National Women’s History Month

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Source: Betty Layne DesPortes, JD, MS, AAFS President

During the month of March, we celebrated National Women’s History Month by remembering and honoring the six female Past Presidents of AAFS:  June K. Jones, Toxicologist (1979-1980), Maureen Casey Owens, Document Examiner (1984-1985), Marina Stajić, Toxicologist, (1992-1993), Patricia J. McFeeley, Pathologist (1999-2000), Mary Fran Ernst, Death Investigator (2001-2002), and Carol E. Henderson, Attorney (2008-2009).

In 1981, the United States Congress designated the second week of March “National Women’s History Week” and expanded the effort to a month-long observance in 1987. This is the first year that the Academy has marked National Women’s History Month with news items profiling trailblazing women in the Academy.

We focused our observance of National Women’s History Month this year on our female past presidents. We described their paths to leadership and their accomplishments both before and after serving as president. They pioneered new methods and techniques, developed training and educational courses, created online resources, and authored numerous publications. They stood for quality forensic science analysis and championed rigorous professional standards. Their work within the Academy contributed to our enduring traditions and programs, including international outreach, the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC), and the Forensic Sciences Foundation.

From diverse backgrounds in different disciplines, and with a variety of interests, these women have shown that there is not just one path to leadership. In addition to their passion for improving the state of forensic science, each of these women shared a commitment to making the path easier for others. They opened the doors for so many of us. Women are now at the forefront of the boom in forensic science educational programs, comprising approximately 75% of graduates from accredited forensic science programs in the United States. Forensic science is the only discipline within the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) field that features a majority of female graduates.

Although this year we focused on past presidents, it is important to remember that you do not need to be president to lead. Lead from where you are. Take advantage of the educational and professional opportunities that are available to blaze your own path and improve the forensic science community. If you have ideas for committees, training programs, educational support, research, or any other effort, let your section and board representatives know. Volunteer to assist committees that work in the areas of your interest. Get active in the Academy and let us help you accomplish amazing things.

To our female past presidents, we say, “Thank you for all you have done.” To the members and affiliates, especially students, who are just getting started in forensic science careers, we say, “Thank you for what you will do — we know it will be great!”