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WOMEN WIN

On Thursday night, we competed in a pitch competition – the Big Idea at Colorado College. Women-led teams took home a majority of the prize money! Take that, Silicon Valley! 

Elise: To My Power Pitcher,

My brother teased me last night because he said that you and I looked, “nonplussed, business as usual,” when we stood up to accept our first place award at the Big Idea. However, you and I know that we were nervous about returning to compete and very ecstatic to win. As if we can expect nothing less from Colorado College, our competition was inspiring and intimidating! This year’s competition was also inspiring because, for the first time, women-led teams made up a majority of the competing teams, and the ladies took home a majority of the prize money! That’s opposite the trend in the start-up world, where women receive only 2.5% of venture funding given to men. And, on average, male-led companies will receive double the amount of funding per investment, compared to women-led companies. These numbers make me want to pull my hair, fortunately, I don’t have enough hair to grab onto.

The second place finishers, Raw Sauce make some really tasty fermented hot sauce. I love kimchi, I love spice, I love chips. George and Alex’s pitch was well delivered, and they had already sold out of 70 bottles in 48 hours. What?? Seriously, impressive.

The third-place finishers, Momentix, is where I really get excited. Momentix is led by Alana, Anna, and Josie. Both Alana and Anna are physics majors (Anna double majors with art), just like me! Momentix is creating Rube-Goldberg machines, which I admittedly have never built before. These are the machines built from levers, pulleys, and home objects that can be used as an exciting way to complete a basic physical task, such as turning on the sink. Momentix mission is to make Rube-Goldberg machines both accessible and social, by supplying the intimidating pulleys and levers pre-built, and an online platform for kids to share their creations. Childhood exposure to building, playing, and problem-solving, and so important for people being motivated to pursue STEM later in life. Momentix has the potential to shift the gender dynamics of toys and science! It’s difficult to explain the gender gap in STEM.

To start, there are the obvious difficulties, such as being one of three girls in 30+ person class, harassment from the overwhelming amount of immature boys we must be surrounded by and work with, bias from our professors, lack of female role models, lack of female colleagues, stereotype threat, unconscious bias in potential employers and grant readers, etc etc etc. But before we even get there, we have to sit down in a physics class in the first place. My childhood is probably similar to many girls. I was never exposed to any building projects, tools, electronics, etc. My brother was always taken away to do activities with dad or grandpa. As a child, I heavily internalized gender roles and felt afraid to step outside of them. When I decided to go into physics it was more of a freak, random decision with little “physics” hobbies leading up to physics. In college, I doubted my place in physics when a male professor would say, “any physicist has played with __, __, __.” No, I hadn’t played with those toys or shared those with my peers. Why do I think I belong here? Why do I think I’m prepared enough to study physics if I didn’t train my brain with these toys as a child?

Thank goodness I am stubborn enough to fight this voice, I’m really glad to be here! I can say though, that I would have felt more comfortable in physics if I had played with Momentics as a child. In the future, I hope when a girl is teased or doubted by a peer or teacher, she can whip out her Rube-Goldberg machine and school them with her double door closing, dog feeding, bed making contraption. And if anyone tries to doubt us ladies and our companies, we can whip out our giant checks.

I am so inspired by the women we competed with, including LifExpectancy, an app (free, download it) coded completely by a freshman, Lauren Weiss. Holy shit, Lauren, you are going to take the tech world by storm!! I’m also inspired by the many female and femme role models we have in our lives. This week was a big big win for the ladies, AAAAYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!

Love,

Elise

Cassidy: To My Business Boss,

You sound like Leslie Knope when you get this excited. And nothing gets you more excited than crushing with Chica or other women in STEM. I love it.

I am not quite a woman in STEM, but I am a woman in economics. So I am well-acquainted with the feeling of being among the numbered femme few in a male-majority class. It is extremely isolating. And difficult to fit your voice in edgewise when you are surrounded by young men who are just so used to being listened to. (Keeping in mind that I am speaking as a white-passing woman; I still occupy a space of extreme privilege in that respect).

The sense of isolation is further reinforced by the “Queen Bee” archetype: women who advance in our fields are warned that the “The biggest enemy of women is a powerful woman.” A TIME Money article notes that “women don’t advance in their careers beyond a certain point without learning to interrupt, at least in this male-dominated tech setting,” so strong female leaders are often dismissed as “bossyunpleasant, and bitchy.” And unless she chooses the path of the “Righteous Woman,” a female leader is not expected to support her fellow femmes in power, because they read as threats to her own position. We’re expected to step on each other’s necks in our efforts to climb the corporate ladder.

But, statistically speaking, this stereotype does not manifest very commonly–rather, having other women in your field makes it a more comfortable space for you to occupy. Shocker. Having role models, having advocates, having study partners; seeing yourself reflected in a position of influence. This is extremely powerful, and should not be underestimated.

That is why this year’s Big Idea win feels so special. I was afraid of what it would mean for us if we didn’t take home the biggest check; would it indicate that our project is doomed to fail–that we are the only ones who still believe in Chica? But even if we hadn’t taken first place, I would have been thrilled to stand on that stage with our peers in innovation. I am proud to be part of the cultural shift that is taking place within Innovation at Colorado College: last year we were the first women-led team to place, and this year we were among a women-led majority. It actually makes me giddy. Plus, Momentics–and the team behind it–are just so COOL.

When we think about change on a macro level, many of us will point to education as the source. The catalyst. But the willingness to actually invest in education comes more slowly. So disruptions like Momentics will be extra powerful: they will provide the foundation for women like you to believe in their acuity and ability from the very beginning, without relying on anyone else.

We are seeing change–albeit slow change–and the work to make innovation inclusive and intersectional spaces continues. But we are surrounded by remarkable people, and I think that is something to be truly proud of.

Cheers,

Cass

Poria

Fungus & Root

Scierotium Poriae Cocos / Fu Ling / 茯苓 Scierotium Pararadicis Poriae Cocos / Fu Shen / 茯神

Poria calms the heart and soothes nerves, helping with anxiety and insomnia. Additionally, Poria drains dampness, an excess of moisture that the body collects in the wrong places and makes us feel heavy and fatigued (hello moodiness).

Chinese Salvia

Root

Radix Salviae Miltiorrhizae / Dan Shen / 丹參

Salvia root nourishes the blood and heart, and calms the spirit. Salvia works with Schisandra and Zizyphus in Chica Chill to help relieve insomnia.

Rehmannia

Root

Radix Rehmanniae Preparata / Sheng Di Huang / 熟地黄

Rehmannia root is your Yin nourisher, supporting calm and cold in your system. With its additional ability to help cool blood, increase fluids, and clear heart fire; Rehmannia is a star herb for soothing and preventing heat flashes.

Polygala / Thin-Leaf Milkwort

Root

Radix Polygalae Tenuifoliae / Yuan Zhi / 元志

Polygala root nourishes the Heart, and helps soothe nerves and restlessness.

Schisandra / Chinese Magnolia

Berry

Fructus Schisandrae Chinensis / Wu Wei Zi / 五味子

Schisandra berry is famous for featuring all five flavors of Traditional Chinese Medicine: bitter, sweet, salty, sour, hot. This means that Schisandra is completely energetically balanced, promoting overall health and vitality. Schisandra helps relieve night sweats, insomnia, and hormonal imbalances. Schisandra is also rich in antioxidants that are thought to protect from free radicals and other toxins in the environment that may cause cellular damage. 

Platycodon / Balloon Flower

Root

Radix Platycodi / Jie Geng / 桔梗

Platycodon root is a neutral balancing herb, meaning it is not especially Yin or Yang. Platycodon is nourishing for the lungs, which in TCM, is the organ that supports Qi and fluid flow throughout the body.

Scrophularia / Figwort

Root

Radix Scrophulariae / Xuan Shen / 玄參

Scrophularia root nourishes Yin, drains fire, and cools the blood. Scrophularia is particularly soothing for irritability.

Ophiopogon / Dwarf Lilyturf

Tuber

Tuber Ophiopogonis Japonici / Mai Men Dong / 麦门冬

Ophiopogon tuber works with Asparagus to nourish Yin and clear heat throughout the system. These plants also provide moisture and relieve restlessness.

Stemona

Root

Radix Stemonae / Bai Bu / 百部

Stemona root is a balancing herb in the Chica Chill formula. Stemona is nourishing for the lungs, which in Traditional Chinese Medicine, is the organ that supports Qi and fluid flow throughout the body.

Licorice

Root

Radix Glycyrrhizae / Gan Cao / 甘草

Licorice acts as a unifier, balancing the formula and amplifying the properties of the other herbs.

Zizyphus / Sour Jujube

Seed

Semen Zizyphi Spinosae / Suan Zao Ren / 酸枣仁

Zizyphus seed nourishes the heart and calms the spirit. Zizyphus helps relieve insomnia, irritability, and anxiety.

Ginseng

Root

Radix Ginseng / Ren Shen / 人参

Ginseng root, one of the most famous herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine, is known for its ability to strengthen Qi and support life vitality. Ginseng nourishes the Heart and calms the spirit, helping reduce anxiety and insomnia.

Acorus / Grassleaf Sweetflag

Rhizome

Rhizoma Acori Tatarinowii / Shi Chang Pu / 石菖蒲

Acorus helps relieve internal heat and is a favorite herb for reducing frequent insomnia.

Eucommia / Chinese Rubber Tree

Bark

Cortex Eucommiae Ulmoidis / Du Zhong / 杜仲

Eucommia bark balances the Chica Chill formula by offering Yang properties. Eucommia is also nourishing for the heart, and has been featured in research in Western medicine for its ability to help lower blood pressure.

Angelica / Dong Quai

Root

Radix Angelicae Sinensis / Dong Quai / 当归

Angelica root is sometimes described as the “female ginseng,” due to its fame for supporting a healthy and regular menstrual cycle. Angelica root strengthens blood and energizes circulation. In Chica Chill, Angelica root balances the herbal formula with its Yang properties.

Biota / Arborvitae

Seed

Semen Platycladi / Bai Zi Ren / 柏子仁

Biota seed benefits memory and promotes restful sleep by nourishing the heart and calming the spirit.

Chinese Asparagus

Tuber

Tuber Asparagi Cochinensis / Tian Men Dong / 天门冬

Asparagus root works with Ophiopogon to nourish Yin and clear heat throughout the system. These plants also provide moisture and relieve restlessness.