NEWS | Nov. 3, 2016

WISE offers NRL women an avenue for networking, mentoring

By Michael Hart

There's an organization at the Naval Research Laboratory that assists women in the science and engineering fields in navigating the maze of challenges, opportunities and achievements in a field historically dominated by men.

WISE - Women in Science and Engineering- has been operating at NRL since the early 1980's, providing women here a place to network, socialize as well as receive and provide mentoring for one another.

It is a great way to network, discuss career progression and facilitate informal mentoring, emphasized Dr. Abbie Watnik, a former WISE president. Although the name and mission obviously cater to scientists and engineers, the organization is open to all women working at NRL, said Watnik, a Colorado Springs, Colo., native conducting active imaging and digital holography research in NRL's Optical Sciences Division. It's for women in all stages of their career, she said.

Since its inception, WISE's mission, according to its current president, Dr. Meredith Hutchinson, is to create a better community and support network for women working at NRL. Mentoring is a big part of that, said Hutchinson, who took the reins from Watnik in early October and also works in the Optical Sciences Division.

Hutchinson, who's been working at NRL for seven years, concentrating in microwave photonics, has been an active member of WISE for several years. She believes it's important to be active and have strong women leaders. I wanted to support and highlight the work that women do here, said Hutchinson, who grew up in the Wash., DC area.

One of the activities WISE supports is hosting working luncheons on campus. Quarterly events in the past, Hutchinson is now working to make the luncheons monthly occurrences. Guest speakers -- usually senior female engineers or scientists at NRL or full panels of researchers -- highlight many of these events.

According to both, these luncheons provide participants a great means to relax, socialize with peers and provide tip and tricks, according to Hutchinson, in managing successful, fulfilling careers and family.

Hutchinson and Watnik encourage current and soon-to-be WISE members to stay on the lookout for the next luncheon and other upcoming events at NRL.

It could be a WISE decision for all.