This article was originally published by Scientific American.
As the U.S. election results rolled in, any remaining pretense that America wasn’t deeply divided vanished. Never has the internet been so thorough in articulating the feeling of despair so many people were experiencing; my digital world was inundated with ranting articles, late night comedy routines and memes.
Yet even the more powerful messages could not sooth the anger, frustration and heartbreak felt by so many. The hateful rhetoric towards minorities, women, LBGTQIA, immigrants and people with disabilities, coupled with the barrage of anti-science and anti-knowledge sentiment was difficult to take, especially alone. Many people — many women — began turning to each other for support, and an amazing positive conversation grew. For myself, an American postdoc living abroad, I reached out to a special group of friends — my women scientist friends from the States. The group started small, about 20 women, some of whom I knew, others I did not. The sentiment was straightforward:
- Sexism, inequality, discrimination and anti-intellectualism threaten the progress being made in our society.
- Science, once a pillar of democracy and progress, is under attack.
- We fear that the scientific progress and momentum in tackling our biggest challenges, including staving off the worst impacts of climate change, will come to an abrupt stop.
We asked ourselves, how can we take action?
Over the weekend the email group had grown to 100 members, and ideas and actions were quickly proposed. The women in the group represented a wide range of scientific disciplines and the ideas they presented expressed that diversity of background and thought. Some women were inspired to run for office, while others renewed their commitment to mentoring and teaching. All agreed that we must work together, for women, for science, for equality.
Together co-creator Jane Zelikova, Theresa Jedd, Teresa Bilinski, Jessica Metcalf and I began drafting an open letter to express those sentiments and invited women across the United States and abroad to join.
On Nov. 17 in the late afternoon, our open letter went live with 500 signatures. After we posted it, signatures were being added by the minute, and by the time Friday morning came we had over 1,200 signatures. Read the full letter here.
This is more than a letter. It is a first step in committing to each other and to taking action for our science, our country and the health of our planet. Just as science is built on evidence, observation and ongoing evaluation, we are building this movement on the same tenets.
I may be living an ocean or farther away from some of my closest friends, but I have never felt more connected to my community and colleagues in science.
We are women. We are scientists.