During the Gender Summit in Mexico, GS8, the audience was continually reminded to remember to consider women and their full lives. It was perhaps fitting that my talk on “The Jessica Effect” was one of the last talks of the conference, bringing together many of the themes of the earlier sessions, particularly the mentions about being aware of violent acts. Presenting about Jessica’s life is a painful passion. I love telling the story about her life … remembering our talks, laughter, discussions of her future dreams in my office. But I also re-live the pain of her death. My heart beats so loudly before I get up to talk that it’s hard to hear myself think. It’s too late to turn back … my name is already on the program, and I’m already on stage. Then it’s my turn. I’m taking enormously large breaths, and hope that I can get through the presentation without tears. I’m able to remember Jessica with joy, and talk about her life, and death. Then I talk about the work that we did — and still do in her honor: we invite family and friends at all PROMISE events. There is no “us” and “them.” All are invited. The Jessica Effect has been one of the foundations for several initiatives on campus. As we seek to bring more career-life integration into the campus culture, we are heartened to know that Jessica’s life has had such a wide-range of positive effects on policy and practice.
It’s always a good feeling when people line up after you speak to tell you that they learned something new, or that your talk had an effect on them. It was incredibly affirming to have positive feedback from leaders of international organizations such as the Conacyt (Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología), but it was also heart-breaking to have women come to me to say “We had a Jessica too.” I’ve given various versions of this talk in Florida, Pittsburgh, and Ecuador, but given the most recent response, I think that I will continue to tell Jessica’s story this year when I speak in Costa Rica this summer, and in other parts of South America this Fall. The lives of our women and girls are too important to lose. As we work to get more women into STEM, let’s remember that they are whole people with full lives and families that need to be considered as well. Carry on … in memory of Jessica.
Additional information about The Jessica Effect
The article in AAC&U: https://www.aacu.org/peerreview/2014/spring/tull