Since he has taken office, US president Donald Trump’s anti-science and anti-women rhetoric has turned into action. He’s proposed an attorney general with a terrible record on women’s rights, selected a health secretary who doesn’t believe birth control should be free, and placed a gag order on the Environmental Protection Agency and has frozen all grants and contracts from the agency.
In response, resistance against Trump is also moving from talk to action. And scientists, a group not usually given to activism, have joined in, organizing a guerilla movement to preserve environmental data, planning a protest march in DC, launching an anonymous hotline for government workers to report political meddling, and even running for office.
Now, a group called 500 Women Scientists is joining forces to promote diversity and equality in the scientific community, and promote progressive, evidence-based solutions to international issues.
Their pledge has gathered over 15,000 signatures from female scientists in 109 countries, and has been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, German, French, Dutch, and Farsi.
“Though I’ve been politically aware for years, I generally shied away from making strong political statements or doing anything that resembled activism,” said Jane Zelikova, one of the lead organizers of 500 Women. Zelikova, an immigrant from the former Soviet Union, is an ecologist and AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow at the US Department of Energy. “But for the past year, the culmination of blatant sexism, criminal disrespect of women, attacks on minorities, immigrants, and the educated ‘elite’ has sounded an alarm in my head that I could not ignore.”
The group began as a few friends sending text messages and emails in the days after the election, and grew rapidly. On January 21, 50 female scientists from the group joined the Women’s March on Washington. They wore white lab coats and chanted, “What do we want? Data! When do we want it? Forever!”
It aims to become an advocacy group for scientific and egalitarian values and work to increase scientific literacy through public dialogue. The group also plans to support women in scientific careers; it has already held gatherings in San Francisco and Alaska to discuss job negotiations and resources for early career scientists.
The group’s international character underlines the impact the Trump administration’s actions will have on the scientific community worldwide. “Much of the science useful to me and my country originates in the US,” said Andrea Vincent, a climate-focused ecologist at the University of Costa Rica and a pledge signatory. “At the same time, the US benefits from our discoveries and perspectives…Science is a deeply interconnected community of people from around the world.”
Here’s the pledge in full:
An open letter from women of science
Science is foundational in a progressive society, fuels innovation, and touches the lives of every person on this planet. The anti-knowledge and anti-science sentiments expressed repeatedly during the U.S. presidential election threaten the very foundations of our society. Our work as scientists and our values as human beings are 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 be severely hindered under this next U.S. administration. Our planet cannot afford to lose any time.
In this new era of anti-science and misinformation, we as women scientists re-affirm our commitment to build a more inclusive society and scientific enterprise. We reject the hateful rhetoric that was given a voice during the U.S. presidential election and which targeted minority groups, women, LGBTQIA, immigrants, and people with disabilities, and attempted to discredit the role of science in our society. Many of us feel personally threatened by this divisive and destructive rhetoric and have turned to each other for understanding, strength, and a path forward. We are members of racial, ethnic, and religious minority groups. We are immigrants. We are people with disabilities. We are LGBTQIA. We are scientists. We are women.
Across the globe, women in science face discrimination, unequal pay, and reduced opportunities. Our work to overcome the longer-term degradation of the role science plays in society did not start with this election, but this election has re-ignited our efforts. As women scientists, we are in the position to take action to increase diversity in science and other disciplines. We resolve to continue our pursuits with renewed passion and to find innovative solutions to the problems we face in the U.S. and abroad. Together, we pledge to:
Identify and acknowledge structural inequalities and biases that affect the potential of all individuals to fulfill their goals;
Push for equality and stand up to inequality, discrimination, and aggression;
Push to strengthen the support for traditionally under-represented groups to fully participate in and become leaders in science;
Support the education and careers of all scientists;
Step outside of our research disciplines to communicate our science and engage with the public;
Use every day as an opportunity to demonstrate to young girls and women that they are welcome and needed in science;
Set examples through mentorship and through fostering an atmosphere of encouragement and collaboration, not one of divisiveness;
Use the language of science to bridge the divides that separate societies and to enhance global diplomacy.
Today, we invite the women in science and our colleagues to declare our support to each other and to all minorities, immigrants, people with disabilities, and LGBTQIA. Our scientific work may be global, yet we will take action in our own communities and we will work towards an inclusive society, where science and knowledge can be embraced and everyone has the opportunity to reach their potential.
AS WOMEN IN SCIENCE, AS ROLE MODELS TO YOUNG GIRLS AND WOMEN, AS LEADERS IN OUR COMMUNITIES, WE ACCEPT THIS CHALLENGE.