On Friday, February 11, 2022, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and The Smithsonian Institution hosted a virtual celebration to mark the International Day of Women and Girls in Science and Black History Month. OSTP’s Deputy Director for Science and Society Dr. Alondra Nelson and Smithsonian Institution Under Secretary for Education Dr. Monique Chism opened the event, which featured panel-style discussions about the role of Black, Indigenous, and other women and girls of color in environmental justice, the science of water quality, and space science. Water Unites Us also spotlighted organizations leading efforts to open opportunities for girls of color to enter and remain in the science and technology ecosystem. OSTP Deputy Director for Climate and Environment Dr. Jane Lubchenco, White House Gender Policy Council Director Jennifer Klein, and President’s Council of Advisors for Science & Technology member Dr. Frances Colón also delivered remarks.

“The Biden-Harris Administration has made historic strides to ensure that every student can thrive and pursue a future defined by curiosity, discovery, and possibility,” said Dr. Alondra Nelson. “We are committed to building a STEM workforce that reflects all of us, from the classroom, to the boardroom, to the operating room, to the laboratory – and championing an approach to innovation that is rooted in inclusion and our common humanity.”

This event underscored OSTP’s commitment to engaging the American public on a range of science and technology policy priorities of the Biden-Harris Administration, including scientific integrity, tech equity, pandemic readiness, and creating a more equitable science and technology ecosystem in the United States. The event continued OSTP’s ongoing dialogue with nationwide stakeholders in education, government, business, philanthropy, and civil society about strategies and practices for advancing equity in STEM. Findings from this robust stakeholder input, including from the Time is Now initiative, will be incorporated into OSTP’s STEM equity strategy, to be released later this year.

“As we celebrate the achievements of Black, Indigenous, and other Women and Girls of Color, we rededicate ourselves to the critical work of nurturing a culture of inclusive opportunity and a passion for discovery by women and girls everywhere,” said Dr. Jane Lubchenco. “All girls also deserve to experience the challenges and the joy of discovering something new. All girls deserve to ponder the wonder of the universe and the satisfaction of helping others through knowledge. It is long past time to break down the barriers that prevent those opportunities.”

The first panel featured remarks from women of color engaged in the work of ensuring all people have access to clean water. These water and environmental justice leaders shared their personal stories of what brought them to this work, as well as the inventions they have forged or actions they have taken to deliver clean water to their communities. Leaders spoke about their hopes for the future and how others can get involved in science and technology fields such as chemistry, environmental engineering, ecology, physics, data science, and others that can help contribute to clean water for women and girls of color, their communities, and all Americans.

The second panel featured organizations that have demonstrated commitment to girls of color across a variety of science and technology fields. Each organization described some of their program activities, their organizations’ best practices, how they measure and track successful outcomes, how interested participants could connect with them, and their hopes for girls of color in the years to come. These organizations represent a few of the many local, regional, and national organizations that are committed to more equitable outcomes for all.

Dr. Nelson and Dr. Lubchenco’s full remarks can be found here.

The full video recording can be found here.

“History can help us navigate that shared journey but only if we apply its lessons and collectively work towards a more just society, said Dr. Monique Chism. “Our goal at the Smithsonian is to achieve a more inclusive, equitable and brighter future.” We have launched a special initiative under the umbrella entitled, Our Shared Future, to address the critical issues of our time including: Reckoning with our Racial Past, Reaching PreK-12 classroom across the nation, Life on a Sustainable Planet, and our Women’s History initiative.

During this event, the Smithsonian Institution also announced that they will be displaying the “If Then She Can” exhibition in the Smithsonian Gardens and in select Smithsonian museums from March 5-27, 2022.

Water Unites Us was the result of a collaboration between OSTP and the Smithsonian Institution Office of the Under Secretary, as well as the panelists listed below:

Panel 1: Black, Indigenous, and Other Women and Girls of Color Who Lead in the Science and Technology of Water Quality Innovation

  • Katrina Lashley, Program Coordinator, Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum (moderator)
  • Mikayla Sharrieff, Spelman College; NASA Goddard’s Optimus Prime Spinoff Promotion & Research Challenge
  • Direlle Calica, Coordinator, Changing Currents Tribal Water Education Program
  • Dr. Sonya Lopez, Associate Professor; Civil Engineering, California State University, Los Angeles

Panel 2: Creating Pathways for a Lifetime of Leadership for Girls of Color in Science and Technology

  • Dr. Jedidah Isler, Assistant Director for STEM Opportunity & Engagement, OSTP (moderator)
  • Nikole Collins-Puri, CEO, Techbridge Girls
  • Janeen Uzzell, CEO, National Society of Black Engineers
  • Diana Albarrán Chicas, Co-Founder, Latinas in STEM
  • Ron Ottinger, Executive Director, STEM Next Opportunity Fund
  • Czarina Salido, Founder, Taking Up Space

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