As I reflect on International Women’s Day,  I am reminded of my participation last month at the Equality and Parity in Science for Peace and Development Summit at the United Nations.  The conference was the third commemoration of International Day of Women and Girls in Science, aiming to mobilize women from a variety of science disciplines and contribute to achieving the UN’s sustainable development goals.

WINGS’ 2018 Women of Discovery Humanity Awardee and the Chief Conservation Scientist at the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History, Dr. Eleanor Sterling, contributed to the Economic Empowerment session with the presentation “Untold Stories: Inspirational Women Who are Contributing to Sustainable Terrestrial Ecosystems.” Dr. Sterling focused on how women are contributing to Sustainable Development Goal 15 addressing sustainable terrestrial ecosystems: Life on Land. She stressed the need for equality and parity in knowledge transfer and applying a systems-level focus on well-being. Dr. Sterling worked with a group of women in the Solomon Islands who take care of the land and feed its people, yet did not have systems to transfer their knowledge to the younger women and men who will need to take over their roles in the future. The asset of women’s knowledge must be mobilized to achieve community benefits. Dr. Sterling and her team worked with the women to publish a book that will help them teach the next generation how to provide adequate nutrition to its members utilizing the bounty of the region for years to come.   

Dr. Sterling also shared untold stories of women in natural history and conservation. People are often told what they can’t do. This project is about telling what they can do. We all have roles to play no matter our experience or talent. Some people are scientists because they have lived somewhere, even if they don’t have a Ph.D. Dr. Sterling implored the audience to share untold stories!

Girls had a strong voice at the conference. Sixteen year-old Huaxuan Chen, an aspiring scientist from Toronto, acted as the moderator of the opening panel. At the standing-room-only session entitled Girls in Science for Sustainable Development: Vision to Action, girls from the US, Turkey, Canada, Israel, Peru, Costa Rica, Brazil, China, and more gathered to share their visions, experiences, and recommendations to work toward gender parity in STEM.

As the event’s founder, Princess Dr. Nisreen El-Hashemite, said, we cannot afford another 25 years of reports on the gender gap.

WINGS Worldquest sees the inequity each and every day, and our mission is to dissolve it. I encourage you to think about what you do today, after International Women’s Day has ended to pursue just some of these themes set forth by the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.  

  • Economic empowerment of women has the capacity to create $12 trillion in growth for our planet.

  • We must convey the message that women are looking to share power and leadership, not take over men’s power.

  • Girls need women role models in visible leadership positions so they can see what possibilities lay ahead as they mature.  

  • Recognition of and awards for women in STEM are critical to help them become more known with their colleagues and in the public eye. This encourages advancement and leadership, and develops and showcases role models.

  • Boys and men need to be an integral part of the gender parity conversation. The message of the need for gender parity needs to come from leadership, and men still hold a majority of the leadership roles in businesses and organizations.

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