March 8 marks International Women’s Day (IWD), a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The missions of this more than 100–year–old movement are to help forge a gender–equal world, raise awareness, build inclusiveness and champion innovation. The 2021 celebration marks more than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, and its supporters are witnesses to a challenging environment of disproportionately negative impacts to women’s progress. Despite this compounding threat, women have forged ahead to innovate against the odds, partnering and inventing to create and connect communities.
Women’s socially-oriented innovations, whether in accelerating technology or in improving procedural efficiency have strengthened human connections, driven scientific advancement, and dramatically improved access to vaccines throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
- Nujuum Hassi had recently returned home to Somalia from a trip to Kenya and realized she had been sickened by the coronavirus. To remain connected while self-isolated and recovering, Hassi began illustrating her experience and holding live drawing classes to encourage others to care for and be more aware of the struggles in their community.
- Teen sisters Shreya and Saffron Patel cut through quarantine with “Letters Against Isolation,” an organization linking more than 10,500 letter-writing volunteers with lonely elderly recipients across five countries.
- Pfizer’s Kathrin Jansen referenced her love of developing vaccines to lead a 650-person team in the partnership with BioNTech to rapidly and effectively develop a vaccine against COVID-19. In her role as Senior Vice President & Head of Vaccine Research and Development, she learned from previous experiences the power of remaining confident and simply pressing on.
- Frustrated by an unwieldy process for locating vaccination availability, Lilla, Polly and Abigail Gabrieli collaborated to develop a web-based alert system to notify frustrated searchers in Massachusetts of windows of open appointments. Said Lilla, a master’s student in data science, “We were thinking, ‘There has to be an easier way.’”
The first IWD was held seven years before the 1918 Influenza epidemic that also drew an extended effort from women – students, volunteers and nurses both in infirmaries and homes – and seeded a service movement reflected in today’s fight against COVID-19.
As the IWD 2021 theme informs us, “a challenged world is an alert world.” Remarkable women are active innovators in this challenging COVID-19 era. and they exemplify society’s century-long IWD movement toward equality and inclusion. We celebrate their achievements.
International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. IWD has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people. Learn more at https://www.internationalwomensday.com/