On International Women’s Day: Take Bold Action.

On International Women’s Day: Take Bold Action.
If we don’t, who will?
Six pioneering women scientists will be immortalized by LEGO as a new set of mini figures. The Women of NASA figures include mathematician and space scientist Katherine Johnson (of the film Hidden Figures fame, known for her work on the Apollo and Mercury programs in the 1960s), computer scientist Margaret Hamilton (who worked on the Apollo missions in the 1960s), astronaut and physician Mae Jemison (who became the first African American woman to travel in space on the Endeavor in 1992), astronomer Nancy Grace Roman (the first woman executive at NASA, also known as the “Mother of Hubble” for her work on the telescope) and astronaut and physicist Sally Ride, (the first woman astronaut in 1983).
The thought behind the Women of NASA series is noble: to present children with female role models in the fields of STEM (science technology, engineering and mathematics). But are these historic contributions of women pioneers enough to encourage girls into science? Will they help propel women into positions of scientific leadership? It seems to us that continued and visible recognition of the achievements that women routinely make in the sciences are what’s needed if girls and women are to be attracted to the field.
In November, 500 women scientists signed a letter saying that “Across the globe, women in science face discrimination, unequal pay, and reduced opportunities,” citing an era of anti-science and misinformation. Read the full letter here. These women scientists call for action to “increase diversity in science and other disciplines” and pledge to:

  • Identify and acknowledge structural inequalities and biases that affect the potential of all individuals to fulfill their goals;
  • Push for equality and stand up to inequality, discrimination, and aggression;
  • Push to strengthen the support for traditionally under-represented groups to fully participate in and become leaders in science;
  • Support the education and careers of all scientists;
  • Step outside of our research disciplines to communicate our science and engage with the public;
  • Use every day as an opportunity to demonstrate to young girls and women that they are welcome and needed in science;
  • Set examples through mentorship and through fostering an atmosphere of encouragement and collaboration, not one of divisiveness;
  • Use the language of science to bridge the divides that separate societies and to enhance global diplomacy.

Just a few months later, Congress passed and the president signed into law two bills encouraging young women to pursue careers in STEM. One, the INSPIRE (Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers, and Explorers) Women Act encourages young women to pursue careers in STEM and aerospace. The second, the Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act, encourages the National Science Foundation to support female entrepreneurial programs. While these bills are important first steps to advancing women in science, neither bill lays out concrete plans to accomplish these goals. Without a plan, their success may be limited. What’s needed is a blueprint that not just encourages scientific institutions to include women, but lays the groundwork for women and girls to enter the field, be recognized for their achievements, and ascend up the ranks and into the boardrooms of the nation’s leading scientific organizations.
This year, International Women’s Day calls on women to take groundbreaking action that will drive change for women and girls. The #BeBoldForChange campaign calls on women to take action, to be leaders in our own spheres of influence to accelerate women’s advancement.  If we don’t rise to this call for action, girls will play with cute figurines and nothing will have changed. Learn what you can do here.