As the world celebrates inspiring women in March, this is a great occasion to recognize, reward and further facilitate the contributions of women and girls. While a great deal of progress has been made, there is still a lot we all need to do to crack the code on gender equity.
In a world full of challenges – from climate change to pandemics – solving them is going to mean bringing our “A-team.” At P&G Chemicals, we believe that means applying our best and brightest brains to the task. Diverse teams working collaboratively with mutual respect and trust simply work better and faster and deliver superior results. We know that embracing equity is an important way we can support our employees and serve our customers better.
Solving gender equity may seem a big ask for us as individuals: society must change and big organizations and institutions must fully embrace the challenge. But as a female scientist, I believe there are little steps we all can take to help make a difference. For me, these include:
- Start young; start at home with an equity mindset.
- Say it clearly, “There are jobs, not “pink jobs” or “blue jobs.”
- Facilitate mentoring/supporting of women and their allies.
- Challenge barriers to access for education.
- Call upon men to serve as game-changing allies.
- Pay it forward to the next generation and others.
I know these may seem slightly “theoretical” – so I wanted to share an example of gender equity. Let me tell you a story about a woman whose brilliance and determination were also supported by her actions and those of others.
In 1867, a daughter, the youngest of five siblings, was born to two teachers in Europe. Her parents were passionate that their daughters, as well as their sons, would be educated. (See #1, above.) Her older sister Bronya wanted to be a doctor, but the University of Warsaw did not accept women. So, the two sisters made a pact – the younger one would work as a governess to pay for Bronya’s education and then Bronya would return the favor (#2, #3). They also moved to Paris, as fortunately, French universities accepted women (#4). At age 24, Bronya graduated and our heroine started to study, then was awarded the Alexandrovitch Scholarship for Polish students who were studying abroad (#4). She went on to meet, work with and marry a research scientist, Pierre, and have two daughters. (I’m sure many of you now know who she is!) French academics recognized the joint research as groundbreaking and nominated her husband and Henri Becquerel for a Nobel Prize. The nominators ignored her – but Pierre insisted that his wife’s contribution and leadership be acknowledged and that she would share the honor with him (#5).
Many barriers existed for her but the choices she made – combined with a fierce intellect, passionate commitment, available support and leveraged opportunities – proved successful. Had they not, the world may never have come to know Maria Salomea Sklodowska or the element polonium (named after her birth country, Poland). You and I know her better as Marie Curie. She was the first female professor at the world-renowned Sorbonne University, first woman awarded a Nobel Prize, only woman to receive two Nobel Prizes and only person ever to win a Nobel Prize in two separate fields (Physics and Chemistry).
Most of us won’t attain the prowess in science accomplished by Marie Curie – but we all should have the opportunity to achieve our potential. It takes our passions and drive and small supporting steps made by others to help us do that, just as Marie Curie did for her sister Bronya to become a doctor. The lessons that Marie taught her two daughters (#6) helped lead to Eve being named an Officier de la Legion D’Honneur (France’s highest honor) for her work with UNICEF, and Irene winning her own Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1935.
Marie, the great chemist and physicist, once said, “I was taught that the way of progress was neither swift nor easy.” Perhaps that’s true of gender equity – but it’s progress we need to make and a mission that we at P&G Chemicals are committed to. So, as we celebrate inspiring women, let’s all make our own commitment to take small steps together that help facilitate women being equal everywhere.