Women’s accomplishments in STEM get overlooked far too often, and for Black women, this fact reigns even more true. It’s not enough to just know these women’s names, sometimes it’s better if we can physically see the women behind our groundbreaking innovations.
Lyda Hill Philanthropies® — a nonprofit organization that funds transformational advances in science and nature — and its IF/THEN® Initiative recognized that not only were women not being properly highlighted in STEM, there was also a lack of physical representation that honored them and their work.
To resolve this issue, the initiative created the #IfThenSheCan exhibit, which acts as a first-of-its-kind monument for the most life-sized women statues ever assembled in one location at once. The idea behind the exhibit was fueled by IF/THEN®’s discovery that there were less than half a dozen women statues in all the major U.S. cities.
Made up of over 120 ambassadors for IF/THEN®, the historic exhibit has set out to activate a cultural shift amongst young girls in America and give them more inspiration to pursue careers in STEM.
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“We at Lyda Hill Philanthropies® are really passionate about making sure little girls and kids everywhere saw someone who looked like them doing things that they might get excited about,” Nicole Small, CEO of Lyda Hill Philanthropies® and co-founder of the IF/THEN® Initiative, tells AfroTech. “We knew from looking at movies, TV shows, and museums that kids might not always see that, so we wanted to create a culture shift and make sure that every kid has visibility and opportunities to make the world a better place.”
The new exhibit — which debuted at Dallas’ NorthPark Center last month — features Black women in STEM as nearly 25% of its statue collection, proof that young Black girls can now see and believe that they too can become the next STEM pioneer of their generation.
“We, like everyone in the exhibition, are trying to empower them to tell their stories,” Small says. “In the science field, not only do we tend to be short women, we definitely are short on women of color. So it’s really important to us that we tell all women’s stories.”
The declaration that Black women in STEM hardly exist is far from true, but the issue is that their stories are not amplified enough to change this dialogue in mainstream media.
With exhibits like this, the hope is that Black and women of color get their flowers for their achievements and finally feel celebrated for what they’ve contributed to modern science.
“Often the narrative for Black women in STEM is that we are rare and that we do not exist in these spaces. While there are some fields in STEM where this is true, there are many instances where we have been defining factors to major contributions in STEM, but we remain unknown because it doesn’t fit the broader social narrative,” IF/THEN® ambassador Nicole Jackson tells AfroTech. “The fact is, I am one of many Black women in this exhibit who contribute to the research and development of technology used by people everywhere, everyday. We’ve been here and we won’t be ignored anymore.”
IF/THEN® included 29 Black women total in its debut exhibit, but the hope is to continue this work and uplift even more Black women in these STEM fields in the near future.
“To be a part of the historic exhibit as a Black female in sports tech means everything to me. For every girl that wants to take a similar path as me, working on the data and tech side with a sports team or sports media company, the odds and numbers are pretty low for us. It’s daunting being the only one and having people treat you like an ‘other,'” IF/THEN® ambassador Tiffany Kelly tells us. “I always say that to empower girls to take my path, all I have to do is continue to share my story. The historic #IfThenSheCan exhibit allows me to connect with a much larger audience and inspire young girls that I have not met and may otherwise not be able to reach.”
Thanks to IF/THEN®’s powerful statue statement, the narrative around Black women in STEM is finally shifting. Going forward, young Black girls will really see themselves etched in our history and documented as major contributors to today’s biggest and brightest advancements.
For more information about IF/THEN®’s STEM exhibit, click here.