The 2020 U.S. election could not have come at a more tumultuous time—amid a global pandemic, widespread unemployment, demands for racial justice, all amplified by blatant disdain for science, evidence and human rights. From shepherding and normalizing hatred and bigotry as domestic policy to slowing down meaningful progress on climate to eroding the pillars of our democracy, the impacts of the 2016 U.S. election will continue to ripple through the world for decades to come. The last four years have shown us just how deeply white supremacy, patriarchy and oppressive societal norms are embedded into every fiber of our society. We know these problems didn’t start with the 2016 election and they won’t end come 2021.
Today, we breathe a collective sigh of relief and celebrate a victory, but let us be clear: it should never have been this close. Over 71 million Americans cast their ballots either in outright celebration of bigotry, hatred and lies—or with a callous indifference to their effects. And lest we forget, a large portion of those ballots were cast by college-educated white women who have either excused or delighted in the rhetoric of the last four years. Progress towards an equitable and just society doesn’t hinge on one election, and the 2020 U.S. election has proven that we have our work cut out for us.
As an organization, we of 500 Women Scientists are a long way from where we started in November 2016, as we watched a vastly unqualified and unprepared man get the most powerful job in the world over a supremely qualified woman—an experience intimately familiar to most women in STEM. That election was a wake-up call for many of us. We have spent the last four years learning the ropes of grassroots activism, building a powerful network and calling women scientists to action, all with the goal of dismantling systemic barriers that hold women back in science and launching women into positions of power.
Since 2016, we have grown to thousands of members and almost 500 pods (local chapters) worldwide. We created a platform to abolish manels and make it easy to find a woman scientist with expertise in any discipline (13,000 experts and counting!), edited thousands of Wikipedia pages to make sure women’s contributions to science are acknowledged, launched a fellowship for women of color, and grew a network of thousands of women scientists and supporters who are working on making science open, inclusive and accessible.
WHAT THE 2020 ELECTION MEANS TO US
Watching President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris’s remarks on November 7 was emotional; the despair and trauma of the last four years released into tears of relief, pride and joy. The Biden-Harris victory is historic for many reasons. Kamala Harris is the first woman to occupy the post of vice president, the first Black person, the first Indian and Asian American, a child of immigrants, and the daughter of a scientist! The new Biden-Harris administration has expressed a commitment to embedding science and equity into all aspects of their work, from launching new federal programs to combat the climate and water crises to specific mandates for investments in lower income and historically marginalized communities.
Our goals now more closely align with an administration that understands and supports the role of science, research and innovation in solving some of our most pressing challenges. However, in the midst of relief and celebration, we would be remiss not to acknowledge that President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris have also harmed marginalized and vulnerable communities, particularly Black and Indigenous communities, in the past. Representation alone has never been, and will never be, enough; we need tangible, material benefits from Biden, Harris and our government. Therefore, we remain committed to holding our institutions accountable in support of broadening participation in STEM fields, centering marginalized communities in policy development, and a commitment to improving public health, environmental quality, and gender and racial equity.
We stand ready to help meet our collective goals and, when needed, hold the new administration accountable for following through. We will continue to push for a progressive science-based agenda, including the Green New Deal, pay equity, accountability for harassment and discrimination, equitable access to health care, defunding the police, and investing in our communities to ensure everyone has the opportunity to thrive.
“I will name a group of leading scientists and experts to lead the transition.” — @JoeBiden— Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson ���� (@ayanaeliza) November 8, 2020
As the new Biden-Harris administration takes charge on January 20, 2021, our priorities for the new administration include ensuring:
- Scientists, specifically women and BIPOC, in leadership positions in the administration.
- Immediate steps to rebuild and reinvigorate the federal STEM workforce that has been depleted during the Trump administration.
- Aggressive and ambitious steps to address climate change in an equitable and just way, beyond re-entering the Paris Agreement on climate.
- Comprehensive family-leave policies that support parents and ensure women’s careers are not negatively affected by having children.
- Gender pay equity.
- Steps to level the playing field for parents and kids from all racial and economic backgrounds.
- Universal health care.
- Removal of barriers to voting, especially in historically disenfranchised communities.
- Support for international science collaboration to solve our most pressing global challenges including: COVID-19, cancer, environmental degradation and climate change.
We will no longer have to spend as much of our energy on defense, resisting policies that turn back the clock on human rights and that endanger lives. We are hopeful that we can now make rapid progress with an administration that appears ready to prioritize equity, justice and science. However, our work is far from done; the U.S. and the world still face an uphill battle and we must not get complacent—rooting out racism and misogyny doesn’t happen overnight. With the election of Biden and Harris, we recommit to our mission to make science and society more equitable and just.
We call on scientists and supporters across the world to join us. We seek transformation of our societal and institutional norms, and it will take time and collective effort—four years ago, we joined a lifelong fight for justice and our vision remains the same:
- That social justice, diversity, equity and inclusion are foundational in a thriving society and in science.
- That our movement must center the most marginalized among us.
- That gender and sex are not binary.
- That trans rights are human rights.
- That science needs Dreamers and no person is illegal.
- That borders are antithetical to our shared humanity and the spirit of progress.
- That those who harass and bully have no place in society or in science.
- That we cannot address climate change without addressing racial and other forms of injustice.
- That evidence-based policy is central to tackling issues ranging from climate change to gun violence.
- That we must act on climate.
- That all people have a fundamental right to decide if, when and how to have children, and that parenthood should not limit women’s careers.
- That women should set the agenda and have the resources to succeed in science and society.
We are members of racial, ethnic, and religious minority groups. We are immigrants. We are people with disabilities. We are LGBTQIA. We are scientists. We are women. Join us.