Leading by Example on International Women’s Day 2021
On International Women’s Day 2021, Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC), celebrates its origins of being a female-founded organization and its legacy of women empowerment. Since our beginning, we have never been shy from starting a dialogue, especially when it comes to supporting women’s social, economic, and political achievements. In fact, it’s where we start our story with our first lady in sea turtle research, Eleanor Fletcher. Our founder and fearless leader, Eleanor, was the first woman in Florida to receive a permit to research sea turtles. And long after retiring from the formerly called Children’s Museum of Juno Beach, she continued to educate and give nighttime beach tours so kids could see nesting sea turtles. However, despite prolific figures like Eleanor, young girls are still being underrepresented in STEM majors and careers.
Due to gender disparities and unsettling confidence gaps, only 21% of women in college are engineering majors and only 19% are computer and information, science majors. Also, according to the World Economic Forum, less than 30% of the world’s researchers are women. On this International Women’s Day, we choose to celebrate curious minds and give credence to the claim that girls everywhere can grow up to excel in STEM fields.
Today, we are proud to have female staff leaders who serve as shining examples for young women as we boast three women in our rehabilitation department, two in sea turtle research and Caitlin Farmer as the Chief Financial Officer. Studies have also shown that girls often have difficulty pointing out women role models in these currently male-dominated fields. However, we are actively working to provide aspiring girls the opportunity to visit in-person or online and find female mentors that we have at LMC. Our glowing representation, however, is not just a form of good business practice, but is critical to our bottom line and everyday operations. It’s been proven that women in leadership and STEM roles have excelled in crisis management, decision-making, empathy, active listening, multitasking and so on.
Women Empowering Partnerships
On International Women’s Day, we also reflect on our sea turtle patients and partnerships that have honored the revolutionary women in Palm Beach County. Last year, we proudly welcomed a Kemp’s Ridley patient by the name of “Jane” in partnership with The Royal Poinciana Plaza. The patient was crowned its name after Lillian Jane Volk, who sought to preserve the architectural and historic integrity of Palm Beach Island, including the idyllic charm of The Royal Poinciana Plaza that her late husband designed. The sponsorship not only celebrated Volk’s achievements but underscored the near 20 female-owned businesses at The Royal along with their TogetHER initiatives.
Amplified STEM Resources
The celebration today also holds new meaning as we’ve waded through tumultuous times in the past year. In April of 2020, we hosted our Virtual Coastal Classroom (VCC) during our two-month closure. This gap could have significantly impeded the early stages of female students and their prospective careers, further leading to a greater gender divide in the field. Instead, our educators used this time to provide stimulating STEM content to help more young women climb the ranks. Following our online sessions, we found that our team was able to reach 900,000 lifelong learners through the VCC, including students in the UK, Denmark, Sweden, Australia, and more. Additionally, virtual resources were accessible to girls as we approached summertime with the ‘Wildlife About Wildlife’ Virtual Camp, which covered an array of topics from native and invasive species to colonies of coral reefs.
The past year has given us more opportunities to find grants that align with our desire to support girls of all socioeconomic backgrounds. In recent months, we were pleased to be among the ‘round one’ recipients of the Association of Science and Technology (ASTC) IF/THEN Gender Equity Grant. Upon receiving a generous $5,000, our Center is able to support more projects such as revising exhibits and signage, developing STEM learning camps for girls, holding virtual events and resources, engaging the public through virtual chats with women scientists, and creating collectible trading cards that feature women in STEM careers.
A day of recognition is a wonderful way to celebrate the achievements of women across the globe, but it’s certainly not an endpoint for our team at LMC. We invite you to be a part of our multi-pronged approach to building girls into the gutsy women we know they can be, and hopefully, in more STEM positions. Cheers to the women who went before us and the valiant ones that are on the make!