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Women in STEM showcased with bright orange statues at Smithsonian for Women’s History Month

The “If Then/She Can” Exhibit boasts the largest collection of all-female statues ever in one place.
Published: Mar. 14, 2022 at 10:33 AM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Visitors to the Smithsonian museums this month will have a hard time missing the bright orange statues gracing the gardens and inside the exhibits, but the eye-catching color isn’t the only special thing about the statues.

It’s called the “If Then/She Can” exhibit. It boasts the largest collection of female statues ever in one place. 120 women from 41 states and Puerto Rico are represented. The statues are 3D printed models of living women who are currently excelling in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

Nicole Small, the CEO of Lyda Hill Philanthropies, the exhibits sponsor, said it was created to inspire young girls towards careers in STEM.

“If a little girl sees someone that looks like her, then she knows she can go out and change the world,” Small said.

The bright orange statues were unveiled in the Haupt Garden of the Smithsonian at the beginning of the month as part of the Smithsonian’s Women’s Futures celebration. The Smithsonian’s Rachel Goslins said it’s the diversity of the statues that makes the exhibit special.

“You really just see the wealth of possibilities that are out there,” Goslins said.

The featured women include everything from AI professionals and game developers to dancers and artists.

“Each woman has an amazing story to tell, and a journey in STEM of her own,” Small said.

Among the statues in the Haupt Garden is Anjali Chadha, an MIT bioengineering student originally from Louisville, Kentucky, who is the founder and CEO of her own nonprofit.

“She is just for us the quintessential story around a young woman who has been passionate about science and is excited to tell her story,” said Small.

Also in the garden is biomedical engineer and children’s author, Dr. Arlyne Simon, from Portland, Oregon. Small said, “she’s using all parts of her brain,” to share stories of science.

There are several of the statues inside the Air and Space Museum. They include Dr. Erika Hamden, a telescope maker and astrophysics professor from Tucson, Arizona, and Mary Beth Westmoreland, a computer programmer who is a tech leader at Amazon and a resident of Charleston, South Carolina. Small said they’re both role models for young girls looking to excel in tech and science.

Inside the Smithsonian’s Futures Exhibit is the statue of St. Louis, Missouri’s Chante Summers. Summers works for Pfizer on projects including vaccine development and other medical projects.

“She works on some amazing therapeutics that we know are going to change the world someday,” Small said.

The statues will leave Washington on March 27, and the exhibit has a virtual tour available at IfThenExhibit.org.

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