I call myself a feminist because I believe in this radical idea that sex and gender should not define a person’s worth, intelligence, role, or future. I believe that age, race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender expression and identity, and citizenship should never stand in the way of human rights.
“Women hold up half the sky.” – Mao Zedong
Girls and women need to be on every agenda – and their voices need to be at the table. While many development initiatives consider girls and young women as beneficiaries of social change and sustainable development, they are also key drivers and agents of change in this process. I work with girls and young women on a regular basis to support them in developing the skills they need to affect change in their own lives and in the lives of those around them.
My work with girls & young women is tied directly to my experiences as a woman in STEM. I encourage girls to pursue their interests in STEM by providing them with a variety of role models, but we have to be honest about gender inequality in STEM: the problem is not a lack of interest from girls. While women receive almost 50% of doctoral degrees in the life sciences, in 2009 they were less than 30% of total faculty, and less than 20% of full professors (NSERC, 2010). Girls are interested, but women are underrepresented in top research positions and acknowledgements.
A dearth of women in STEM fields has resulted in a measurable “health gap” because research has largely ignored the impact of sex and gender on medical interventions – and this gap is even worse for women of color and from other disadvantaged communities. Women need science, and science needs women.
The world needs to hear the voices of more girls and women!