contributions make a difference to humanity now a

August 26 is recognized as Women’s Equality Day in the United States, celebrating the addition of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920, which granted women the right to vote. This amendment was the culmination of an immense movement in women’s rights, dating all the way back to the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. 

To commemorate this day, we decided to reach out to influential, successful and all around superstar women in technology to ask them one question: 

If women were never granted the right to vote, how do you think the landscape of women in STEM would be different?

August 26 is recognized as Women’s Equality Day in the United States, celebrating the addition of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920, which granted women the right to vote. This amendment was the culmination of an immense movement in women’s rights, dating all the way back to the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. 

To commemorate this day, we decided to reach out to influential, successful and all around superstar women in technology to ask them one question: 

If women were never granted the right to vote, how do you think the landscape of women in STEM would be different?

Katy Huff, @katyhuff 

“If women were never granted the right to vote, I think it’s fair to say that other important movements on the front lines of women’s rights would not have followed either. Without that basic recognition of equality — the ability to participate in democracy — would we have ever seen Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (1964) or Title IX of the Education Amendments (1972)? Surely not. And without them, women could legally be discriminated against when seeking an education and then again later when seeking employment. There wouldn’t merely be a minority of women in tech (as is currently the case) – there would be a super-minority. If there were any women at all able to compete for these lucrative jobs, that tiny minority could legally be paid less than their colleagues and looked upon as second class citizens without any more voice in the workplace than in their own democracy.”

Renee M. P. Teate, @BecomingDataSci

“If women were never granted the right to vote in the U.S., the landscape of women in STEM would be very different, because the landscape of our entire country would be different. Voting is a basic right in a democracy, and it is important to allow citizens of all races, sexes/genders, religions, wealth statuses, and backgrounds to participate in electing our leaders, and therefore shaping the laws of our country. When anyone is excluded from participating, they are not represented and can be more easily marginalized or treated unfairly under the law.

The 19th amendment gave women not only a vote and a voice, but “full legal status” as citizens. That definitely impacts our roles in the workplace and in STEM, because if the law doesn’t treat you as a whole and valued participant, you can’t expect peers or managers to, either. Additionally, if the law doesn’t offer equal protection to everyone, discrimination would run (even more) rampant and there might be no legal recourse for incidents such as sexual harassment in the workplace.

A celebration of women is important within STEM fields, because it wasn’t long ago that women were not seen as able to be qualified for many careers in STEM, including roles hired by public/governmental organizations like NASA that are funded by taxpayers and report to our elected officials. Even today, there are many prejudices against women, including beliefs by some that women are inferior at performing jobs such as computer programming and scientific research. There are also institutional biases in both our educational system and the workplace that we still need to work on. When women succeed despite these additional barriers (not to mention negative comments by unsupportive people and other detrators), that is worth celebrating.

Though there are still many issues relating to bias against women and people of color in STEM, without the basic right to vote we would be even further behind on the quest for equality in the U.S. than we are today.”

Carol Willing, @WillingCarol

“From the 19th amendment ratification to now, several generations of women have made their contributions to technical fields. These women celebrated successes, failures, disappointments, hopes, and dreams.

Sometimes, as a person in tech, I wonder if my actions make a difference on others. Is it worth the subtle putdowns, assumptions about my ability, and, at times, overt bullying to continue working as an engineer and software developer? Truthfully, sometimes the answer is no, but most days my feeling is “YES! I have a right to study and work on technical problems that I find fascinating.” My daughter, my son, and you have that right too.

Almost a decade ago, I watched the movie “Iron Jawed Angels” with my middle school daughter, her friend, and a friend of mine who taught middle school history. The movie was tough to watch. We were struck by the sacrifice made by suffragettes, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, amid the brutal abuse from others that did not want women to vote. A powerful reminder that we can’t control the actions of others, but we can stand up for ourselves and our right to be engineers, developers, managers, and researcher in technical fields. Your presence in tech and your contributions make a difference to humanity now and tomorrow.”

Jasmine Sandhu, @sandhujasmine

“Its a numbers game, if more people have an opportunity to contribute to a field, you have a lot more talent, many more ideas and that many more people working on solutions and new ideas.

The “Science” in STEM is key – an informed citizenry that asks for evidence when confronted with the many pseudoscientific claims that we navigate in everday life is critical. It is important for all of us to learn the scientific method and see its relevance in day to day life, so we ‘ask for evidence’ when people around us make claims about our diet, about our health, our civic discourse, our politics. Similarly, I wish I had learned statistics since childhood. It is an idea with which we should be very comfortable. Randomness is a part of our daily lives and being able to make decisions and take risks based less on how we feel about things and be able to analyze critically the options would be wonderful. Of course, education has a far greater impact in our lives than simply the demographic that we represent in a field. I’m still struck by the pseudoscience books aimed at little girls (astrology) and the scientific books targetting the boys (astronomy) – of course, this is an anecdotal example, but in the US we still hear about girls losing interest in science and math in middle school. Hard to believe this is the case in the 21st century.

Living in a place like Seattle in the 21st century has enabled opportunities for me that don’t exist for a lot of women in the world. I work remotely in a technical field which gives me freedom to structure my day to care for my daughter, live close to my family which is my support structure, and earn well enough to provide for my daughter and I. STEM fields offer yet more opportunities for all people, including women.”

We loved hearing the perspectives of these women in STEM. If you’d like to share your response, please respond in the comments below, or tweet us @ContinuumIO!

We’ve also created a special Anaconda graphic to celebrate, which you can see below. If you’re currently at PyData Chicago, find the NumFOCUS table to grab a sticker! 


Happy Women’s Equality Day! 

 

-Team Anaconda