Julia Tartaglia studied biology at Harvard. The problem? Most of her professors were men. And although she was involved in the University’s Women in Science at Harvard-Radcliffe program, she still felt there was something missing.
She created W.I.S.E. Words, a magazine focused on telling the stories of women in science and engineering. After garnering support, Julia realized she could have a scalable model on her hands if other universities were interested in jumping on board. She entered Harvard’s i3 Challenge, and walked away a semi-finalist, winning a $2,500 grant and work space. From there, she convinced her sister, Christina Tartaglia, a Harvard alum and former biology major, to join the team, and the model started to evolve.
Although Harvard needed a magazine, what Julia and Christina realized was that other schools didn’t even have a women in science organization. They saw a greater need, and while they decided to keep an online presence, they knew they had to integrate a separate, larger element. Once the company’s name changed from W.I.S.E. Words to Scientista, they morphed from a mere magazine to a foundation.
Eleven colleges now work with Scientista, including Tufts, MIT, the University of Texas Austin and Loyola University Maryland. Julia and Christina work with each school to see what is is they’re missing and go from there. Julia says Loyola didn’t even have a women in science program, while Harvard was lacking a national web presence.
After helping the colleges, Christina claims they “made a second jump,” by creating the Presidents’ Circle as a way to “encourage intercollegiate collaboration.” They held their first mixer in April at MIT, bringing together female leaders from Boston College, Boston University, Harvard and Tufts. Presidents’ Circle members were also able to meet with Karen Yee, treasurer of the Boston AWIS Chapter, a partner organization of Scientista.
But, why science?
“Science is something I’ve always been attracted to,” Christina says. “Being able to learn about the world around you, being able to innovate. […] I think science is the future. There’s so much growth in this area right now, and I don’t think women should be missing out.”
Julia agreed, quickly bringing up a follow-up point. “They’re still the top paying jobs. If you’re interested in having a good job and job stability, having a job in STEM is really going to guarantee that.”
Beyond money, however, Julia also says, “I always found it so fascinating that when you’re studying science, it’s one of the only fields where you can create, and where you can understand how and why it works.”
By strengthening the community within and between campuses, Julia and Christina hope they can increase the number of women in STEM. Considering the White House has said, “Increasing the number of women engaged in […] STEM fields is critical to our Nation’s ability to out-build, out-educate, and out-innovate future competitors,” we think they’re on the right track.