setting to an audience of more than 100 employees. This year, however, ECBC plans to extend the discussion beyond their usual single-day panel event. Instead, the Center is hosting a series of guest speaker forums throughout March, featuring women leaders from across the Aberdeen Proving Ground community. Additionally, ECBC plans to launch a Center-wide program for women that will provide various support and networking forums year round.

For 2013, the national theme for March National Women’s History Month is, “Women Inspiring Innovation through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.” As the nation’s principle research and development center for non-medical chemical and biological defense, ECBC has both the opportunity and responsibility to provide its workforce of scientists and engineers with meaningful activities to commemorate Women’s History Month, and honor the women of ECBC who have inspired innovation through imagination.

The speaker series gives the workforce a chance to have deeper conversations about several specific topics, while offering employees several dates to attend. Some of the proposed topic ideas include “Women in Defense,” a discussion on growing a career in the defense industry; “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” a discussion on the superhuman expectations for females; “Sponsoring for Success,” a discussion about the importance of sponsorship in seeking leadership roles, as well as other topic areas.

In addition to the speaker series, ECBC plans to establish an ECBC WISE Online Resource Center where employees can continue the conversation on the Center’s intranet. The site will serve as an online community featuring personal blogs from females within ECBC, links to relevant articles, discussion boards and other helpful resources.

Since 2008 the number of women working at ECBC has increased roughly 1.3 percent. As of July 31, 2012, nearly 36 percent of the 1,224 civilian employees at the Center are female. Of the 144 supervisor and team leader positions, 30 are filled by women. As these numbers within ECBC, and in the greater STEM community, continue to grow, it remains imperative for ECBC to continue to provide support and networking opportunities for both men and women of the organization to appropriately work within an increasingly diversified workforce.

Edgewood Chemical Biological Center

Article contributed by ECBC, the Army’s principal research and development center for chemical and biological defense technology, engineering and field operations. ECBC has achieved major technological advances for the warfighter and for our national defense, with a long and distinguished history of providing the Armed Forces with quality systems and outstanding customer service. ECBC is a U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command laboratory located at the Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Ground. I95