By Micha Green,
AFRO D.C. and Digital Content Editor,
mgreen@afro.com

With Women’s History Month in full swing, the Smithsonian Institution and Lydia Hill Philanthropies’ IF/THEN collaborated on an exhibit that showcases and celebrates women in STEM.  The exhibit, called #IfThenSheCan, includes 120 full sized statues of women in STEM- highlighting these women scientists as true sheroes.  

Celebrating these women as statues is significant, not only because it’s Women’s History Month.  According to #IfThenSheCan, women account for only 30 percent of the STEM field.  Moreover, according to a 2016 study led by former United States Treasurer Rosie Rios, the 10 largest U.S. cities publicly displayed less than a half-dozen statues of real women. The #IfThenSheCan exhibit raises awareness about women in STEM while also finally showcasing real women, versus the normal artistic representations of femininity. 

Many of the 120 women featured in the #IfThenSheCan exhibit, such as Research Regulatory Coordinator for Oncology Pharmaceuticals and Miss Idaho USA Jordana Dahmen, were present for an opening reception at the Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building on March 4.

“It really goes to show that representation matters.  For people to be able to see where they’re going to go in life, they need role models that they identify with and for me that’s important.  It’s about knowing that embracing your femininity doesn’t mean sacrificing that credibility.  You can be a total girly girl and still be taken seriously as a scientist,” Dahmen said. “So I hope that this exhibit is something that other kids can see themselves in all of the other different, diverse role models that are available and really believe that they can change the world.”

As a Black woman with both a science and arts background, Arts and Industries Building Guide Christina Williams emphasized her appreciation for the diversity of the women in the #IfThenSheCan exhibit.

“I think the event is very powerful and influential, specifically for women of color. There are so many women of color from different backgrounds, including different abilities and interests, from producing, and artistry and dancing, to having a background in STEM, and I think that’s super interesting, specifically because I come from a health background,” Williams explained. “So it’s very encouraging to see other women making those strides, and not only making those strides, but being recognized for that. So I feel warm, my heart feels warm. I love seeing these women, all 120 of them, being recognized- so shoutout to the Smithsonian for that.”

Further, the #IfThenSheCan exhibit is historic in nature, not only as it highlights women in STEM, but because it is the largest 3D-printed project of its kind. Each woman stood in a scanning both that utilized 89 cameras and 25 projectors in order to generate a three-dimensional image. The image was then printed using a special machine that slowly built up layers of acrylic gel for ten (or more) hours until a full-sized three-dimensional human statue was produced. Each statue features QR codes to offer more information on these diverse sheroes and hopefully offer some inspiration for the next generation of women in STEM.

“If people are not sure if STEM is for them, connect with real life role models. There are so many people out there who would be more than happy to take them under their wings,” Dahmen said before offering her own mentorship. “I was fortunate enough to have an older sister who is in science that inspired me, and I really hope that I can be that older sister for other kids. So if they want to follow my journey and connect, they can follow me at @msidusa on Instragam,” Miss Idaho continued. 

The #IfThenSheCan exhibit runs until March 27.

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Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor