Lyda Hill wants 2019 to be the year of female STEM pioneers.
2018 was a breakthrough year, she says, and she’s going to continue to build up the inspiring, real women making change.
And what better way to empower, celebrate, support, encourage, and lift up these women than on March 8.
Coinciding with International Women’s Day, Hill announced this week at New York’s American Museum of Natural History that Lyda Hill Philanthropies committed $25 million to support women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics through a newly launched initiative, IF/THEN. This brings the Dallas company’s total investment to more than $60 million over the last five years.
“International Women’s Day marks a global call to action for accelerating gender parity,” Hill, the founder of Lyda Hill Philanthropies, says. “We join in this moment and we’re excited to launch a complementary initiative, IF/THEN, which seeks to further advance women in STEM by empowering current innovators and inspiring the next generation of pioneers to pursue STEM careers so they can help to tackle the major challenges of our time.”
The first-of-its-kind coalition—built on the idea that ‘if we support a woman in STEM, then she can change the world’—will emphasize that STEM plays an essential role in society, inspiring young girls to pursue the industries’ many professions.
But IF/THEN goes beyond job preparation.
It’s designed to ignite a change in perspective, influence the next generation of pioneers, and uplift current innovators in the space.
“We believe science is the answer to building a better future and that we need many minds at the table to realize that potential,” Hill says. “Rooted in a firm belief that there is no better time to highlight positive and successful women role models, IF/THEN is designed to activate a culture shift among young girls to open their eyes to STEM careers.”
Shrinking the gender gap in STEM
Only a quarter of STEM professionals are female, and women constitute around half of the college-educated workforce in the U.S. Lyda Hill Philanthropies is taking on the gender gap by working to change the perception of women in related fields.
IF/THEN is rooted in three fundamentals the Lyda Hill Foundation hopes to achieve: elevating women in STEM as role models; accumulating partners in entertainment, fashion, sports, business and academia to illuminate the importance of STEM; and piquing the interest of girls with better portrayals of women in STEM.
“We know that IF you show a little girl what women in STEM are accomplishing today THEN she will believe that she too can be a force for positive change,” Nicole Small, president of Lyda Hill Philanthropies and co-founder of IF/THEN, says.
Lyda Hill Philanthropies believes it’s about using all of the innovation tools in the toolbox, so it brought on both notable names in pop culture and over three-dozen science and cultural organizations to be apart of the coalition, including U.S. Soccer, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Girl Scouts USA, Teach for America, and Bravo’s Project Runway.
IF/THEN plans to capture the lives of women in STEM through original content distributed on popular platforms. On YouTube, the channel GoldieBlox will feature videos, and in April, Project Runway will air a special episode with female coders and developers.
In Dallas specifically, The Perot is going to display female leaders in STEM throughout the career profiles at the museum.
“In order to make real needle-moving change, we need a comprehensive approach, a new emphasis on storytelling and a cultural shift in the way our world sees women in STEM,” Small says.
A core component of the initiative is selecting successful women in STEM to participate in the AAAS IF/THEN Ambassador Program.
AAAS, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, will choose 100 women from a variety of occupations to serve as role models for middle school girls. AAAS IF/THEN Ambassadors will then attend summits, share their personal stories, and be featured in a digital asset library of media content to be distributed by female-facing institutions across the country.
And, Lyda Hill Philanthropies plans to fund the research of over 100 additional women.
“We are living in a pivotal moment in time for women. We are convinced that now is the moment to focus on elevating our women leaders to ensure they have the tools they need to make discoveries that will save our planet,” Small says. “The second part of that is to tell the stories of their work so that young people—girls and boys everywhere—have hope that they, too, can change the world.”
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