The official Borlaug 101 sessions kicked off yesterday afternoon in Des Moines, Iowa with remarks from Ambassador Kenneth M Quinn who is the president of the The World Food Prize Foundation. He acknowledged the famous founder, Norman Borlaug and that this year would have been his 101 birthday, while next year will be the 30th anniversary of World Food Prize. The international event brings advocates from around the world to Des Moines to discuss key food issues including how to raise people from poverty, how to grow a safe and nutritious food supply, how to increase productivity and this year’s special emphasis is on how to engage and support more women in agriculture and science.
The keynote speaker was Chelsea Clinton, vice president of the Clinton Foundation, and author of “It’s Your World, Get Informed, Get Inspired and Get Going,” who delivered inspiring remarks about how to encourage and support global women in agriculture as well as how to encourage young women to seek careers in STEM industries. She stressed that women are the key to alleviating hunger around the world, especially in countries like Africa where 70 percent of the farmers are women, even though the majority of the land is owned by men.
“Women are a crucial, vital and necessary part of solving the challenge of alleviating hunger,” said Clinton.
Clinton’s presentation was followed by a panel discussion that focused on women entitled, “Empowering Women and Girls Through STEM Education”. The discussion was moderated by Catherine Bertini, 2003 World Food Prize Laureate and included: Michiel Bakker, Director of Global Food Services, Google; Robert T. Fraley, 2013 World Food Prize Laureate and Monsanto CEO; The Honorable Kim Reynolds, Iowa Lt. Governor, State of Iowa; and Mary Wagner, Global Senior Vice President R&D/Quality, Food Safety & Regulatory, Starbucks.
Listen to the panel discussion here: Empowering Women and Girls Through STEM Education
There were several key takaways including reaching out to girls at a younger age to get them introduced, interested and involved in science and the need for more programs to continue to foster girls’ interest and education including mentors. But maybe most important, said Clinton, is to not let people tell you that you can’t be a scientist or mathematician. She noted that young girls are bombarded with messages about how they look at such young and formative ages and the message is that, “You’re largely valued for how you look and not what’s in your brain.” But when this happens, she stressed, don’t listen. Continue to follow your passion and show naysayers what is possible.