How to Celebrate International Women's Day 2012

What's the Big Idea?

Happy International Women's Day! This is the first of many events throughout the month which focus on celebrating the historic achievements of women around the world, while highlighting the injustices of women's continued socio-economic inequality.

This morning, Big Think attended a breakfast held by Women's World Banking -- the only microfinance organization dedicated exclusively and explicitly to women -- in honor of the day. Over 200 women came from around the world to talk about widespread economic disparities and the importance of gaining financial independence. The conversation was moderated by Pat Mitchell of The Paley Center for Media, with a panel comprised of Melinda Wolfe from Bloomberg; Julia Chu, Head of Philanthropy at Credit Suisse, and Michael Useem of the Wharton School of Business.

Watch our recent interview with WWB CEO Mary Ellen Iskendarian:

What's the Significance?

In the discussion that followed, Chu discussed the importance of "patient capital," which means shifting emphasis from investing in individuals to investing in the communities that support them. It's easy to relate to the story of a single woman, she noted, but sometimes we miss the invisible network of people in the background who are supporting that individual -- the infrastructure that helps her fight for her place at the table. 

Of course, there's still the question of why it has taken so long for women to achieve actual political and economic power. Tokenism is not enough. "Critical mass representation is the lever for change in gender parity," said Wolfe. 

When we asked Iskendarian the most important lesson she'd learned about empowerment, she expressed the same sentiment. "I sort of regret having missed so many years of my life not knowing... just how absolutely central the role of women is to financial stability, to household stability. If kids are going to get to school and stay in school and have food to eat while they’re there and remain healthy while they’re there, it’s because the women are going to make that happen."  

What Can You Do?

Click here to view the first segment of our interview with Mary Ellen Iskendarian, released on November 10, 2011, in which she discusses the potential for change.

Read more about Women's World Banking here.

Related Articles

How does alcohol affect your brain?

Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.

(Photo by Angie Garrett/Wikimedia Commons)
Mind & Brain
  • Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
  • Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
  • Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists sequence the genome of this threatened species

If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.

Surprising Science
  • A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
  • It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
  • Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.

If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.

Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.

elephant by Guillaume le Clerc

Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons

13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.

It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.

But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.

John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."

What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.

Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.

Why cauliflower is perfect for the keto diet

The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.

Purple cauliflower. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Surprising Science
  • The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
  • The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
  • It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
Keep reading Show less