The month of March is Women’s History Month, and today March 8, we celebrate International Women’s Day. This year, we are encouraged to think about what it means to build a gender-balanced world and to explore how everyone has a part to play in making it happen. Balance is something that is often talked about in our industry and sometimes it feels as if think pieces discussing it saturates our feeds more than actual news about any significant progress. This is why, today, we would like to focus on celebrating women’s achievements and how it has influenced or affected us as individuals. We asked members of the Chromatic team what women’s achievements they wanted to uplift or celebrate, and this is what they said:
Kim: Young Women in Tech
Today, I want to celebrate the achievements of young women all around the country and the world who are slowly turning the tide in balancing out the gender ratios in college computer science programs, like in the College of Engineering at Cornell University where their enrollment now has "equal numbers of undergraduate women and men". The determination and grit of young people (just checkout #FutureTechBoss to learn about some of them) is awe-inspiring and has convinced me that they will save the world.
Kate: Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low
This month, 107 years ago, the first Girl Scout Meeting took place in Savannah, GA thanks to founder Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low. While the concept of the scouts wasn’t an entirely new idea, Daisy felt the empowerment it gave girls was inspiration enough to bring it to the US at the age of 51. Since then, countless women like Maggie L. Walker and Sarah Randolph Bailey have helped evolve and improve the organization. Over 50 million girls have joined the ranks, myself included. I learned things like the ASL alphabet (Low was deaf) and of course, how to build a solid fire, but most of all, I learned to hustle selling those cookies outside Kmart. I raise my Caramel Delite to you Ms. Low and to all those girls out there learning to hustle.
Märt: Kaja Kallas
On March 3rd, 2019, parliamentary elections were held in the Republic of Estonia, which is where I live. The party that won the most seats is headed by a woman named Kaja Kallas. Provided the party she leads is able to form a coalition government, which is highly likely, Estonia will soon have its first ever woman prime minister.
What makes this even more noteworthy is that Estonia's current president, Kersti Kaljulaid, is Estonia's first woman president. I'm very happy that Estonia can celebrate International Women's Day led by both a woman president and a woman soon-to-be prime minister!
Larry: Margaret Hamilton
As a software engineer I have to recognize that so much of the work I do is only possible because of the engineers that came before and blazed the trail. We truly sit on the shoulders of giants and Margaret Hamilton is one of those giants. As Director of Software Engineering for the Apollo 11 program she lead the team that wrote the software that put a man on the moon. Her contributions to the field of computer science and the advancement of humankind in space are without rival; she even coined the term software engineering. If you want your mind to be blown check out the Apollo 11 Guidance Computer Source Code on GitHub. Margaret Hamilton is truly remarkable and an engineering icon.
Clare: Stacey Abrams
One of the countless women who inspire me endlessly remains former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams who refused to concede the governor’s race which was tainted by voter suppression, irregularities, and disenfranchisement. Listening to her speak, I’m floored by her eloquence, intelligence, diligence, compassion, and ultimately grit. She changed the electorate in Georgia, outperforming every Democratic candidate on any level by rendering the highest voter turnout (1.9 million) for a Democrat in the history of Georgia. Her campaign not only propelled record turnout of black, Latino and Asian voters, she amassed even a greater percentage of the white vote over former President Barack Obama. Right after the election, Abrams turned her anger and despondency into action by starting Fair Fight Action, a voting rights group, to challenge Georgia’s election process in a major federal lawsuit. In an interview with Ava DuVernay at a National Day of Racial Healing event hosted by her film distribution company Array Now, Abrams’ thoughtful reflection on the outcome of her game-changing campaign and her persistence in getting back into the ring (rumor has it we’ll be hearing more from her) reminded me that history and progress are fluid, messy things. And it’s inspiring leaders like Abrams who forge the paths to brighter possibilities for everyone.
Alfonso: Dr. Maria Skyllas-Kazacos
An inspiring individual I learned about recently and who also happens to be a woman is Dr. Maria Skyllas-Kazacos, Professor Emeritus and the chemical engineer responsible for pioneering the vanadium redox battery in the 1980s. Her work, along with the efforts she has led since then, have provided us with what is slated to be the large scale, high-density power storage solution of the future. Balancing power generation and load is a very tricky endeavor, and the intermittency of many renewable sources of energy makes this task exponentially more difficult. One of the biggest challenges engineers face moving forward is power storage, and by all accounts vanadium redox batteries will be an integral part of the solution to this problem.
Whenever I learn about people like Dr. Maria Skyllas-Kazacos and countless others, whose work helps solve essential problems of which most of us aren’t even aware, I’m reminded that the work that pays the most dividends to society is often the work few people ever hear about. While popular culture obsesses over the flashy, outrageous, or controversial, people like Dr. Skyllas-Kazacos are solving real problems with solutions that will drive progress forward for generations to come.
Chris: Agatha Free
No woman has had a more profound impact on my life than my mother, Agatha. She raised three boys while my father worked full time, often while working her own part time job and somehow found a way to love and care for us without missing a beat. Parenting, to me, is the hardest job and most important job there is, and my momma did, and continues to make me and my brothers better humans.
She instilled in us a strong sense of compassion and work ethic, the difference between right and wrong, and exactly what it means to love your children unconditionally. She embodies what it means to be a selfless parent, all while swearing like a sailor and laughing her boisterous and howling laugh. Today, I honor my mother Agatha because Moms like her make the world go 'round.