While researching, Nicole Small came across a 2016 report that noted there were only about six statues of women in the public spaces of the country’s 12 largest cities. Now, with Lyda Hill Philanthropies, she’s helping to change that in a big way, while drawing national attention to the under-representation of women in STEM careers.
The IF/THEN Initiative, a campaign by the Dallas-based nonprofit, is looking to open the eyes of young girls across the country to potential career paths by bringing its #IfThenSheCan—The Exhibit statue installation to the Smithsonian Museums in Washington,D.C. And at the same time, it’s debuting a new ad campaign airing on Super Bowl Sunday.
“We knew that if she can see it, she could be it, so we need to show girls everywhere someone that looked like that,” said Small, Lyda Hill Philanthropies CEO.
TO SCREENS NATIONWIDE
While the #IfThenSheCan—The Exhibit travels to Washington, D.C., another effort of the initiative will be seen by many across the country.
Making its first airing on NBC’s TODAY on Friday, the IF/THEN Initiative unveiled a new ad campaign in collaboration with the social impact nonprofit Ad Council that’s set to be broadcast twice before the kickoff of Super Bowl LVII.
In the public service announcement, a handful of TODAY anchors daydream themselves back into a 1970s classroom, envisioning what they could be when they grow up had STEM career options been made more readily available to them. The ad also features IF/THEN ambassadors encouraging young girls to explore the options open to them.
“So many kids start off with big dreams, dreams that can help our world be more innovative, collaborative, and cutting edge, but then they get discouraged along the way,” said Lisa Sherman, president and CEO of the Ad Council, in a statement. “We’re working to keep those dreams alive.”
TO THE CAPITOL
Through most of May, around 120 3D-printed, bright orange statues of contemporary women will grace the gardens and museum halls of the Smithsonian, giving girls a visual representation of role models to look up to. At the same time, giving the museum representation that can sometimes be lacking.
From women who tag sharks for science and train Olympians to those designing the latest fashion trends, the #IfThenSheCan exhibit–the largest collection of statues representing women—depicts female role models, called ambassadors, standing at eye-level with viewers. Each comes with a QR code that links to their personal biographies.
“We decided, let’s go big or go home,” Small said. “We knew that if we could capture those women and their stories, and share those, then we would inspire girls to say, ‘Oh, my gosh, I look like her. She’s doing something really cool and I’m passionate about the same thing she is, maybe I could do that, too.’”
The exhibit made its debut last spring on NorthPark Center’s central courtyard – making them the only public statues of females in Dallas at the time. Before then, parts of the exhibit, which was created by Boston firm Amaze Design, were displayed at Dallas Love Field Airport and the Central Park Zoo in New York.
“We hope that it also gives people that walk through hope that there are amazing people out there doing amazing things to make this world a better place. And the opportunity to share that with the world on such a national stage, there would be no where better than to put this at the Smithsonian on the edge of the National Mall.”
‘CHANGE THE WORLD’
Both moves will bring national attention to the initiative and the problem it’s looking to address—that while women make up about half of the college-educated workforce, they make up only 27% of STEM professionals.
IF/THEN was initially launched in 2019 with a $25 million commitment from Lyda Hill Philanthropies with the goal of elevating female STEM role models and bringing more female representation to the table to help solve some of the world’s most pressing issues. Small points to COVID, cancer, and climate change as examples.
“We hope that (people) will realize that every single person has an opportunity to change the trajectory of so many lives,” Small said. “Pretty much everyone has an opportunity to create this culture shift.”
The TV spot and Smithsonian exhibit aren’t the only ways the IF/Then Initiative is raising awareness and reaching out to young girls. It’s currently in the third season of its daytime Emmy-nominated CBS series “Mission Unstoppable,” which is hosted by Miranda Cosgrove. In addition, the initiative’s TikTok hashtag #STEMLife has garnered more than a billion views online.
“We’ve got a lot of challenges in this world, and we need all of the brightest minds sitting at the table to solve these issues,” Small said. “We want to make sure that every child believes that they have an opportunity to go out and change the world one day.”