American Women of Science: Recovering History, Defining the Future

This is a virtual symposium taking place from October 20–22 and 27–29, 2020. Sessions will include a mix of keynotes, panels, and lightning talks.

The American Women of Science symposium aims to inspire and educate scientists, and support a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive future.

The American Women of Science: Recovering History, Defining the Future virtual symposium aims to 1) recover lesser-known histories of women in science, 2) share current research and programming breakthroughs, and 3) discuss opportunities to define a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive future. We hope this symposium will inspire and educate scientists and museum professionals, and support women on the ground. Given the Smithsonian's long history and growth across the 20th century—into nineteen museums and nine research centers—the Smithsonian's past and present provide a unique opportunity for internal reflection and external comparisons regarding the history of women in science.

We are committed to providing access services so all participants can fully engage in this event. Real-time captioning will be provided for all main panels and presentations. If you need other access services, or if you need access services for breakout sessions, please email Two weeks advance notice is appreciated. 


October 20, 2020: Histories of Women in Science

  • 1:30 PM EDT  Opening Remarks
  • 1:35 PM EDT  Symposium Co-chairs’ Welcome
  • 1:40 PM EDT  AWHI Co-chairs’ Welcome
  • 1:45 PM EDT  From Graduate Student to Under Secretary for Science at the Smithsonian—an Unlikely Journey Keynote by Dr. Eva Pell, former Smithsonian Under Secretary for Science 
  • 2:20 PM EDT  Tracing Historical Pathways of Women into STEM [panel]
  • 2:55 PM EDT  The Price of Being a Minority Woman in Science: Dr. Shirley Malcom Reflects on 44 Years of The Double Bind [panel]


October 21, 2020: Women Leaders in Biology

  • 1:30 PM EDT  Opening Remarks
  • 1:35 PM EDT  Pathbreaking Female Conservation Biologists at the National Zoo  and Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute  [panel]
  • 2:00 PM EDT  Overcoming Gender-based Obstacles to Conservation Biology and Social Science [panel]
  • 2:50 PM EDT  Women Scientists of the Future: Smithsonian Interns and their Paths through a Changing Scientific World [lightning talk]
  • 3:10 PM EDT  Mujeres de STRI: From Exclusion to Influence, Women's Role in the Making of a Scientific Community at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute [panel]
  • 4:00 PM EDT  Virtual Networking Event (Registration Required via Eventbrite)


October 22, 2020:


  • 1:30 PM EDT  Opening Remarks
  • 1:35 PM EDT  Collections, Data, and Representation in Digital Historical Work [presentation]
  • 1:55 PM EDT  Uncovering the Scientific Impact of Women at the Smithsonian Using Machine Learning [presentation]
  • 2:15 PM EDT  The Women Behind the Pseudonyms: Uncovering the Lives of Anonymous Nineteenth-Century Science Writers [lightning talk]
  • 2:35 PM EDT  Hidden Voices: A Data Analysis of Subject Headings for Books on Women in Science [panel]
  • 2:55 PM EDT  Uncovering the Work of Women in Science in Library, Archive and Museum Collections [panel]


October 27, 2020: Women’s Scientific Achievements

  • 1:30 PM EDT  Opening Remarks
  • 1:35 PM EDT  Reach Across the Stars: Interactive AR App Showcases Women in Science with Innovative Technology [panel]
  • 2:10 PM EDT  Bodies in the Field: Ursula Marvin and the Antarctic Search for Meteorites [lightning talk]
  • 2:30 PM EDT  Breaking the Ice Ceiling: Trailblazing Women in Arctic and Antarctic Science [panel]
  • 3:05 PM EDT  African American Heritage on the Chesapeake Bay and the Promotion, Integration and Sustainability of Minority Women in the Aquaculture Industry [lightning talk]
  • 3:20 PM EDT  Ecological Meaning-Making [panel]
  • 4:00 PM EDT  Virtual Networking Event (Registration Required via Eventbrite]



October 28, 2020: Full Partners in Science: Gender Equity and Inclusion

  • 1:30 PM EDT  Opening Remarks
  • 1:35 PM EDT  Agencies in Action: Lessons Learned from Diversity Initiatives at U.S. Scientific Institutions [panel]
  • 2:10 PM EDT  Sheila Minor Huff: A Trailblazing Scientist and Hidden Figure No More [fireside chat]
  • 2:25 PM EDT  Building Galaxies: Collaboration as a Model for Centering Women’s Stories at the National Air and Space Museum [panel]
  • 2:55 PM EDT  Drawn Conclusions: Women and Scientific Illustration [panel]
  • 3:10 PM EDT  Fostering Critical Conversations about Equity in the Sciences: The Bearded Lady Project [panel]
  • 3:50 PM EDT  Breakout Workshop – Fostering Critical Conversations about Equity in the Sciences: The Bearded Lady Project (Registration Required via Eventbrite)


October 29, 2020: Defining the Future

  • 1:30 PM EDT  Opening Remarks
  • 1:35 PM EDT  Keynote by Dr. Oris Sanjur, Acting Director of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute 
  • 2:05 PM EDT  First Ladies of Cultural Heritage [panel]
  • 2:40 PM EDT  Affinity Groups as Grassroots Agents of Change [panel]
  • 3:10 PM EDT  Celebrating Cross-generation Progress and Persepctives of Women in Science at the Smithsonian
  • 3:50 PM EDT  Keynote Conversation with Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III and Dr. Katrina Pagenkopp Lohan
  • 4:20 PM EDT  Closing Remarks by Kevin Gover, Under Secretary for Museums and Culture and Co-chair, American Women’s History Initiative


The Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative, Because of Her Story, seeks to deepen our knowledge and appreciation of women’s contributions in American society in the contemporary moment and the historical past, to stimulate conversation about the ways in which they have changed, and to understand their continuing influence in American and global contexts. The Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative is inclusive, highlighting the stories of those who identify as women and those who were designated female but self-identify differently.