March is Women’s History Month, which has been observed in the United States since 1987 as a time to honor women’s contributions in history and contemporary society. This year, Princeton Engineering’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion held a series of Women’s Empowerment Week events, open to all and dedicated to uplifting the voices of women, navigating challenges, and developing leadership.

Read about how one early-career researcher is creating a new community for women in engineering, how Princeton’s dean of engineering has learned to lead groups toward shared goals, and more.

For information on the history of women at Princeton Engineering, please visit

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“Growing up, I always liked math and science, and I never felt limited by my gender. It wasn’t until I got to college that I felt like an outsider in the field. I had a lot of interest in research. I found a group that worked in nanotechnology and I was able to pursue that dream. When I told my academic adviser that I wanted to go to graduate school, he looked me in the eye and said it would be hard for me because as a woman, I would get married and have children, and that I should reconsider. As a 19-year-old, it was a hard pill to swallow.

Luckily, I found advisers who were very kind to me to help counteract the people who weren’t so kind. In addition to Ph.D. research in chemical and biomolecular engineering at @riceuniversity, I worked as a teaching assistant. After all the negative things that had made me want to get away from engineering, I wanted to be the change in the world, to make sure that others didn’t feel excluded. The words of mentors in particular can really influence someone.

I’ve always had this idea that when I became a faculty member, I would start a program like Princeton Women in CBE. As a postdoc here, I was lucky that the CBE department and the @eprinceton Office of Diversity and Inclusion provided funding, space and encouragement for me to pursue this idea, even though I’m not yet a faculty member.

As part of the @eprinceton Women’s Empowerment Week (March 20-24), we’re hosting a leadership panel to address issues like building confidence and overcoming challenges, with some of the most accomplished women leaders at Princeton. And we’re holding a virtual discussion on work-life balance, because that can hinder a lot of women — this feeling that they have to make difficult choices, and the fact that this pressure is applied mostly to women when it should affect men and women equally. We want to demystify that and show that there are supportive communities, and that it shouldn’t be a burden just for women.” – Lauren Taylor, postdoctoral research associate, Princeton Materials Institute #womenshistorymonth

(Learn more and register for @eprinceton’s #womeninstem series at


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Jerelle Joseph, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering, speaks during a panel discussion on Wednesday on the value of networking and creating community. It was a part of Women’s Empowerment Week, which concludes Friday with a panel discussion on leadership. It will take place at Bowen Hall starting at 9:30 a.m. Speakers will include Dean Andrea Goldsmith, Celeste Nelson, Maria Garlock, and Claire Gmachl.


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“One of my earliest leadership experiences came about when I was a graduate student, and the communications conference @ieeeorg GLOBECOM had a new component on communication theory that was very controversial. The conference chair asked me to attend the conference committee meetings, which was extremely unusual for a graduate student. And I used all my political skills to get the entire committee and the IEEE to embrace this new component. Through this engagement I got to know a lot of the senior leadership in the IEEE.

One takeaway from that experience is, if there’s a vacuum, it’s helpful for someone who has the ability to lead to step into that vacuum, whether or not you aspire to leadership. It does get you a lot of visibility and experience in stepping into unusual situations and figuring out how to lead toward the goals that everybody wants. That early experience is still very poignant, because it wasn’t just about technical or organizational skills — it was really about the dynamic among people with different goals and perspectives on what this conference should accomplish, and getting everyone aligned.

So much of being a leader is working with others who are leaders or potential leaders and grooming them, helping people achieve their full potential. And dealing with difficult people who are blocking progress or creating an environment that’s more challenging to achieve shared goals.

If I look back on my decades of experience as a researcher, as an entrepreneur, as an academic leader, the most important thing is to get people aligned with a joint vision that they are excited about. And of course, recognizing and acknowledging the efforts of the people who contribute to the goals that you aspire to achieve. If you disagree with someone, try to understand things from their perspective, and always assume that everyone has the best intentions.” – Andrea Goldsmith, dean of @eprinceton and Arthur LeGrand Doty Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, who joined a panel discussion on #leadership March 24 as part of Women’s Empowerment Week #@WomenInStem #WomensHistoryMonth. To her left are Claire Gmachl (& Celeste Nelson, not seen)


  • Jerelle Joseph

  • Portrait of Andrea Goldsmith

    Andrea Goldsmith

Related Departments and Centers

  • Professor and student work together in lab setting.

    Chemical and Biological Engineering

  • Professor writes on white board while talking with grad student.

    Electrical and Computer Engineering

  • Researchers, dressed in white suits, work in "clean room" lab under yellow light.

    Princeton Materials Institute