Colleagues, fellow researchers and research students
In December 2015 the UN declared that the 11th of February each year should be the UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science (http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/70/212). That's today! (Or, yesterday if you are reading this on Monday.) The specific wording of the declaration may raise questions in our cultural context, but the broader intention is completely clear. Gender should not be a barrier to participating in and contributing to the development of rational thinking about the natural and social world. The exclusion of a significant fraction of the world's population - including here in the UK - from participating in science is detrimental to those who are discriminated against, to their families and communities, and to the broader society. Furthermore, the development of science is being impeded by our not making full and best use of the intellectual capacity that is available to us. This is an extraordinary failing at a time when the human race faces such compelling challenges.
Of course, you may respond that as an institution, in groups, and as individuals, there is clear commitment and a lot of continuing activity to try to address this imbalance, particularly at a local level. I am confident that in so responding you would acknowledge that this is a difficult and complex problem, and that our efforts are not always as effective as we would like: there remains much untapped potential to be released. Moreover, the problems that we might try to address in our own local world are closely linked to similar problems outside the borders of our institution, beyond our communities and beyond our national borders. In short - can we do more?
My own feeling is that we should do something specifically to respond to the call from the United Nations. We could be doing that in any of numerous ways - I have some ideas but you probably do as well. We could respond at a small or large scale, locally, institutionally, or externally. The 11th February comes around every year. If you would like to contribute - perhaps just an idea - towards recognising the importance of this day in our calendar, for example in a year's time, please do get in touch for a discussion. I'm at firstname.lastname@example.org.