Sunday, March 8, 2015- today is International Women’s Day, and the theme is “Make it Happen.” About 95 years ago, due to years and years of women speaking their voice and fighting for some type of recognition of equality, the women in America earned the right to vote. This opened the door for more women to begin voicing their concern about the inequality between the sexes in their community, and the inequality they faced in the work force AND in academia. Although we have come a long way, both domestically and internationally, there is still a lot of work that must be done for women to be considered equals in the work force, particularly academia. As a woman who is Latina and a scientist, I have bare the brunt of sexism and discrimination in my field of science (yet never from any crocodilian research colleagues, but that’s just because crocodilian researchers are nothing but amazing and I have actually seen many “push” women into studying crocodiles!). And because of the sheer ignorance that I have had to face (and still face), a part of my heart has turned to stone. I no longer get emotional to chauvinism, and will stand up for myself, and other women colleagues. Funny, that my assertiveness can be considered “irritable” to men, yet I truly feel if a man act or spoke the same way as I do, he would be considered “assertive” and “head-strong.” Just a tip of the iceburg of the discrimination we women still have to overcome.
So, in light of the theme of International Women’s Day, how can I (or shall I say “we” as women) take action and “make IT (whatever IT is) happen?” From my perspective, we can do our best to encourage and inspire young women to strive for scientific jobs and become proper stewards of the Earth by being a mentor. We can continue to be an active voice in the conservation of endangered animals, plants and habitats. Many times this can be physically and emotionally straining, particularly with the bureaucracy that comes with conservation. But we can not give up, we can not stray from the truth, because if we do, our children, and our children’s children will not have a pleasurable place they can call “home.” Most importantly, we must continue to support the women who are at the forefront for fighting for gender equality, we must not bow down to the ignorance that some (and I have to stress SOME) men have towards women, we must stay strong-headed, and praise women who have overcome obstacles to establish themselves as leaders in their society.
As a mother-to-be to a girl, and something I wish other mother’s would think about, I will teach my young girl to be independent, strong, and to be considered as an equal among men. Just like my father said, I do not plan to raise “a girl” but a human being. If a boy can do it, a girl can do it. And as women, we can no longer shove down our young girl’s throats that “beauty” is more important than brains. If we want respect and equality, we need to stop parading ourselves like “sex” objects, or shoving “beauty or brains” down our young girl’s throats. What
happens when her “beauty” fades away? She will have nothing as you never helped her to develop the skills to be an independent, intelligent woman? She will be dependent all her life- never aspiring to anything and most likely not contributing anything to better society. Don’t you want your young girl to leave a legacy? I personally want my young girl to accomplish much more than me, but I will need to give her the skills and confidence. And this doesn’t necessarily mean “buying” her things. This means educating her (in any way possible), and constantly reminding her of her uniqueness, talents and strengths to establish confidence and independence.
So women ask yourself, how will you “Make IT Happen?”