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Supporting Women in STEM to 'Change the World'

Sept. 9, 2019
One hundred twenty-five women innovators have been chosen as ambassadors to share their stories and serve as high-profile role models for girls.

Inspiring action is the idea of role models. And if we want to encourage women to participate fully in STEM careers, then choosing chose role models is an effective strategy.

This is exactly what The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and Lyda Hill Philanthropies have done by selecting 125 women innovators as AAAS IF/THEN Ambassadors to share their stories and serve as high-profile role models for girls. 

Some of those women chosen include:

  • Erika Anderson, ExxonMobil Equipment Strategy Facilitator, Beaumont, Texas
  • Arlyne Simon, Intel Biochemical Engineer & Author,  Hillsboro, Ore.
  • Dana Bolles, NASA ISS Payload Logistics Lead,  Washington, DC
  • Paula Garcia Todd, DuPont Global Strategic Marketing Manager, Powder Springs, Ga.

 “We firmly believe that IF we support a woman in STEM, THEN she can change the world,” said Lyda Hill, founder of Lyda Hill Philanthropies in a statement announcing the ambassadors.

“The goal of IF/THEN is to shift the way our country—and the world—think about women in STEM and this requires changing the narratives about women STEM professionals and improving their visibility,” Hill added. 

IF/THEN is designed to activate a culture shift among young girls to open their eyes to STEM careers by: (1) funding and elevating women in STEM as role models, (2) convening cross-sector partners in entertainment, fashion, sports, business and academia to illuminate the importance of STEM everywhere, and (3) inspiring girls with better portrayals of women in STEM through media and learning experiences to pique their interest in STEM careers.

The ambassadors will connect with students in person and through various media platforms, including popular YouTube channels and network television shows.  The reason for the emphasis on media is that recent findings by Lyda Hill Philanthropies and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media suggest that just 37% of STEM professionals portrayed in television and film are women. Having a fictional or non-fictional STEM role model increases the proportion of girls interested in getting a job in the sector by 20%, according to a 2018 Microsoft survey.

In response to these trends, Lyda Hill Philanthropies is collaborating with more than 30 organizations such as Girl Scouts of the USA, National Geographic, Teach for America, U.S. Soccer and the World Wildlife Fund, to form the IF/THEN Coalition.

A media collaboration includes, Mission Unstoppable  a new half-hour series that features women on the cutting edge of science, including AAAS IF/THEN Ambassadors. Hosted and executive produced by Miranda Cosgrove (Nickelodeon’s iCarly) and Geena Davis, the series is produced by Litton Entertainment in association with Lyda Hill Philanthropies.

In October, AAAS IF/THEN Ambassadors will participate in the IF/THEN Summit in Dallas to take their outreach to the next level by learning from each other and receiving resources and coaching in science communication and effective STEM storytelling. The IF/THEN Collection, a digital asset library of photos and custom content, will be created as a tool to increase the number of accurate and powerful images of real women and girls in STEM. The robust collection can be accessed by media, educators and non-profit organizations as they develop and share inspiring content and curriculum.

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