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An Open Letter to Donald Trump from Women in Science

About 17,000 women scientists have signed a pledge to help support each other. (cdc.gov)
About 17,000 women scientists have signed a pledge to help support each other. (cdc.gov)
February 21, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minn. – A movement that started among friends concerned about how women were being labeled and treated during the presidential campaign has turned into an effort to empower young girls, and steer them toward careers in science and technology.

The group "500 Women Scientists" began when four female scientists expressed their worries to each other. They reached out to friends and colleagues with the goal of getting 500 to sign a pledge to support each other and have collected nearly 17,000 signatures. They have also sent an open letter to President Donald Trump, asking him to honor his pledge to be "a president for everyone."

Jennifer Powers is an associate professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior at the University of Minnesota. She sees climate change as one reason science needs diverse creative minds, now more than ever.

"It's important to reach out to young kids, to get them at a young age, to expose them to science and then also, to sort of follow through with that mentoring, throughout elementary school, middle school, high school, and then, in college and beyond," she explained.

The letter, published in Forbes magazine, contains several suggestions, including appointing accredited science advisers in government to promote evidence-based policy, protecting the environment, clean air and water, making science education a priority from pre-K to college, and putting policies in place that lead to equal pay for women.

University of Colorado Ecology Professor Nichole Barger says there are many who are still concerned about Trump's election, but she's convinced that can be turned into something positive.

"I think what we're seeing is more engagement of girls and women in science, and I think there was a feeling that it could be set back, but I think what we're seeing is a surge forward of interest," she said.

A co-founder of 500 Women Scientists, Jane Zelikova says they're urging communities to start mentoring programs for young women and girls.

"Well, that's one way we can ensure that the younger generations that have been feeling like they're not welcome in science have mentors that look like them, that they can look up to and actually work with to further their own interest in science and eventually, make science a career," said Zelikova.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MN