‘We need to persist’: Lafayette faculty members celebrate accomplished women in psychology

Jamila Bookwala is one editor for Reflections of Pioneering Women in Psychology, a book reflecting on 26 transformative women within psychology. (Photo courtesy of Lafayette Communications)

Photo by Chuck Zovko for The Lafayette

Jamila Bookwala is one editor for ‘Reflections of Pioneering Women in Psychology,’ a book reflecting on 26 transformative women within psychology. (Photo courtesy of Lafayette Communications)

By Jefrey Alexander, Contributing Writer

Women in STEM Week is the perfect time to celebrate the accomplishments of pioneering women in science. Jamila Bookwala, dean of the faculty and a professor of psychology, hopes to continue the conversation past this one week.

This past Tuesday, the Hanson Center for Inclusive STEM Education highlighted the book “Reflections of Pioneering Women in Psychology,” edited by and with contributions from two faculty members at the college. The three featured speakers were Bookwala, who is one of the book’s editors, Psychology Professor Emeritus Susan Basow and Assistant Professor of Psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University Nicky Newton.

The book, which is set to be published on April 14, 2022, is a celebration and historical commemoration of 26 transformative women within the field of psychology. Newton, who is also an editor for the book, said that this may be a multi-volume undertaking if they decide to include more from the expansive list of women whom they think are deserving of recognition.

“Like most things, it was just an idea,” Bookwala said of the book’s initial conception. The idea didn’t come into full fruition until Newton, her then mentee, asked if she wanted to collaborate on a project. That’s when Bookwala pitched the idea.

The pair wanted to celebrate contributions to the field of psychology made by women who are either retired or planning their retirement. Newton referred to these trailblazers as “voices that need to be heard before we lose them.”

One of the authors included in the volume is Basow. She stated that when she was contacted about contributing, she was flattered. She sees the book as a wonderful project and an opportunity to reflect on her career as a whole.

In addition to providing wisdom for future scholars of psychology who identify as women or belong to groups historically excluded by psychology and academia, the book also allows accomplished psychologists to celebrate their achievements and share their stories.

“One contributor could not believe that people wanted to listen to her story,” Bookwala said.

This book, however, is not just a look at the past. It’s also a reflection of the present.

“While a lot has changed, there’s still a lot that remains the same,” Bookwala said. “Many of the women [in the book] wanted to be mathematicians and physicists but were discouraged, and that’s still something that’s going on today.”

“This project is a contribution to the history of psychology. Very rarely does the field give credit to the role that women had in it,” Bookwala said.

The speakers touched on the theme of perseverance. Basow recognized, however, that there still are obstacles present.

“But we need to persist, nonetheless,” she said.

The speakers also emphasized that while change is slow, it always starts somewhere.

“We need to keep pushing,” Newton said. “We need to keep shoving to acknowledge the hard work of the shoulders of women we stand on.”