A march for a better world

January 21st 2017 is the day of unity and harmony in support of equity worldwide. As part of our dedication to gender equity, women (and men) of the world have decided to march and as you might have already heard, the march is called “The Women’s March”. As many of women and probably men around the world, I am going to march on January 21st in Melbourne, to send the message that women’s right is human right. However, although this march initially originated with the purpose of supporting women, I believe its universal spread is sending even a larger message to the world beyond gender equity and that is diversity. The beauty and power of this universal march lies in the fact that people of the world are uniting for a common purpose regardless of their origin, gender, colour, sexual orientation or believes. To me, this could be one of the most amazing moments in history in which we are proudly playing a part. 

In this regard, beautiful Sandra Lopez, a women of dedication to high values and standard, has published an inspiring letter to her daughter on why she is going to march. It is highly recommended if you haven’t made your decision yet. I found every single word of her letter resonating with me so deeply that I want to share it here on my blog too. I come from a diverse background in addition to being a woman and very similarly to her, I strongly feel that all the efforts on diversity and gender equity is highly at risk if we don’t act fast. Likewise, I want my kids to live in a better world when they grew up and I do whatever I have in my power to not allow their origin or gender jeopardize their dreams. So I will march in January 21th for a better world. What about you?

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It is time to act on gender equality more seroiusly

Recent heartbreaking terrorist attack in Orlando is not merely a result of gun laws in the United States. Don’t take me wrong, I am not supporting the right to possess arms in the US. I am not going to point my finger to Islam either. The problem is not religion related.  The cause of such vast hatred is far more fundamental than passing additional gun control laws or militarized counterterrorism operations to control the hatred acts.

Gender equality is probably not near the top of your list, nor it is something people even think about it when it comes to terrorism  and hatred. But as a matter of fact, research investigating the roots of terrorism have found a strong correlation between terrorism and exclusion and inequality (For example, refer to the work of Caprioli). The role of gender equality in global security and peace is further underscored by UN Security Council resolution 1325 where economic and political empowerment of women worldwide is a foundation to fight against terrorism.

‘Women make up half the world’s population but earn only 10% of the world’s income. This leads to greater vulnerability of women, lower standards of living, inequality and injustice. A direct consequence of which could be raising vulnerable family  with a strong feeling of discrimination and marginalisation. In contrast, empowering women will allow them to have an equal voice with self-confidence providing them with appropriate tools to contribute to a happier, healthier and highly educated family and community. In addition, if women reach their full economic potential, the global economy could benefit up to 12$ trillions by 2025. This potentially reduce  poverty considerably around the globe. Needless to say, poverty, discrimination and marginalisation could be the root cause of  anger and hatred motivating people to commit such devastating acts in the sought of lost happiness and empowerment. it is not to say that all poor or marginalized people will go around killing but the impact of inequality and exclusion is huge and the world cannot afford not to pay attention to it any longer.

Isn’t it really the time to turn the focus of preventing efforts on equality as a precondition to a healthier, prosperous and peaceful world rather than responding hatred with hatred or military strategies?

Happy International Women’s Day to Men

   

 International women’s day is originally a day to acknowledge the vast range of gender-inequality around the world. During the last couple of days you may have noticed plenty of articles, features and functions in honour of women. As a woman, this makes me really excited as it indicates that the world is waking up to the reality of gender-inequality. However on the other hand, it seems that this waking up is happening to half of humanity – which is women and the other half is far behind in the movement for gender parity. This is mainly because gender-equality is considered as a femenist movemnet and traditionally, feminist movement used to be led by women for women. I don’t believe that it is a feminist move benefiting only women for the reasons I discuss later but even if it was, it should be noted that society performs well when we all work together regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation and ethnic history. As an example of such could be the issue of racism  in the US  where African-American worked together with non-African-American to succeed or the gay rights were granted when gay people had straight people to ally. Similarly, gender-equality movement should be about bringing two halves together. Gender-inequality is not a women’s issue but it is a societal issue that needs both men and women working together. Unless women and men work alongside, we don’t see the transformative change. This is not about men speaking for women or saving them but this is about men supporting women, for the benefit of all. 

Globally, no country has fully attained gender parity yet and but this is not without significance  to note that countries that are affected by social and economical crisis are the ones that are less gender-equal. It is also good to know that studies show that men that live in more gender-equal countries have also a better quality of life with a lower chance of divorce, depression and violence against them.

Gender-equality movement not only benefits women, but also men and children. It is time to rewire our mind and be supportive of the notion that gender-equality is not a femenist cause. The movement needs support from both men and women. The support of the movement could be provided not only in the form advocacy but also in form of contributing to household chores,  caregiving, etc. in an effort to break the stereotypes. Evidence are pilling up that gender-equality leads to better health, happiness and well-being of women, children and men. So there is something in gender-equality conversation for every one. Happy international women’s day to women as well as men. 

 

Social media presence of women in STEM

Last year this time, I would never imagine myself having my own blog or being highly active on Twitter. I used to believe that as a full time working mother with research and family commitments I don’t have time to waste on social media. But to be honest “I don’t have time” was only an unconscious excuse for staying within my zone of comfort. As soon as this unconscious state of my mind transformed into conscious, I decided to give it a go and soon realised that what an opportunity I was missing on.

Traditionally, attending conferences or events is a great tool for many professionals when it comes to networking and communication. However, in reality many of us don’t have the luxury of attending all our favourite conferences and events simply due to our family commitments, high cost of childcare and babysitting or travelling with family – in addition to funding problems. This is while, social media offers much more flexible resources for networking and communication for free and at the comfort of our homes. Since my boosted engagement with social media, I found Twitter to be my favourite one, as unlike other platforms, it provides an easy connection without making you to go through the hassle of sending request to a stranger and waiting for approval to get connected. This means you can reach unlimited number of people to communicate your work with no hassle. The spread of words is considerably easier and faster and you can develop virtual relationships and network easily.

My point here is that despite the generosity social media is offering in terms of availability, flexibility and ease of use, it is largely ignored by many professionals specifically women. This is while if we want to see a change in the current situation of underrepresentation of women in STEM, we need to utilise every possible opportunity to enhance the situation. The main reason for social media being ignored is probably related to the common perception linking social media to entertainment. however, apart from its entertaining aspects, there are many benefits intrinsic to social media for women in STEM which we cannot afford ignoring them such as:

  • Improving social skills and building confidence, 
  • Communicating and promoting our work,
  • Building a larger network of connections,
  • Extending our reach to the community,
  • Creating multi-disciplinary collaboration opportunities,
  • Extending the network of our mentors and mentees and providing support to each other,
  • And at last but not least who doenst like treating herself occasionally with entertainment aspects of social media?

Considering all these beneficiary aspects of social media on thing is clear: community of women is STEM cannot afford not to use social media. Sign up today to your favourite platform, if you haven’t already, raise your concerns, get heard and get connected. 

Women of Inspiration: Paola Elefante

As a high school girl I was very good with math – equally well as other boys around me, if not better. I used to hate gender stereotyping whenever in came to math and I was so glad and proud that I was proving the opposite. There are different reasons about why I didn’t choose to do math (I have to confess that sometime I regret though), but so glad that Paola Elefante did and she is a solid proof of the fact that girls are good at math too and math is not boring. She is a great woman of inspiration. Keep up the spirit Paola!
Read her story in the link below:

Mathemagic: tracking cancers with maths with Paola Elefante

http://realscientists.org/2015/09/06/mathemagic-tracking-cancers-with-maths-with-paola-elefante/

Diversity is win- win

Today I ran into an interesting article from Women’s Agenda which I thought it is worth to share it here as well. It is an interesting read by Angela Priestley highlighting the benefits of gender equity to men and the importance of engaging men in gender equity discussions. According to this article, it is very important to realise that gender equity is a win-win situation and we shouldn’t do it only because it is the right thing to do but because it benefits everyone regardless of gender. You can read the full article here

Although this beatiful article has focused mainly on gender equity, the concept covers a wider spectrum which is diversity. It is not only minorities and under represented groups which benefit from encouraging diversity in the workplaces but it is for the interest of everyone. And what are the benefits: motivation, happiness, productivity and innovation to name a few. 

Why diversity in STEM matters?

Being a hot topic Recently, diversity and gender equity in STEM has been attracting a lot of attention and there has been considerable effort in the community to raise awareness and to take action. Diversity and gender equity in STEM is crucial to economic growth as it enhances innovation and excellence. This is an undeniable fact and that is why we see huge investments in diversity recently (such as Intel’s $300 million initiative to promote diversity in technology). Surely, other Industrial giants will soon have to follow the same path and we will be witnessing a huge movement in recognition and promoting diversity and gender equity and this is truly exciting for STEM community. 

The importance of diversity to STEM is well addressed and documented and I don’t want to go into details. What I would like to highlight  here is the fact that the importance of diversity in STEM is far beyond STEM community and in fact the diversity in STEM can benefit a much larger segment including the entire nations. Many may come to this conversation from different perspectives and see this too idealistic or unreal.  But we are all living in an era of border-less communication and indisputable spread of movements is not beyond reality. Although the effort toward diversity and gender equity seem to be more or less exclusive to advanced countries at the moment, there is a huge potential for the movement to be escalated and spread globally as social media continues to play a significant role in raising awareness even in the most remote countries. 

Terrorism and poverty, the two largest global crises, stem from discrimination and inequalities. Discrimination and inequality hurt not only individuals, but also families, communities and countries in sequence. Therefore, elimination of discrimination and inequality appears fundamental in fighting against terrorism and poverty which can be provided through implementing policies that empower minorities and underrepresented groups with equal access to opportunities. Additionally, well-educated and empowered minorities can grow into leadership roles where they can develop policies which support diversity further and well into future. 

So, as we continue to support diversity and gender equity in STEM, one thing is clear:  promoting diversity in STEM not only benefits the related community but also can spread, initiate and support diversity in other communities, creating a foundation for elimination of discrimination and inequality globally leading to a much happier and safer world for the current and future generation.