International Women’s Day (IWD) occurs March 8 every year. It is a global day celebrating the achievements of women in social, economic, cultural and political realms. The day also focuses on efforts to work toward gender parity.
IWD has been celebrated for over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by more than a million people. Women’s equality has, of course, been the subject of movements throughout history. The University of Florida has profiled several women scientists throughout history, including blogs about Hypatia of Alexandria, a scholar and educator of literature and science, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who identify a process to slow the spread of smallpox, and Maria Goeppert Mayer, the second woman in history to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in Physics.
This year’s IWD happens at an exciting time, when awareness and expectations are high for diversity, equity, and inclusion. The world is more actively pointing out bias against women and celebrating their achievements openly.
While many science-based professions still struggle with severe gender imbalance in the workplace, here in Sarasota County’s UF/IFAS Extension office, we are fortunate to have many accomplished women working to support you and our community. In fact, the balance goes the other way: 22 out of the 25 county faculty and staff in our office are female (88%). Their education and experience are as diverse as the expertise they bring to our community. We have a woman with her doctorate in geography specializing in wetland science, two women with their doctorates in education, and many others with master’s degrees. One woman has done research in Antarctica, another had a successful career as a naturopathic physician before joining our team, and another has a second career as a volleyball coach whose team won a national championship.
Other female team members bring their expertise to serve Sarasota County residents in the areas of sustainability, nutrition, youth development, agriculture, landscaping, water resources, and critical internal administrative services. Three of our female team members have helped support Sarasota County’s response to COVID-19, helping distribute millions in CARES Act relief funds and assisting with registration at the vaccine center.
Our office is a perfect example of the power of women to make a difference in their communities. These scientists and public servants help educate tens of thousands of residents every year on issues critical to local quality of life. While International Women’s Day is a good reminder of the importance of celebrating women’s achievements throughout history and around the world, we are proud of our local team of women every day.