Town Talk Features

Growing WISER

Every year, scientific breakthroughs are made throughout the Show Me State, and it’s the mission of the Missouri Cures Education Foundation to shine a spotlight on them. The nonprofit works to promote and protect medical advances and stimulate the state’s economy. It also hosts annual WISER events, which highlight the achievements of women in science, technology and business.

The acronym WISER stands for Women in Science, Entrepreneurship & Research. Dena Ladd, Missouri Cures Education Foundation president, says the idea came from her experience working with researchers across the state. “I discovered there was a need for women to find proper professional support and opportunities to network,” she explains. “I reached out to colleagues at universities about creating an event.” In addition to St. Louis, WISER conferences are held in St. Joe, Springfield, Kansas City and Columbia. The first Cape Girardeau event was planned for 2020, but the pandemic put it on hold.

Dena Ladd (Photo courtesy of the Missouri Cures Education Foundation)

“The purpose of WISER is to highlight women in Missouri working in science and business,” Ladd says. “We bring professionals together to speak about their own challenges and opportunities and offer each other guidance.” This year’s St. Louis event is Nov. 10 through 12. Dubbed WISER Week, it will feature three virtual lunch hour seminars. Offered free via Zoom, the sessions focus on professional development, including mentorship, marketing and communication, and negotiation skills. “Even though we’ve had to transition online, the panels will still be very interactive,” she notes. “It’s a great way for women to share how they are dealing with the pandemic and offer advice to others who are juggling a lot right now.”

Ladd says Missouri Cures Education Foundation was a little uncertain about organizing virtual events, but online WISER panels held in Columbia and Kansas City earlier this year have proven the formula is a successful one. “The unexpected benefit of going virtual is that we can reach more people,” she notes. “For the Columbia event, we had 100 participants tune in and only half were from the city. The rest were from around the state and even outside of Missouri. It supports our mission of connecting professional women to one another.”

To help further connect people and share news about local innovations, WISER also has cultivated an extensive social media presence. Ladd says it’s been especially important this year when in-person networking hasn’t been possible. The organization’s website features a monthly WISER Woman to spotlight some of the important work being done in Missouri, and a recently launched, bi-monthly podcast called WISER Conversations features Ladd discussing cutting-edge medical and scientific research with female experts in their field. “Our goal is to share the important work and research being done by women in Missouri,” she says. “Hopefully next year, we’ll be able to be together in-person again.”

For more information about WISER Week and to register for the virtual seminars, visit missouricures.org/wiser

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