At Tel-Hai College (Israel), the gender-equity unit has organized a writing retreat for women faculty for the last four years. This action arose from the notion that a retreat not only addresses the needs of women scientists regarding time constraints but also creates a supportive community within the institution that will help support women’s scientific progress.
The writing retreat has been offered to all women faculty at all academic levels within the organization. Usually, twenty to thirty women signed up for three to four workdays. The retreat takes place in a rural and quiet location, offering accommodation, meals, and basic conditions for writing and reading. During the retreat, participants meet twice: At the beginning, when each participant presented her goal for the retreat, and at the end when all shared their outcomes and thoughts. None of the activities is obligatory so that each participant can freely invest her time according to her needs and wishes.
The outcomes exceeded our expectations on several levels: First, it was efficient in terms of working products. Second, casual meetings between the participants created a sense of belonging and partnership in a supportive community. Third, these meetings created new opportunities for unexpected collaborations and mentoring relationships between faculty members who only tangentially knew each other beforehand. Finally, the retreat raised participants’ appreciation of the significance of gender-related activities that the organization supports.
From a personal point of view, this author found the writing retreat to be very effective in achieving work goals and empowering experience in terms of being part of a supportive community of women scientists. No less important, it was fun!
Author: Andrea Szuchman-Sapir, Head of the vascular signaling group at MIGAL research institute, and faculty member of the Tel-Hai College, Israel.