Eleanore Scheer didn’t notice discriminatory behavior toward women while growing up in Sturgeon Bay, but, she said, “Eventually I went other places and did my career in different engineering spaces and came back, grew up a little bit, and realized this happens everywhere.”
And Scheer intends to do something about it.
As co-chair of Mentor Door County, she will lead a virtual panel discussion and conversation March 28, 4-5:30 pm, about empowering women in historically male-dominated spaces.
Mentor Door County was born during the pandemic as a coalition of volunteers whose goals were to support and connect women: to create a “greater sense of belonging and connectivity within our community.”
The panel will feature four women in Door County who work in traditionally male-dominated fields, and the event will highlight challenges faced by women in a variety of professions and the strategies they use to counteract barriers.
One panelist, Dr. Annika Paulsen, was initially unsure about entering her career field because of the lack of female representation.
Paulsen, an optometrist at Door County Eye Associates, majored in economics and environmental studies for her undergraduate degree. After time in Madison and Guatemala working on sustainable economic development, she decided to return to school to start her pre-med work and later graduated from the Illinois College of Optometry. Her decision to pursue what she loved is why she joined the panel.
“I didn’t realize I enjoyed or was good at science until I was in adulthood,” she said. “I felt like I didn’t belong in higher-level physics, chemistry and biology classes. I was worried I would be bad at them, and I think that’s because I didn’t know many women who were owning that space – I never had a female science teacher. I want to encourage young women to pursue a career and hobbies in whatever interests them.”
What both Scheer and Paulsen want participants to get from the program comes down to the simple idea of women supporting women. Often, discriminatory behaviors can go overlooked when it’s only one person who observes or experiences them, but when many come forward with shared experiences, it creates awareness about organizational and systemic issues that can and should be addressed. These are not situations to push through and bear without support, however.
Although the program is about women, Scheer encourages men and nonbinary people to join the conversation, helping to spread awareness about the intersectionality of these issues with other marginalized identities.
“I hope participants feel encouraged to try something new and build their own network of supporters and mentors,” Paulsen said.
Empowering Women in Male-dominated Spaces will be offered virtually. To register, email [email protected] or visit facebook.com/mentordoorcounty.