As the sun begins to set on Women’s History Month, we wanted to share some thoughts that have been rolling around.
First, we wanted to celebrate the many contributions of women to, well, everything. Did you know that the aquarium was invented by a woman (Jeanne Villepreux-Power), peep holes for doors were invented by a woman (Marie Van Brittan Brown), windshield wipers and car heaters were created by women (Mary Anderson and Margaret A. Wilcox, respectively), and a woman invented laser cataract treatment (Patricia Bath)? Just a couple other inventions and discoveries made by women:
- Dark Matter – Vera Rubin
- Square Bottom Paper Bags – Margaret Knight
- Computer Programming Language – Dr. Grace Murray Hopper
- Nuclear Physics, Process for separating uranium metal – Chien Shiun Wu
- DNA Double Helix – Rosalind Franklin (yes, Watson and Crick got credit for this because they discovered one helix)
- Nuclear Fission – Lise Meitner (yes, her lab partner Otto Hahn took credit for this and won a Nobel prize about it)
- Fiber Optic Cables – Dr. Shirley Jackson
And that’s a super short list of inventions and discoveries. It doesn’t include: poets like Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural laureate; athletes like Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles – who courageously highlighted how mental health is ignored in athletics; government officials like Vice President Kamala Harris, the first female Vice President of the United States of America and Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s youngest Prime Minister in 150 years; or any other contributions. Celebrating notable women and the long history of their contributions is crucial because representation matters. According to a UNWomen report “only 24 percent of the persons heard, read about or seen in newspaper, television and radio news are women” (this is worldwide). It’s hard for a young girl to imagine becoming a journalist if she never see’s someone like her doing it. The simple act of casting light on women’s contributions and achievements makes those contributions and achievements tangible for young people looking up to them.
So, celebrating is great! But… we have to talk about it too.
As Laverne Cox said, “I think that talking about diversity, talking about race, talking about gender is important.” As hard as it can be to have conversations about things like equity and -isms they are so crucial, and truly, the more comfortable we become with having these conversations the better we, our workplaces, our communities, and our families will be. When we have difficult conversations, we practice different communication muscles. We learn to listen more deeply, exercise empathy in the moment and even to just simply slow down (which is real hard). Not every conversation has to be a momentous one – the small act of asking how someone has been impacted by sexism can go a long way to building a stronger understanding of what our coworkers, friends, and loved ones are experiencing. Noticing how we ourselves behave in small ways that require women to prove themselves more than men (this applies to everyone – internalized sexism is real). Even thinking about how we use language – bet you can think of a handful of pejorative terms that are “feminine” in nature, it’s harder to think of as many that are “male” – matters. We invite each and every one of you to explore a small conversation with someone around you and remember, discomfort is a sign of learning and growth. If you wind up being uncomfortable, congratulations! You are making change!
…We also know there is a lot going on so if you need to watch some great TedTalks about it may we recommend TEDWomen 2021? There’s a great talk on women in construction by Emily Pilloton-Lam called What if women built the world they want to see? and many more!