Lyda Hill Philanthropies last night announced a $25 million commitment to support women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics through the new initiative IF/THEN.
“A first-of-its-kind coalition uniting preeminent science institutions with some of the most recognizable names and brands in popular culture, IF/THEN seeks to inspire girls to consider STEM careers,” according to a news release issued by Lyda Hill Philanthropies.
Lyda Hill Philanthropies is committed to funding transformational advances in science and nature, empowering nonprofit organizations and improving the North Texas and Colorado Springs communities.
IF/THEN is designed to activate a culture shift among young girls to open their eyes to STEM careers by:
- funding and elevating women in STEM as role models;
- convening cross-sector partners in entertainment, fashion, sports, business and academia to illuminate the importance of STEM everywhere; and
- inspiring girls with better portrayals of women in STEM through media and learning experiences to pique their interest in STEM careers.
“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, in the release. “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.”
Though women constitute about half of the college-educated workforce in the United States, just a quarter of STEM professionals are female, and a lack of funding and visibility has caused female STEM professionals to receive significantly less credit for their work. This gender gap has impacted perceptions of women in STEM and trickles down to younger generations. In fact, a recent Microsoft study revealed that girls cite a lack of female role models in STEM as a key reason they do not follow a career in the sector.
Built on the mantra that “if we support a woman in STEM, then she can change the world,” IF/THEN seeks to empower women and inspire girls to pursue careers in STEM. The initiative emphasizes that STEM is everywhere and essential to the success of our favorite movies, entertainers, athletes and business leaders. This approach illuminates a wide array of career opportunities for women and girls, represented by its launch coalition members which include:
- The Ad Council
- American Association for the Advancement of Science
- American Geosciences Institute
- Association of Science-Technology Centers
- Conservation International
- Geena Davis Institute for Gender in Media
- Girl Scouts of the USA
- The Hockaday School
- Howard Hughes Medical Institute
- Magical Elves
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Mathematical Sciences Research Institute
- National Geographic
- National Girls Collaborative Project
- The Nature Conservancy
- NRF Foundation
- Perot Museum of Nature and Science
- Research Corporation for Science Advancement
- The Science & Entertainment Exchange, a program of the National Academy of Sciences
- Steadman Philippon Research Institute
- Teach For America
- U.S. Soccer
- Wildlife Conservation Society
- World Wildlife Fund
A core component of the initiative will be the selection of women STEM professionals by the American Association for the Advancement of Science to participate in the AAAS IF/THEN Ambassador Program. The program will bring together 100 women from a variety of STEM professions — careers in traditional scientific disciplines as well as sports, fashion, gaming, entertainment and music — to serve as high-profile role models for middle school girls.
AAAS IF/THEN Ambassadors will gather for in-person summits, create personal press kits that highlight their stories and take their outreach to the next level, and have the chance to participate in original entertainment content and media opportunities, according to the Lyda Hill announcement.
IF/THEN will also create a digital asset library of photo and video content featuring the Ambassadors to be housed by the National Girls Collaborative Project and distributed to science museums, zoos, aquariums, schools, and through other girl-facing institutions around the country through partnerships with the Association of Science-Technology Centers, Girls Scouts of the USA, Teach For America, the Wildlife Conservation Society and numerous other nonprofit organizations.
Lyda Hill Philanthropies is also funding research activities of more than 100 other women to support groundbreaking research in STEM and is creating original content with entertainment partners, according to the release.
IF/THEN’s original content will feature women STEM professionals and will reach girls where they access content the most: on YouTube through partnerships with popular channels like GoldieBlox; on cable television shows such as Bravo’s Project Runway; and on network television through a weekly series highlighting the STEM behind popular culture.