Dallas-based Lyda Hill Philanthropies has announced a $25 million commitment in support of efforts to close the gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
With the goal of inspiring girls to pursue careers in STEM, the IF/THEN Initiative will bring together a coalition of science institutions and some of the most recognizable names and brands in popular culture to fund and elevate women in STEM fields; convene partners from the entertainment industry, fashion, sports, business, and academia to illuminate the importance of STEM in a broad range of careers; and offer girls more positive media portrayals of women in STEM and STEM-learning experiences.
As part of the initiative, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a coalition member, will select a hundred women in various STEM professions to serve as AAAS IF/THEN Ambassadors and task them with helping middle school girls build skills and access opportunities in science communication, public engagement, media, diversity and inclusion, and STEM education. A digital library of photo and video content featuring the ambassadors will be housed at the National Girls Collaborative Project and distributed to educational and cultural institutions through partnerships with coalition members, including the Association of Science-Technology Centers, Girl Scouts of the USA, Teach For America, and the Wildlife Conservation Society. In addition, Lyda Hill Philanthropies will fund the research activities of more than a hundred other women in STEM and will create original content with a variety of entertainment partners.
Although women make up about half of the college-educated workforce in the United States, only a quarter of STEM professionals are women — and they receive significantly less credit for their work. Indeed, a 2018 study by Microsoft found that girls cite a lack of female role models as a key reason they do not pursue a career in STEM.
"We have a responsibility, as women scientists, engineers, policy makers, and leaders, to break down the barriers that stand in the way of girls pursuing STEM careers," said Susan Hockfield, president emerita of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a coalition member. "It is incumbent upon all of us to transform all the ways in which we communicate the extraordinary opportunities in STEM fields."
"Our organization has always believed science is the answer to many of life’s problems. And, now more than ever, it’s important to showcase the women in STEM who are helping make our world a better place," said Lyda Hill, founder of Lyda Hill Philanthropies and a 2010 signatory to the Giving Pledge. "IF/THEN’s mission is to empower leading women STEM innovators to inspire the next generation of pioneers so that we can all build a better future."