Sarah Harder: “It is very important for a woman to be flexible in terms of our constantly changing reality”.
Sarah Harder is a president of National Peace Fund, an honorary professor of University of Wisconsin, an active figure in philanthropy, a founder of STEM project, which is aimed at raising girls’ interest in mathematics. At the International forum “Women's Dialogue. Infinity Charity” Sarah spoke with journalists of Eurasian Women’s Community and told them about her vision of the women’s historical role and evolution of women’s movement.
-What is it that connects you with Russia concerning relations which develop during the Eurasian Women’s Forum?
-This topic is very important. My experience of working with women’s organisations started in the nineties, when I first visited the USSR. At that time many women’s communities started to appear. It was the golden age of women’s movement. Back then nobody could understand what to do next. However, I was astonished at seeing every Russian woman striving to be a leader.
As my Russian is very poor I could only watch, but at the time I noticed the absence of unity between women. What I like at the forum is that people who came here are not just waiting for their speaking turns to come, but literally absorbing the speech of each other. That was an intense discussion with the high level of all members’ involvement. I see the great difference between this forum and the first one, where people listened more than actually discussed anything. So that is the standalone advantage of our meeting. It is very interesting to experience such a vast discussion in terms of your country being multinational which means that the dialogue can sometimes be difficult to create.
-What is your vision of the woman’s role in the history of state?
-In my opinion, it is very important for a woman to be flexible in terms of our constantly changing reality. It is the only way for us to contribute to the development of state. We have a technologically-developed world right before us. And when a woman is not working with exact sciences, there will always be restrictions placed on her. Because of that we are not respected and heard properly. I think that women should master the technological instruments.
Those who are concerned about progress possess enormous responsibilities. We should greatly assist those people. There should be women among them. The technologies will help us unite in future. The more experience we gain, the higher is our readiness to make our world such as it needs to be.
I always sensed the opportunity of sharing opinions and ideas. When women gather to discuss something, it always leads to productive results. During the conversation we can discard some false decisions.
-Why do you work with STEM programme?
-STEM means all or nothing. However, it develops rather slowly. This programme is aimed at helping women to feel the restrictions of not knowing the laws of world operation and at solving this problem.
-Mathematics is one of the parts of STEM programme. In which volume, in your opinion, should this science be taught in schools and universities?
-What I say is mathematics is essential in university education. In our family we had a certain mathematical curse. My father wasn’t good at it. So then I started to avoid it thinking that I would not manage to master it. Unfortunately, now I see that my granddaughter who has just enrolled the college has some inner difficulties with it. She studies well but her main subject is biology. She has already made up her mind not to work with exact sciences. It is sad that such stereotypes suppress women and make them give up. Sometimes we just aren’t sure whether we’ll manage to accomplish it. I think that we should do everything we can to help young girls believe in themselves and reach the success. And mathematics is our major tool.
-How long do you do public work and how does it help you to reach moral satisfaction?
-It was always interesting for me. It started at the university. I had to continue my studies after the baby was born but there wasn’t a room suitable for a mother and her child. So I started to negotiate with male management and finally they agreed. After that I started to notice some other things which needed to be changed in order to make women’s lives better. I was good at it and it helped many other students and employees.
-How do the media in the USA cover the positive women’s activity?
-It depends. My opinion is that media’s attention depends on how we present ourselves. In the past, when I was a part of women’s movements, we had a certain approach to media. We were like “you’ll have to notice us, we are so strong, we dislike everything, we are against everything” (Laughs and shows a punch). And now my vision is that we have to feel comfortably in the unknown spheres and spheres of improvement. Only then the media would speak about us. We work together to discover the new ways of collaboration and to spread communication. That is how we share our experience. The main point is not to help only those who need it but also to collaborate so as to show who we are and whom are we going to be. That is how I see the message of a small word of STEM which means so little and so much. That is where the global potential for development and self-enrichment of women lies.
-What can you wish to all Russian women?
-To remain as they are. (Laughs.) When I first came here, I was astonished at how women of this country are good at technologies and exact sciences. There is no such thing in the USA so it amazed me then and amazes me now. I think that Russian and American women are striving to create dialogue in the same manner. The thing we hope for must prevail. But it is still important to empower women in the sphere of technologies as nowadays it is essential. This is the key to enter the modern world.
Agata Korovina, news agency of Eurasian Women’s Community
Translated by Nikolay Boykov