WISER - Women of the International Society for Eye Research

I was motivated to start WISER because I felt having special activities at our biennial meetings to facilitate the advancement of our female attendees would be a very worthwhile goal of ISER and with some special encouragement from the Executive leadership of ISER and Janet Denlinger, WISER was born.

WISER held its inaugural event at our San Francisco meeting in 2014, where 26 Women of ISER joined together for a wonderful Thai dinner followed by drinks in the lobby of the conference hotel. It was during drinks where discussion covered all areas of concern for female YIs, including funding, juggling family with a demanding work load, space issues, how to break out for the shadows of PIs, visa problems, relocating for jobs with competing demands of a partner, how to be more involved with the leadership of ISER, advice on how to find post-doc and academic positions, moving into industry etc. What was wonderful was that advice came from the Senior investigators who attended but also from each other. As an indication of the energy of the group we had to be told by hotel staff it was time to leave. WISER held another dinner at ARVO in 2015 which again was well attended by over 30 women with the first male PI joining us, Professor John Ash. Again, it was a highly successful evening thanks to the energy of Dr. Mary Kelley who organised the function.

Feedback from John Penn's lab was that a male student was very envious when he heard about the evening and was unable to attend and in many ways, similar issues can be faced by male YI as well. So, for our Tokyo meeting, Professor Frank Lovicu and I decided we would join the WISER function with the YI Speed dating event at the ISER welcome Reception. I can confidently say, thanks to the superb negotiating skills of our local organiser Professor Takeshi Iwata, to ensure the food and liquid beverages were over flowing, and the leadership provided by Professor Frank Lovicu at speed dating, the young investigators had a wonderful evening and had an opportunity to meet other YIs working in similar topics right at the beginning of the meeting. WISER followed this with a dinner for 22 at a beer and tapas bar mid meeting where again senior PIs sat amongst WISER and YIs to share our experience and offer suggestions.

Feedback from attendees showed that they really enjoyed being able to sit amongst major award winners and senior faculty from institutions across the world during the various functions in a social setting. Over the years WISER and the YI functions have been very blessed to have the energies of key principal investigators including Professors Patricia D'Amore, Suzanne Fleiszig, John Ash, Frank Lovicu, Ilene Gipson, Erica Fletcher and Justine Smith, just to name a few. I have always said, that conversations about female issues are most beneficial when senior male leadership are also in the room to hear about them and for these reasons, I am most grateful to the men of ISER who have joined our activities but most importantly taken steps to create opportunities and sponsor females where merit warranted it.

WISER looks forward to another great meeting in Belfast with numerous networking and training opportunities for the Women and YIs of ISER.

Tailoi Chan-Ling, PhD
University of Sydney, Australia