Las Jefas: Seeing is Believing, Ver Es Creer

By Marisa Rivera

The Exhibit on and around the National Mall in celebration of Women’s History Month and the power of women and girls in STEM to shape a better world. (Photo: https://ifthenexhibit.org/)

I recently traveled to Washington, DC, and made it a point to look for the life-size statues of women in STEM. As part of Women’s History Month, the Smithsonian honored women through a unique exhibit called #IfThenSheCan. A perfect way for women and girls to see themselves reflected in innovative and powerful positions in STEM.

#IfThenSheCan is the largest collection of women statues ever assembled in one location. More than 120 life-sized orange statues, which are all 3D printed, displayed at various Smithsonian museums. Each statue features a QR code that is linked to the personal story of each woman.

This exhibit hoped to stir up attention to the ratio problem of women in the STEM field while honoring successful, gifted women in STEM. These statues depict women who have excelled in STEM fields, or science, technology, engineering and math and as true innovators. This is an excellent opportunity for young women and girls to see themselves reflected in the STEM field. This exhibit brings to the forefront the low representation of women and girls in the STEM area. Women constitute half of the college-educated workforce but make up just 25 percent of the STEM industry. “This exhibit is rooted in a simple truth: Seeing is believing. When a girl sees a woman successfully pursuing a STEM career (and having fun), she is more likely to imagine a STEM career for herself, and perhaps even change the world,” said Lyda Hill, Philanthropies. The exhibit is also an initiative designed to activate a culture shift among young girls to open their eyes to STEM careers.

It is important for young women and girls to see themselves in role models, statues, and real-life examples of women achieving in the STEM fields, so they are not undermined by the idea that this is only a “man’s field” where girls don’t belong. The lack of female representation in the IT industry and STEM fields is disheartening. “Women make up 48 percent half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, but only 34 percent of the STEM workforce.

Latina, Black, and Indigenous women represent less than 10 percent of the STEM workforce. (The State of Girl and Women in STEM, March 2022.) Latinas make up only 1 percent of the tech industry, making Latinas the least represented of ALL women (National Center for Women and Information Technology).

We must continue to empower young women to pursue more careers in the STEM fields and showcase the outstanding women in STEM. Through statues, books, magazines, TV, personal recognition, and mentorships so they can see themselves and believe that they belong in STEM. STEM fields are some of the fastest-growing industries with so many opportunities, and women and Latinas deserve a chance at these opportunities. #IfThenSheCan exhibit was an important reminder of why representation of women in STEM matters.

Marisa Rivera is president of Mpowerment Works, a motivational speaker, executive coach and leadership and empowerment consultant. Marisa@­MpowermentWorks.com

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