One thing Canadians may notice upon receiving their fancy new PLASTIC hundred dollar bills this month (if they’re fortunate enough to carry around that kind of pocket change), is that the piece of government-issued paper currency bears the face of a woman. To many viewers, the image of a woman with a microscope may initially evoke Rosalind Franklin, the first person to successfully photograph the double helix structure of DNA. But in fact, the woman is anonymous; the scene is meant to show Canadian scientific achievements, such as the discovery of insulin. While that discovery is credited to four men at the University of Toronto in the 1920s, we suppose it’s possible that women were involved, since Toronto had been admitting women since 1884. And Canadian women have certainly made their mark on scientific history.
Now before we continue, it is worth mentioning that yes, the Queen does frequently appear on the back of Canadian coins, as well as on the $20 bill. With that said, as great as it is to have someone—who did absolutely nothing to gain oodles of wealth and power besides being born in the right place and time—immortalized, it’s about time we started recognizing those who have actually made a healthy contribution to society.
The U.S. has a similar problem. Aside from Martha Washington, the Statue of Liberty and an occasional coin cameo from Sacagawea, Susan B. Anthony or Helen Keller, women have been M.I.A. when it comes to securing a spot on the world’s most-used currency. It’s not like it’s even that hard to change the surface of the dollar—new bills are printed and sent into circulation every year. Heck, in the past ten years alone, Canadian bills have been graced with hockey players, curlers and even a lucky moose.
Sure, the digital age will eventually make money obsolete, but for the time being, current gap in representation has real repercussions. With glass ceilings still in place in most professions that bring prestige or power–including math and science fields–women and girls are in sore need of visible role models. What’s more ubiquitous than a dollar bill?
So consider this an open letter to money makers everywhere: There is more to our world than watching a silvery Prince William and Kate gaze rapturously at each other. This lack of women representation on bills is embarrassing. We should be honoring women like Hillary Clinton, Julia Gillard or Margaret Atwood. And how about Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks? The possibilities are endless and almost completely untapped. With that said, it is a step in the right direction to see a woman scientist on a Canadian bill–even if, once again, Anonymous is a woman.
Here’s to women-friendly change.