Earth to Society: Women Scientists Exist!!!
Who is your Woman of Excellence?

Every year, AWiB celebrates women who have made significant contributions to their communities.  AWiB calls these women “Women of Excellence” as they are the embodiment of the word “excellence.”  The reasons behind the celebrations of these women are (one) to give recognition where it is due and (two) to bring out phenomenal women role models for the generation to follow.  Due to the pandemic, AWiB was not able to hold HER annual Women of Excellence gala dinner this year, which would have happened yesterday.

Who/What is a role model?

A role model is defined as “a person whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by younger people.”  Role models are influential people who you aspire to be like.  It could be someone you know, like a family member or a teacher, or it could be someone you never met, like a celebrity.  In any case, role models shape your mindset and become the standards you compare yourself against.  A person might have multiple role models.  For example, you might have a role model that you look up to in your professional life and another you admire in your personal life.

Why are female role models important?

When you look for a mentor or a role model in general, you tend to look for someone who looks like you.  You would want to match your gender, your skin color, your life, with theirs.  You do this because you would feel more connected to a person who you think has gone through what you have gone through.  If you are an African woman, the success of a white, privileged man might be interesting, but it will not likely be inspiring.  What would be more inspiring is to see a black woman at the height of her career, or better yet, a woman in your home town who started from nothing and is achieving extraordinary things.  And if you want to know why female role models are important for boys and society at large, I suggest you read this blog by AWiB blogger Hileleule Getachew.

Why are women role models not recognized?

If you have read any of my blogs, you would know by now how women have been excluded from HIStory in one form or another.  From the few numbers of women in STEM to the dismissal of female warrior skeletons as male, women throughout the timeline of human existence have been overlooked.  So to think the world would magically put women role models front and center is an unrealistic expectation in humans’ current state.  But, not all hope is lost as more and more women are coming out from behind the curtains.  Organizations like AWiB are going a step further by seeking out Ethiopian women and making them visible.

My women of excellence

I am extremely sad that AWiB was not able to hold the annual WOE event this year.  So I thought I would write about my women of excellence.  The women I am going to list below are some of the many women who have made an impact in my life; women who have shown me what it means to be a phenomenal woman.

Rehima Jemal:  My beloved mother who raised me to be strong and independent.

Fatuma Muhe:  My great grandmother who refused to stay married to a man who decided to have a second wife and instead lived an independent and beautiful life.

Professor Valeria Bertacco:  My research adviser who has guided me in my research journey in computer architecture and continues to be of invaluable support.

Beza Banatyehu:  My best friend who has always been my support system and a constant reminder of hard work and dedication.

Dr Tminit Gebru, Dr. Rediet Abebe and Joy Buolamwini:  For their work in ethics and fairness in AI and for creating the groups Black in AI and AI justice league.

Nahu Senay Girma:  Founder of AWiB, for teaching me so much in such a short time and bringing out the writer in me.

Sewit Habtegiorgies:  my sponsor for the AWiB internship I am so thankful for.  None of this would have been possible had it not been for your generosity.

The AWiB staff, Board and members:  for each and every time we ever collaborated or even spoke; no AWiB conversation went without an impact on my life

Maya Angeloue:  for every book I read and video I saw of Maya has taught me life lessons I use in my journey

Hanna Lemma and the whole Addis Powerhouse team: Hannah for co-founding Addis Powerhouse, a monthly feminist newsletter with me and the whole team for your dedication to the cause.  Your hard work inspires me everyday.

These and so many women like them are the reason why I walk tall and proud today.  There are still so many women whose stories have not been told and whose impact has not been appreciated. Hence, I ask you today: Who is your Woman of Excellence?

Written by: Hellina Hailu