FlowerPower: The Bold Evolution of 500 Women Scientists

Almost four years ago, we wrote a pledge affirming our commitment to build a more inclusive society and scientific enterprise. On the heels of the November 2016 U.S. Presidential election, our pledge garnered more than 10,000 signatures in the first month and we harnessed the moment to build a global movement. We built a leadership team, defined our mission, and got to work making science more open, inclusive, and accessible. Vanessa Smith, an artist from Atlanta, Georgia, offered to design a logo. She incorporated a drawing of the flower from the photo we published with our pledge. That flower has been our logo and the foundation for our brand ever since.

The original 500WS Logo designed by Vanessa Smith of Atlanta, Georgia.

When we started, many of us were new to activism. In the years since, we have learned from social movements and grassroots organizers who have been on the front lines fighting for justice, we have honed our activist voice, and we have come to understand just how deeply racism, patriarchy, and all forms of inequities pervade science.

Fast forward a few short years, and we’ve created a global community of women scientists and supporters. We’ve joined critical regional, national, and global conversations about equity and justice in science. Along the way, we’ve evolved in our understanding of the systems of oppression that maintain structural inequities in and out of science. As we’ve grown, so has our mission. Today, we recognize that making science more open, inclusive, and accessible can’t happen if we don’t explicitly confront all forms of oppression — including racism, colonialism, homophobia, and patriarchy. Our evolution could not have happened without tapping into the strong foundation of grassroots organizing, led by historically marginalized groups, and our amazing members who continue to push us to experience discomfort, learn, and grow.

As the mission of 500 Women Scientists has evolved, we realized our brand also needed an update. If we are to take our work to the next level and fight for justice in science, we need clear, compelling, and unified communications that will elevate our mission. Today, we are proud to introduce our new 500 Women Scientists logo to mark the next phase of our work together.

Our updated logo, designed by Teal Media.

OUR NEXT CHAPTER

With the launch of our new logo, we want to take this opportunity to publicly share our internal discussions about the organization’s name and mission. From the beginning, we have focused our efforts on social justice with the goal of centering the most marginalized in our communities. But even the best intentions are empty without concrete actions. Early on, we recognized that our use of “women” in 500 Women Scientists is exclusionary, especially of trans and non-binary people. We have grappled with how to ensure we are including these perspectives and experiences while also recognizing that as a global organization, the term “woman” can have broader cultural and galvanizing implications.

Furthermore, we continue to grapple with other labels within the organization, including our identity as “unapologetically feminist.” Our understanding of what it means to be a feminist, what the history of feminism teaches us, and how to move beyond this limited and often painful classification in our message and branding have all evolved. We recognize, for instance, that non-intersectional strains of feminism have actively, and at times violently, excluded women of color, particularly Black women, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Exclusion and oppression of this sort are antithetical to our mission.

Over the next few months, we will be exploring how our language — in particular our name — can better represent our values and priorities. We know making science equitable and just will require societal change and we need a clear and unified vision of who we are and what we are working towards. We are a global organization and we recognize that in some places, women congregating is, in itself, revolutionary. But we also realize that we must continue to push for equity and justice across the world; as Audre Lorde wrote: “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” Therefore, we are expanding our mission to not only make science more open, inclusive, and accessible, but to help transform society by fighting racism, patriarchy, and oppressive societal norms.

We’re excited to take bold steps towards meeting our mission and we hope you will join us. Check out our new website, stay up to date with our social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook), join a pod, and sign up for the Request a Woman in STEMM platform.

Working to make science open, inclusive, and accessible.

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