20th Anniversary of WORMS Recap

Yesterday afternoon, the Forum for Women in OR/MS held a panel session recognizing how WORMS started, and where we’re hoping to go in the future. I think there was some really great discussion that came out of that session, and I’d like to publicly document some of these ideas (and add a few of my own as well):

  • Getting more support from INFORMS – Over the past years, WORMS has done a great job of organizing some initiatives to make it easier for parents and families to attend INFORMS. These include things like the childcare travel fund, options for nursing mothers during the conference, and other important amenities. But here’s the thing — we need support from INFORMS as a whole to keep these things going. As someone said yesterday, it shouldn’t just be women who should be fighting for these things! We want INFORMS as a whole to be inclusive and supportive of parents and families who wish to attend the conference. (N.B. We discussed later in the WORMS business meeting that this should also include support for minorities and those with disabilities who wish to attend INFORMS)
  • Broadening our reach – There are a lot of great organizations out there which offer support for women in professional societies. WORMS is a great forum which does a lot within INFORMS, but think about how much more we could do if we partnered with other groups such as the Association for Women doing Mathematics or ACM-W. Perhaps it’s time to reach out to these groups and see what we can do together to advocate for women in STEM fields of all flavors!
  • Getting more men involved – As I discussed in <a href="http://meetings2.informs.org/wordpress/philadelphia/2015/11/01/worms-at-informs/"my post yesterday, it’s not enough to just have women and minorities involved in the conversation. This is an issue that affects all of us, and so everyone needs to participate. A problem is that often it’s not clear where to start that process, and, frankly, it can be a bit intimidating. I’ll be honest — as one of the few men who’s actively involved in WORMS, it can be a bit scary to walk into a room full of women talking about these issues. I worry about being “that guy” who just comes in to tell everyone how to fix their problems without listening, or about saying something that’s clueless and offensive, or generally just making things worse (hopefully I haven’t done any of these things yet :). But I keep going back because I believe these are important issues.
  • Badges or Ribbons in Support of WORMS – I think one way to really increase the visibility of WORMS, as well as provide a common ground for communication and getting more people involved is to offer ribbons to people says “I support women in OR/MS!” We’ve got ribbons for everything else: tweeters, bloggers, session chairs, organizers, INFORMS fellows, people who “went green”, etc. etc. etc. Why not have a badge showing support for our fellow INFORMS members? I think this is one of the easiest and most practical suggestions that came up yesterday.

There were plenty of other topics and ideas that have been discussed yesterday and over the last 20 years of WORMS, but the most important thing is that we keep the conversation going!