The Perot Museum of Nature and Science was the setting for the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) IF/THEN Ambassadors Summit dinner on Monday, October 21. Despite the preceding day’s tornadic storms, the guests learned about the importance of women in science and technology from people like Lyda Hill, Geena Davis, Nicole Small and Dr. Sylvia Earle. Here’s a report from the field:
Less than 24-hours after ten tornadoes hit the Dallas area, more than 300 invited guests gathered on Monday, October 21, at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science to celebrate the AAAS IF/THEN Ambassador Summit being held for three days in Dallas that launched a $25 million initiative to inspire the next generation of women STEM pioneers. Guests learned about the 122 women ambassadors chosen by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Lyda Hill Philanthropies to be STEM role models and activate a culture shift among young girls to enter STEM careers.
Among guests at the gala were Academy Award winning actress Geena Davis, former first lady Laura Bush, pioneering oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, Lyda Hill and Lyda Hill Philanthropies CEO/ former Perot Museum of Nature and Science CEO Nicole Small. Lyda began the evening welcoming all the guests and explaining why it is so important to increase the numbers of women in science professions because only 24% of science, technology, engineering and math jobs in the U.S. are held by women. IF/THEN believes that “if we support a woman in STEM, then she can change the world.”
Nicole spoke about what the four-day Summit was going to include: 246 photo shoots, 103 video shoots, 1,342 hours of training in 8 separate training tracks, 122 3-D scans, 1,000+ students visited in school assemblies and 155 IF/THEN Girls Council members. There are ambassadors attending the training from 42 states and range in age from 17 to 60+.
Guests were treated to a video greeting from Melinda Gates who spoke about growing up in Dallas and how vitally important it is to support and encourage girls to love, study and enter STEM careers. The keynote address came from legendary and pioneering oceanographer and National Geographic Explorer in Residence Dr. Sylvia Earle. Dr. Earle was the first female chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and spoke about often being the only woman on a dive team and in meetings. She explained that she fell in love with the ocean when her mother allowed the ocean waves to topple her during her first remembered trip to the beach. She said she got up and knew she loved to ocean.
As guests enjoyed a delicious meal of roasted New York steak and miso glazed salmon, they heard from two of the ambassadors, Rae Wynn-Grant and Jess Cramp, who spoke about why they applied to be ambassadors and what the IF/THEN initiative and Summit meant to them. They said they are both looking forward to sharing their stories with more girls to inspire them to enter fields of science.
The evening ended with a conversation between Lyda and Geena, moderated by Nicole Small. Geena Davis, who is the founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, spoke about watching television shows with her young daughter and realizing there weren’t a lot of women characters in leading roles, or at all. She began to do research on how many women were portrayed in television, movies and other media and realized there was a large gap between men and women. She then decided to launch her Institute to increase powerful images of women in media.
The evening ended with Lyda presenting Geena with a purple cowboy hat in homage to her upcoming film “Cowgirl’s Last Stand.”
* Photo credit: James Edward