Dr. Brittany Parker Kerrigan
Neurosurgery Postdoctoral Fellow
MD Anderson Cancer Center
Junior Member since 2013
“There is no doubt in my mind that AWIS has better shaped me as a scientist, community member, and woman overall, and for that, I am eternally thankful.”
What do you think is the most important attribute that enables a woman to successfully lead a community that supports
women in STEM?
I believe the most important attribute that enables a woman to successfully lead a community that supports women in STEM is PASSION. According to Merriam-Webster, the word passion means “a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something.” To be an effective leader, one must be tirelessly dedicated to the cause, and must be willing to go to great lengths to achieve her goals. A leader is most successful when she leads by example. From this regard, she serves as a role model and as a motivator for the community, to ignite their own passion for supporting women in STEM and to more aggressively pursue their own goals with vigor. A successful leader must have enthusiasm and a positive disposition to encourage and unite the community to come together as one. We must have compassion for one another, to accept and welcome differing views and to better tackle the problem at hand from multiple angles and viewpoints. A passionate leader who has enthusiasm and unwavering drive is therefore well-equipped to help lead, unite, and transform the community to better help support and encourage women in STEM.
What is your secret recipe for balancing the work you do, your family, and taking care of yourself?
I am extremely fortunate that my job and volunteer work meld easily with my passion—pursuing scientific discoveries that translate into real-life, applicable treatments for patients with disease, and supporting the women who are a part of this effort. I am also very lucky to have a husband, Ryan Kerrigan, who actively, and not passively, supports my goals. Ryan also has a career in STEM with ExxonMobil and has actually served on our local AWIS Chapter Career Development panels. He also serves on the board of the ExxonMobil Women’s Interest Network, where he helps further support the interest of women within ExxonMobil. When you are passionate about something and love what you do, the term “work” translates into “passion.” Because of these reasons, I feel that my work life, volunteer life, and home life come together synchronously and complement each other beautifully.
How has AWIS helped you professionally and/or personally?
AWIS has helped me in numerous ways, both professionally and personally. Professionally, AWIS has allowed me to meet inspiring, successful, and motivating women and men who support women in STEM. Through planning our career development events, I am able to come into contact with extremely accomplished scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and others who provide absolutely invaluable advice and support that will help me throughout my career. On a national scale, I have greatly benefited from the AWIS Webinars and have learned how to better navigate my path to success with tools necessary to succeed. I also feel it is absolutely imperative to surround yourself with a group of like-minded individuals who share your same passions. By meeting fellow women in STEM through AWIS, I’ve been able to create a support group of women who care for each other, and who share their own experiences and lessons they have learned. I have formed long-lasting friendships that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
AWIS has also provided opportunities to better fuel my passion for supporting women in STEM, especially young girls. By attending workshops at local elementary schools and seeing the passion in young girls’ eyes for science, my passion is fueled to help support these vital members of our society. One of my favorite quotes from a high school student, following a lesson I gave on women in STEM, reads, “I appreciate the encouragement and the fact that I am not alone and that I can achieve my dreams of becoming a scientist.” My involvement with AWIS has greatly improved my leadership skills, by providing opportunities to serve in leadership positions at both the local (AWIS Gulf Coast Houston) and national levels (AWIS National Chapter Committee member). I first served as Chair of The Outstanding Women in Science Seminar Series, served as President for two consecutive years, and am now serving as Senior Chapter Trustee. By serving at the local level I have better honed my ability to confidently lead by encouragement and by example, to respectfully mediate conflict, to bring about change, and to inspire others. By serving as an AWIS National Chapter Committee member, I have learned how to manage groups across the United States, and to help motivate and disseminate information to chapter leaders. There is no doubt in my mind that AWIS has better shaped me as a scientist, community member, and woman overall, and for that, I am eternally thankful.