Berkeley Lab

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Office

Women Scientists & Engineers Council

Leaders in Science and Engineering

To address issues that affect the careers of women scientists and engineers, Berkeley Lab created the Women Scientists & Engineers Council (WSEC). The WSEC and Berkeley Lab’s Human Resources Department management work in partnership to determine priorities and develop strategies for recruitment, retention, work life balance, and empowerment of women scientists and engineers. Subcommittees focus on target areas and to address specific challenges.25894_WSEC_Identity_Final

Key Activities:

  • Engage division leaders in recruitment, retention, and development.
  • Improve policies for work-life balance.
  • Empower women scientists through training and meeting people of influence.

WSEC Organization Summary

The WSEC organization is made up of WSEC members (division appointed and volunteer).  There are three subcommittees that work on WSEC goals in policy, networking, and empowerment.  The entire WSEC meets quarterly  in January, April, July, and October.  The subcommittees meet on the alternative months (February, March, May, June, August, September, November, and December), In total, there is only one meeting (full council or subcommittee) per month. HR provides support for the entire WSEC and more specifically, receives input on HR policy. The chair of the WSEC serves a two year term. Selection is through a vote of the entire council. The current chair is Soledad Toledano, Cybersecurity in the IT Division.

Video from Women @ The Lab 2015

For more information, please contact the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Office at or call x 4232.

WSEC Members

WSEC Chair: Soledad Toledano

WSEC Secretaries: Lauren Lui and Susan Tsutakawa

WSEC Subcommittee Chairs: Amrita Bhattacharyya, Dani Ushizima, Elizabeth Stuart, Esther Singer, Sandra Cioccio, Ina Reichel

Appointed members: Each division is requested to nominate one scientists/engineer to the council. This will ensure representation throughout LBL campus. The criteria for appointed members are

  1. The scientist/engineer should have a strong interest in women’s issues.
  2. The appointed individual must be willing to act as a liaison between the women in her/his division, the WSEC, and the director.
  3. The appointed individual must commit to 2 hours/month.
  4. The appointed individual must commit to attend the one hour WSEC meetings (committee and  at least one subcommittee) each month.
  5. The appointed individual must meet with her/his division director quarterly, to act as communicate issues concerning the  WSEC and women scientists/engineers in her/his division.

Volunteer members: Any LBL employee can join the WSEC.

  1. The volunteer should have a strong interest in women or family policy issues.
  2. They must commit to attend the one hour WSEC meetings (committee and at least one subcommittee) each month.

Roles and Responsibilities

Lab-Wide Level

  • Sponsor quarterly luncheon forums and development workshops for early- and late-career scientists, postdocs, and graduate student research assistants
  • Expand membership to ensure adequate representation from all Berkeley Lab scientific disciplines (with a targeted focus on Earth Sciences, Physics, Chemistry, Biosciences, Computing Sciences, and Engineering)
  • Assist Berkeley Lab with diversifying its workforce in the area of women / minority scientists by networking with professionals and colleagues in the areas of: Earth Sciences, Computing Sciences, BioSciences, Physics, Chemistry, and Engineering

Division Level

  • Focus on Subgroup initiative(s) to assist Berkeley Lab in areas of recruitment and retention, work life balance, and the professional development of women scientists and engineers
  • Actively participate in outreach efforts to increase the number of women / minority scientists at Berkeley Lab
  • Assist with identifying women scientists and engineers willing to commit to mentoring a woman postdoc or graduate student within their disciplines:
    • Develop relationship(s) with women- and minority-focused scientific associations
    • Identify specific university departments from which to recruit recent doctorate graduates to Berkeley Lab
  • Continuously  support the Women Scientists & Engineers luncheon forums

Subcommittees Roles and current initiatives

The goals of the WSEC are achieved through the subcommittees. The chair of the subcommittee should be a women scientist/engineer.  Selection is through a vote of the entire subcommittee. The chairs serve a two year term.

1. Policy Subcommittee: Chair – Ina Reichel and Sandra Ciocio

Interacts with HR to improve Lab policies and make sure existing policies are applied fairly and consistently in order to make the Lab a family-friendly workplace that values work-life balance.  To date, this Subgroup has reviewed data on women scientists, including: a head count over the past three years, hiring rates for women scientists, compensation comparables, and turnover and retention rates. This committee has also helped bring the back-up care system for emergency child and senior care and worked to make sure that lactation rooms are set up throughout the campus.

Policy Subcommittee Current Initiatives:

  1. Measure Workforce / Underutilization-Performance for Each Division
    1. Develop / implement metric system
    2. Perform workforce demographic reviews
    3. Establish accountability
      1. Grade Division efforts
      2. Hold Divisions accountable
  2. Improve Recruitment & Retention
    1. Determine percentage of females graduating with Ph.D.s in top U.S. universities
  3. Set up Best Practices for Hiring Committees
  4. Sick Leave
  5. Bereavement Leave
  6. Pregnancy Disability Leave and Lactation Accommodation
  7. Parental Bonding Leave

2. Networking Subcommittees: Chairs – Amrita Bhattacharyya and Elizabeth Stuart

Provide networking opportunities to learn from successful women scientists and engineers through brown bag talks on their career choices. Events are open to LBNL employees.

Current initiatives include

  1. Bimonthly networking series – even months
    1. 3 times/year  LBNL Women Scientist and Engineer sharing their career experiences.
    2. 1 time/year External Women Scientist and Engineer sharing their career experiences.
    3. 1 time/year Professional development training (e.g. conflict resolution, negotiation)
    4. December Networking event – Invite division heads and women scientists and engineers to meet.
  2. Parenting class – odd months

3. Empowerment Subcommittees: Chair – Esther Singer and Dani Ushizima

Working to increase visibility, funding potential and scientific impact of women scientists at Berkeley Lab.

Current initiatives include

  1. Women@TheLab to recognize excellent women at LBNL.
  2. Set up meetings with DOE program managers.
  3. Set up meetings with editors of major journals.

If you are interested in supporting WSEC as a division appointee or volunteer please complete the following form.

WSEC Directory

Past Activities and Events

Please click here to view past events sponsored by the WSEC.