(Un) Hidden Figures – It’s About Time

As published on LinkedIn Influencers on March 22nd, 2017

I, like many people, watched the Oscars last month, but unlike most people, for me, the Best Picture category was not a two horse race. In my mind, it was already decided long before the ceremony began. With all due respect to La La Land and Moonlight, as far as I’m concerned the best film of last year was Hidden Figures. It may even be one of my favourite films ever, although I’m reserving judgement on that until I see Wonder Woman in June. But for now, Hidden Figures is my pick, and if you haven’t seen it yet, I can’t recommend it enough. This film manages to make math and science as exciting and action packed as any recent superhero movie, and it tells a story that was long since overdue for recognition. For those of you who have yet to discover this incredible film, Hidden Figures tells the story of Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine Johnson, and Mary Jackson, three African-American female scientists working for NASA at the height of the space race in the early 1960s.

The story of the race to put a human into space is well known, as are the names of John Glenn, Alan Shepard, Neil Armstrong, and Buzz Aldrin, but as is so often the case, the people behind the scenes rarely receive the recognition they deserve. In particular, women’s contributions are often overlooked entirely, and this practice is egregiously worse for women of color. With all of this in mind, is it unfortunately not surprising that it took so long for the stories of Vaughan, Johnson, and Jackson to be told, but these stories are out there now and audiences are responding. Hidden Figures currently has a 92% critic’s approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and it was the highest grossing Best Picture nominee at this year’s Oscars, even surpassing big budget franchise entries such as X-Men Apocalypse, Jason Bourne, and Star Trek Beyond. Can we finally, please, put an end to the question about whether or not films about women can attract audiences?

It would seem, however, that the success of Hidden Figures has extended beyond the scope of the film in an amazing way. After the most recent International Women’s Day, I did a quick scan of the headlines, and I noticed an interesting trend. There was an awful lot of “Women You Don’t Know About But Should” articles, most likely inspired by the popularity of Hidden Figures, and I couldn’t be happier that so many women’s stories are finally coming to the forefront. I hope these stories continue to be told and heard, and that these women will be held up as role models for generations to come. In honour of this past International Women’s Day, here’s a selection of articles about the women you should know. I hope you are all as inspired by these stories as I am.

12 Pioneering Women in Science

13 Female Innovators from the Google Doodle for IWD2017

5 Women Changing the World for the Better

201 Female Artists You Should Remember

18 Women Composers You Should Know

7 Women of Color History Forgot

10 Female Electronic Artists You Should Know

6 Historical Queens You Should Know

12 Women Whose Names You Should Know

10 Female Revolutionaries You Probably Didn’t Learn About in History Class

The Evidence is In: 400 Reports to Support Gender Lens Giving and Investing

As published on LinkedIn Influencers on March 8th, 2017.

Today is International Women’s Day, which is observed every year on March 8th. The first known observance of International Women’s Day was in 1909 in New York, and although it may have humble origins, this day has since grown into a worldwide movement, a day of activism, and in some countries, a public holiday. Since 1996, an official theme for International Women’s Day has been chosen by the United Nations, and this year, the theme is Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030. Not coincidentally, this year’s celebrations will be marked by worldwide women’s strikes, dubbed A Day Without Women, as well as protests for equal pay and gender equality. Every year brilliant people write impassioned pieces about women’s rights, why it matters, and what needs to change going forward, so be sure to follow the conversation online at #IWD2017 and #beboldforchange.

So what can I add to this conversation? Research. Before I became a full-time philanthropist and investor, I worked on Wall Street. I was a trader at Goldman Sachs, and I relied heavily on research to inform my investment decisions. Which securities and sectors had value and which did not? The answers to these questions were to be found in the research. After leaving Wall Street and turning my attention more fully to the issue of gender equality, and more specifically women’s inclusion, empowerment, and leadership, I found myself once more looking to the research to inform my decisions and my path. I not only wanted to know the facts in order to be able to “make the case” for investing in gender based issues, but I wanted to find out which strategies for social change had the most impact. So I began collecting and reading research, and quickly discovered that there was a lot of it out there. There were times when it felt like a new study was coming out every day, and I grew increasingly frustrated with the fact that there was no centralized location, a hub of sorts, that aggregated all of these reports on women and girls. I spent so much time forwarding on links that I knew others would want access to that I finally began collecting these links all together in one location.

Today, in honor of International Women’s Day 2017, I am releasing the current version of this document, which features 400 of the best reports I have been able to find across 18 different categories, including arts and entertainment, economic empowerment, health and reproductive rights, science and technology, and political representation. For years I have simply called this document the best reports on women and girls, but today I have a new name: Top Reports on Women and Girls: Supporting Gender Lens Giving and Investing. I hope that this aggregated work will serve as a great resource for those currently working on research on women and girls, both to see what is already out there so as to not needlessly repeat research, as well as to get a better picture of what questions still need to be answered.

I am quite sure that I have not captured every possible study that is available, so please feel free to message me with your favorites that I have missed or post them in the comments section. I also created a Twitter handle specifically to spread the word about the research I find, so please tweet any additional studies to @researchonwomen using #researchonWandG. I hope you find this list as inspiring as I do, and I wish everyone, man or woman, a wonderful International Women’s Day.