From the very start of my career as an academic, I have been involved with learned societies. I always emphasized the importance of participating in learned societies to my research group. Being involved in senior roles in these societies, including being the President of the Microbiology Society and of ISME, has taught and motivated me greatly. I therefore was honoured to be nominated and elected as the FEMS President, at what is a very challenging time for microbiology societies. What drives me onwards as President is to keep working closely with the member societies of the Federation and there are such a variety of sizes and resources available to these. As Microbiologists we need to be good communicators too; realising the importance of Microbiology. Many of the microbiologists within the federation of societies are early career researchers. I am frequently asked to speak to groups of early career researchers, for example about my own journey and also about what advice I might give to them. I try to encourage too those, like me, who are the first in their families to go to university, to study for a PhD and onwards to an academic career. I am passionate about widening participation and to raising awareness of the need for diversity to help solve some of the most pressing problems globally. I am very aware that I am only the third female FEMS President. Many learned societies and STEM disciplines are still very male-focused, particularly at the senior decision making levels. Despite Microbiology being quite a ‘female-rich’ subject, much of the leadership still tends to be male. My aim is to be a visible female leader and open up the door for more women and other minorities to make them feel that they are welcome and belong, that their points of view are important, that they will be listened to and to encourage them to considering playing leadership roles as well. I am keen to make a plea for further volunteers, either at an individual learned society level or a Federation, such as FEMS. To my mind volunteering opens up a different world that you may not have known otherwise. You have the opportunity to acquire new skills and I have found that these have enriched my ‘day job’ and you can also bring in your day job experience to the society or federation you volunteer at. Think about stepping up in a learned society; I have found it a very rewarding experience and it has greatly helped me to grow my network too!
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