President Lucille Beseler Speaks at International Day of Women and Girls in Science

02/10/2017 - President Lucille Beseler, MS, RDN, LDN, CDE, FAND, spoke at the International Day of Women and Girls in Science commemoration at the United Nations in New York on February 10, 2017. The transcript of her speech is available below.

Gender Science and Sustainable Development: The Impact of Media

Your excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen: Thank you very much! It is a pleasure and a privilege to be here today.

Encouraging and empowering young women to pursue careers in science goes to the very heart of our mission at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

It is an honor for me to be serving as the Academy's 2016-2017 President. I'm proud to say we are the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, and we have set a standard of science-based excellence and achievement for women for 100 years.

I am especially proud to be serving as the Academy prepares for our centennial and the beginning of our Second Century in 2017. We're looking ahead, as our founders did 100 years ago, to set a bold vision for our organization and our profession.

Our commitment is – and always has been – to help solve the greatest food challenges of the coming century through the transformational power of nutrition, using a science- and evidence-based approach.

Nutrition is a science, not a fad, as celebrities and the media would have you believe. Nutrition is the basis of life. The practice of nutrition and dietetics is imperative in improving health and has a prominent role in health care.

In virtually every society, many health care decisions historically have been controlled by women – caring, sincere and focused on working together to better their families and communities. In the early days of organized health care, it was an easy transition for women.

They were already tending to the needs of their families and now would tend to the needs of others as health care workers.

The Academy's founders were influenced by World War I, and the health of soldiers. They also focused on the nutritional health of communities during times of rationing in an effort to prevent malnutrition.

They saw a need. They joined forces.

And, as always, women rose to the occasion.

We can't underestimate how unheard-of it was in 1917, for a group of women to first go to college and then to create their own science-based profession. Brave women, with great inner strength.

We follow in their footsteps.

Women and girls all over the world dream of making a difference by working in health care. My own life experience may help illustrate this point. As a little girl I dreamed of helping people to improve their health. Let me tell you about that little girl.

I grew up 10 miles from here in a one-bedroom apartment with my mother and sister. Looking out the window, you might be able to see the apartment building I grew up in.

My mother was divorced, raising two daughters. She worked six days a week in a male-dominated field of finance – no easy task at that time.

I was the first person in my family to go to college, studying nutrition science.

Nutrition was not my first choice. In high school, I told my guidance counselor that I wanted to be a medical doctor. She told me I was not smart enough, my marks were not good enough and most importantly it is not easy for women to be doctors.

It was due to my mother's unparalleled encouragement that her daughters should go to college that we did. She set the ultimate example for us, going to school at night to pursue her accounting degree. My sister earned her degree in education and accounting and today she is pursuing an advanced accounting degree.

We were so fortunate to have a strong role model with the unshakeable conviction that her girls go to college and choose meaningful fields.

We owe today's young women that same unshakeable conviction that STEM careers are valued. Media exposure for women in science is a huge help. The Academy does our part by spotlighting the expertise and successes of our members – the large majority of whom are women – in the media.

Through thousands of interviews, in print and on television, as well as by writing articles and blog postings, our members show how a career in a science-based health profession is rewarding on so many levels.

Virtually all of the Academy's 75,000-plus members have college degrees in a science discipline, and about half have earned master's degrees or greater. They are role models that today's young women can look up to with pride.

Empowering young women to pursue careers in STEM fields has practical benefits for society as well. According to a recent survey published on the personal finance website, 13 of the top 25 jobs for Millennials right now are in STEM fields.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has empowered women for a century to pursue the scientific profession of nutrition and dietetics. We will continue to encourage women – and men – to enter this important profession. And they will find scientific solutions to global nutritional problems including malnutrition, obesity and reversing heart disease.

I am wearing a red dress today to illustrate that point and to remind us that heart disease is the number-one killer of women in the United States. As a registered dietitian nutritionist who works every day with women of all ages and all types of health conditions, I can tell you that heart-healthy food choices can help reduce your risk of heart disease. The Academy is proud to support the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women campaign and National Heart Month.

Collaboration between health care groups and the media has been the key to success in this campaign. To spread the message on the Second International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we need collaboration and media support.

Thank you to Princess Nisreen for including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics today. You can count on us and our 75,000-plus members to educate and spread the message to women and young girls.

We should never tell young women that they can't do it, or they are not smart enough to pursue a career in math or science. With hard work and support, anything is possible… whether you are a poor girl from New York City or from a small town across the world.

Together we can empower women and girls to select rewarding fields in STEM and the world will reap the benefits.

Thank you very much!