The women of the day show off their global awards from Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management Director Lawrence Self (c). They are (from l) Theresa Leland, Sally Lee, Dr. Linda Birnbaum, Dr. Sharon Hrynkow and OEODM Federal Women’s Program Manager Margarite Curtis-Farrell.
Photo: Jennifer Haley
NIEHS director Dr. Linda Birnbaum and associate director Dr. Sharon Hrynkow were featured speakers at the NIH 2009 Women’s History Month Observance held in Wilson Hall on Mar. 12.
Birnbaum underscored the NIEHS commitment to “stepping up its activities in regard to climate change and global environmental health.” Hrynkow presented the keynote talk at the event—“Women Taking the Lead to Save the Planet.”
The audience was welcomed by organizer Sally Lee, executive officer of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, who noted that NIH employs more than 10,000 women, many of them in major roles, including seven who serve as directors of institutes and centers.
Hrynkow has worked in leadership and policy positions at the Fogarty International Center, the State Department and United Nations Foundation. Focusing on her work at NIEHS forming global environmental health partnerships, her talk explored the contributions of women’s leadership in protecting the environment through research and activities designed to reverse ecological destruction.
Hrynkow emphasized that “we are very [intricately] tied to our environment.” She pointed to the myriad health risks people face in their environments and the anticipated effects of climate change and referred to the sobering predictions of World Health Organization director-general Dr. Margaret Chan, who described climate change as the “fifth horseman” of a looming potential environmental apocalypse.
Hrynkow profiled two women whose contributions to global environmental health may help avert apocalypse—former WHO director-general Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland and Peruvian social entrepreneur and Ashoka Foundation fellow Albina Ruiz. Brundtland, Hrynkow explained, epitomizes the contributions of women at the highest policy levels, while Ruiz exemplifies the community-based bottom-up approach of activists making significant contributions to environmental health at the local level.
Both approaches, Hrynkow noted, are essential, and both are examples of how women everywhere can take the lead to save the planet. She closed by paraphrasing philanthropist Ted Turner, “Men have had a chance to run the planet for a long time, and we’ve seen the outcomes. Now it’s time to give women a chance.”
Birnbaum highlighted new possibilities at the center of the global environmental challenge. As difficult as the future will be, she concluded, “I see lots of opportunities for us…and I look forward to the journey [ahead].”
The event was sponsored by the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management.