In the beginning of January 2021, I stepped into the role of Executive Director of 500 Women Scientists, and I cannot be more excited to help shape the vision and set a course for the next chapter of our organization — one that is unapologetically equity and justice focused, rooted in collective action, and sustainable for years to come.
I joined 500 Women Scientists as a volunteer in April 2019 after learning about an upcoming fellowship program from my mentor Mónica-Feliú-Mójer at Yale Ciencia Academy. I didn’t know anything about the organization, but I was intrigued to hear that a Fellowship was being built for Women of Color who are working to make science equitable and inclusive with little recognition or support, something that felt very personal to me. As a Black woman doing this work, I have routinely lacked the support I needed and deserved. I knew then that I wanted to help mold a fellowship for my fellow Women of Color to highlight amazing work that too often goes unrecognized. I knew this Fellowship needed to provide the love and care so eagerly withheld from us for no other reason besides us simply existing. I made the conscious decision to move my focus from smaller, local projects to a cause that would help liberate other women like me doing their life’s work. I could have never imagined where a few emails and phone calls two years ago would bring me in this moment of time.
From helping mold Fellowship for the Future, to leading our Reproductive Justice initiative, and serving on the Executive Leadership team, I am amazed at everything I have been able to accomplish with 500 Women Scientists over the past couple of years. And in everything I have given to our organization, it has given everything back to me two-fold.
I remember all the love and support that poured in from the 500 Women Scientists leadership team when I shared that I would be leaving my doctoral program due to abuses suffered at the hands of my advisor. I will never forget speaking my truths during our team meetings and having those truths listened to. I have challenged others to do the work and they have risen to the occasion, even in difficult moments. I have been validated, uplifted, loved, and cheered on by a team that will be family long after my position ends. This is an organization that I am proud to be a part of and to lead.
500 Women Scientists has brought me friends, colleagues, support systems, and most importantly, co-conspirators to burn down the systems of oppression and build a foundation that is more equitable, rooted in justice, and that values every single one of us.
I am looking forward to solidifying the foundation that 500 Women Scientists needs to be set up for long-term growth and success. We are currently in the midst of transitioning from a volunteer-run effort to one with full-time staff. Organizational transitions are critical to the life cycle of a nonprofit and this will not be without challenges. I, along with our co-founders, advisory board, and the leadership team, am committed to making this transition happen with transparency, grace, and in the spirit of collective action that has carried 500 Women Scientists over the past four years. To step into this leadership role and help set the vision and tone for the work ahead is one of the greatest honors I have had in my life thus far.
We at 500 Women Scientists will continue to grow in the defiant spirit in which the organization was born from. We will continue to fight to make our communities more inclusive and just and our stance is, and will always be, fuck racism, patriarchy, and all the other oppressive societal norms holding us back.
We all deserve so much better in this world. Let’s continue to do the work, shall we?
In celebration of this announcement and to kick off Black History Month, I will be doing a #TwitterTakeover on our main @500womensci account February 1–5 and sharing a variety of amazing people, places, things, and so forth as the culmination of Black joy, celebration, and the never ending fight for justice and liberation that binds all of us together.
With the Utmost Care,
Lauren Edwards, M.S.
Executive Director | 500 Women Scientists
Director | Fellowship for the Future