What do a bat conservationist, statistician, and astrophysicist have in common? They, along with 119 other women STEM professionals and role models in various fields, are being featured in the If/ThenSheCan statue exhibit in 2021. This incredible exhibit of 122 3D printed statues features the most women statues assembled in a single location at one time.
Originally set to launch at the NorthPark Center in Dallas, Texas in 2020, the exhibit has been postponed until 2021 when the world will hopefully be a safer place for gatherings and public exhibits. The new official launch date is to be announced.
World-Changers In The STEM Fields, Business, Academia, And The Arts
Mathematics and statistics are probably not the first things that come to mind when you think of fighting slavery. This ambassador for the #If/ThenSheCan – The Exhibit might change your mind. She certainly changed mine.
Dr. Davina Durgana, a International Human Rights Statistician, Human Trafficking Professor, and featured STEM researcher in the If/Then exhibit is doing incredible things in her field to combat modern slavery and protect the world’s most vulnerable population.
This past week, I was able to discuss this inspiring exhibit with Dr. Durgana and learn more about the work she does, the women featured in the statue exhibit, and the STEM fields being featured. I asked Dr. Durgana what inspired her to pursue this much-needed line of work in this male-dominated world.
She told me, “I was inspired to pursue statistics and risk assessment when I was working directly in the modern slavery field as a practitioner and realized that a lot of the public policy and funding decisions being made at the time, especially between 2006-2010, were largely based on anecdotal evidence as opposed to hard evidence of the victims that were actually being identified and treated. At that time, I decided that I wanted to pursue my Ph.D. focusing on statistical modeling and modern slavery for the purposes of informing public policy because I knew it was exactly what my field desperately needed and it was something that I knew I was talented in.”
Dr.Durgana became one of the featured STEM researchers in the statue exhibit upon selection as an inaugural If/Then Ambassador with the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “This was a huge professional milestone for me and has been transformative in my science diplomacy and communication opportunities, as well as opportunities to engage with young women interested in STEM around the world.”
These Statues Are Way More Than Just Orange Materials
Being featured as one of the women in the statue exhibit is not only a great honor for these women who have been changing the world in ways we wouldn’t likely imagine, but the experience itself is opening doors for them and giving a wider platform for their work to make a greater impact on the world.
Durgana notes, “I have been working in statistics and modern slavery for the past decade and just since the onset of this exhibit there has been an explosion in public interest in our work, and specifically the application of STEM in this field and the role of women as leaders in our space.”
The exhibit offers these women the opportunity to grow their careers, make their work more public, unite together, and be role models for girls.
Dr.Durgana shared that she hopes “the exhibit will inspire other girls, just like it has inspired me! I am so impressed by the incredible careers so many of my fellow women in the exhibit have developed and I hope that young women who learn more about us know will be encouraged to follow their own passions and interests, whatever those may be!”
While We Wait For A Better Year, These Women Are Striving
Though the exhibit is on hold because of the pandemic, two previews have been launched at the Dallas center and in the Central Park Zoo, with sixteen 3D printed statues between them. The women behind the statues are still striving in their fields to bring progress and positive change.
“We know the unpaid household burdens that many women and girls are undertaking on top of the challenges of adjusting to the pandemic’s social, working, and educational restrictions, but please know that you are not struggling invisibly,” Durgana says. “Many of us are becoming more vocal about these unfair social standards and are actively working to address these expectations in our lives and in society. We will come out of this pandemic stronger and with more overall flexibility in our work-lives, let’s just make this transition as well as we can and aggressively protect your own mental and emotional health during this time.”