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Tales of Courage, Compassion, and Conviction: Five Remarkable Women Grads Fighting the Good Fight

Written by Bannon Puckett on Mar 8, 2021

Related content: Diversity And Inclusion, Outcomes

Empowering the next generation of female coders. Eliminating gendered language from job descriptions. Answering the call at the height of a pandemic.

Darlene Holland, Toshe Ayo-Ariyo, Sonal Patel, Danielle Ho, and Taylor Campbell are five remarkable graduates of 2U-powered programs applying their skills and talents to drive—and become—the change they want to see in the world. From finding teachable moments with tech in the classroom to facing down fear on the front lines of health care to evaluating the potential bias of every word on a page, these women are fighting the good fight each and every day.

Today, on International Women’s Day, we celebrate these women—and women learners and doers everywhere—who possess extraordinary courage, steadfast confidence, and an unwavering commitment to helping others.

Closing the Gender Gap in STEM Classrooms

In Darlene Holland’s childhood home in Haiti, education came first. It didn’t matter that her family was poor—what they lacked in material possessions, they made up for in motivation. “The only way you get anywhere in life is through education,” Darlene’s mother always said. “No one can take that away from you.”

At age 15, Darlene moved to the United States. As a Black immigrant woman, she was now a triple minority. “Life in the U.S. wasn’t easy,” she said. “But education was my ticket out of poverty.” Through passion and perseverance, she earned a master’s degree in Science Education in 2010, then pursued a career in teaching.

While working at schools across the country, Darlene noticed a startling lack of women in STEM classrooms. Suddenly, her future came into focus. “I made it my mission to work on equality, diversity, and inclusion,” she said.

In 2018, Darlene enrolled in the University of Miami Coding Boot Camp to expand her STEM education. Toward the end of the program, a career advisor approached her about a part-time teaching position at Girls Who Code (GWC), an organization dedicated to closing the gender gap in technology.

It was Darlene’s dream opportunity. “Instead of trying to get men to see my side of the story as a programmer, I could be an instructor and encourage hundreds of girls to go into computer science,” she said. “I could make an impact.”

Today, she’s done exactly that.

Combating Workplace Bias, One Word at a Time

When most people think of gendered language, a few common culprits come to mind: “manpower,” “you guys,” “mankind.” But many less obvious phrases convey implicit biases, too. Often included in job descriptions, male-gendered words like “strategic” and “competitive” can intimidate female candidates—and even dissuade them from applying to open roles.

Boot camp graduates Toshe Ayo-Ariyo, Sonal Patel, and Danielle Ho wanted to change that.

Using technical skills gained in class, the trio built UInclude: a data-driven content editing app that identifies gender-biased language in job descriptions. Users simply upload documents to the platform, then UInclude’s machine learning algorithm pinpoints gendered language and supplies neutral alternatives.

Looking ahead, the UInclude team hopes to continue using its data analytics skills to empower women and build more equitable workplaces—one word at a time. “UInclude will address biases against several marginalized groups,” said Toshe. “Racism, ageism, ableism, sexism—we want to combat all of them. One of our main goals and metrics for success is to double the number of women, people of color, and people with disabilities in tech and finance by 2025.”

Charging to the Front Lines of COVID-19

Taylor Campbell was no stranger to life-or-death scenarios. While working as a registered nurse in a trauma ER, she gained a wide range of patient experience—but nothing prepared her for what was to come in early 2020.

As COVID-19 started sweeping New York City, Taylor knew she couldn’t sit back in her home state of Rhode Island and do nothing. When the call came for health care volunteers to help out, she quickly packed a bag and got going.

Taylor had just graduated from the Simmons University online Master of Science in Nursing — Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program and was studying to take her boards when the virus changed everything. Now, she had another plan: treating patients in the middle of a global pandemic.

While voluntarily entering the U.S. epicenter of a deadly virus comes with unquestionable risk, it was part and parcel of Taylor’s chosen profession. “I just think that it’s our job as nurses,” she said. “We run toward danger.”

Not Just One Day, Not Just One Month

March 8 is annually designated as International Women’s Day—a day to celebrate women's achievement, raise awareness against bias, and take action for equality. And the entire month of March is designated as Women’s History Month in the U.S. and several other countries around the world.

Of course, the time to recognize and honor women is every day, and every month, of the year. These stories on The Latest are just one way 2U brings this commitment to bear.

Learn more about us.

At 2U, we’re on a mission—to eliminate the back row in higher education and help universities thrive in the digital age. To learn more about who we are and what we do, follow the links below.