Have you already heard about the Shine theory? Probably yes, since once you look around, it seems to be everywhere. However, if you are like me, you may have not realized what and how big of a thing it is and even more, how important it can be especially for women in science.
Shortly, the term “Shine theory” was originally coined by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman to describe the mutual investment of friendship and commitment to collaboration between women. The simple idea behind the Shine theory is that “If you don’t shine, I don’t shine”. In other words, helping other women shine: feel confident and secure and be the best they can, will in the long run pay you back. The essence of applying Shine theory can be described as “a practice of cultivating a spirit of genuine happiness and excitement when your friends are doing well, and being there for them when they aren’t” (quote from Shinetheory.dot.com).
This does not however mean just networking or colleting a list of acquaintances you might ask a favor later, or investing time to every single person you meet during wine and cheese in a conference. Rather, it is a more personal, long-term commitment to helping and supporting your peers, true friendship or companionship.
I see many benefits to women in science to practice the Shine theory. Firstly, as in the senior level female scientist are far fewer than men, women need to support each other instead of competing with each other. Collaboration will get you so much further than competition. Secondly, letting your peers in the lab or fellow speakers in a seminar or a conference shine, by reinforcing their views or ideas, and helping them to speak out, will eventually lead to a positive cycle for yourself as well.
One of the main goals of our WILS network is to empower female scientists, and thus making use of the idea of Shine Theory will lead to exactly that. So help out your fellow (women) scientists. Rely on their expertise and knowledge, invite them as speakers to seminars, suggest them as grant and article reviewers. Help them to become better scientists not only by giving (much needed and appreciated!) critique of their work, but also by complimenting when they have good ideas and results. You will shine as well!
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Text by Johanna Englund, Ph.D.