Celebrating 5 Women and Girls in Science Who Changed the World

Women and Girls in Science

Did you know that women make up less than 30% of researchers in science and technology? Women and girls in science are also published less and do not receive the same pay for their work.

International Day of Women and Girls in Science is a day to celebrate those women in STEM-related fields and defy gender stereotypes. The day not only celebrates these women but also raises awareness and advocates for more women to join the field. 

Here are just a few women who have made enormous advances for females in the science and tech field.

Marie Curie

Women in Science: Marie Curie

Marie Curie was a chemist and physicist. Her research in radioactivity has paved the road for modern nuclear science. She met her future husband, Pierre Curie, in 1894, and they were married a year later. In 1903, Marie Curie got her Doctorate in Science. 

Under difficult laboratory conditions, Marie Curie and her husband discovered two radioactive elements – polonium and radium. Curie actively promoted radium and its therapeutic properties throughout her life. She founded a radioactive laboratory in her native city of Warsaw, which President Hoover gifted $50,000 to. And during World War I, Curie helped many, many wounded soldiers with her invention of mobile x-rays. 

Although Marie Curie died from a radioactive-related illness, her research still continues to save lives today. She has many prestigious awards, including the first Nobel Peace Prize given to a woman. She has received two Nobel Peace Prizes in different sciences (physics and chemistry) and is remembered today for inspiring women and girls in science.

Mae C. Jemison

Mae C. Jemison is an astronaut and physician. Jemison was the first female African American astronaut. She flew on the Endeavor in 1922 and became the first African American woman to go to space as well. Because of her many accomplishments, she’s received numerous awards and honorary doctorates. 

In 1977, Jemison received a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from Stanford University and soon entered Cornell University Medical College. She received her M.D. in 1981 after traveling the world as a medical doctor, general practitioner, and medical officer in the Peace Corps. After that, she continued to pursue her dreams and applied to NASA’s training program.

Jemison spent 190 hours in space, researching motion sickness and weightlessness in space. After that historic flight, Jemison noted just how much women and minority groups could contribute, if they were just given the opportunity to do so.

Jemison left NASA in 1993 and went on to teach at Dartmouth College. She also founded her own business -the Jemison Group. The company seeks to encourage a love of science in students and bring advanced technology to schools all around the world. Jemison continues to be a strong advocate for science and even established an international science camp for high schoolers.

Maryam Mirzakhani

Maryam Mirzakhani was born in Tehran, Iran, and grew up with dreams of becoming a writer. As a high school student, she came to realize she was really good at mathematics. Mirzakhani went on to be part of the Iranian Mathematical Olympiad team in 1994 and won a gold medal. She went on to win another gold medal in 1995. Mirzakhani was the first Iranian woman to get the gold!

Mirzakhani graduated from Sharif University of Technology in 1999 with a Bachelor of Science. She then went to Harvard to obtain her Doctorate. In 2014, she became the first female to win the Fields Medal – which is the highest and most prestigious award in mathematics. 

Mirzakhani passed away in 2017 from cancer. However, she still continues to inspire women in STEM today through her all that she accomplished.

Segenet Kelemu

Segenet Kelemu is an Ethiopian scientist and molecular plant pathologist. Kelemu, along with her team, contributes to farming restraints in multiple countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and North America. 

Growing up in a poor farming family, Segenet Kelemu helped with farming duties and chores and later was sent by her mother to sell farm produce in the market. Learning the hardships of agriculture, especially for women, she grew the determination to make a change.

Kelemu was the first woman in her region to get a college degree. She studied and worked abroad, and later, she went to the University of Montana to obtain an MSc in Plant Pathology and Genetics and then a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and Plant Pathology at Kansas State University. 

Kelemu won the L’oreal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science in 2014, and she also was named one of the 100 Most Influential African Women by Forbes. Today, she continues to inspire women all over the world to continue to work for the causes they are dedicated to.

Grace Hopper

Grace Hopper

Grace Hopper was born in 1906 in New York, New York. She was an American mathematician and admiral in the U.S. Navy, where she helped in developing numerous computer languages, the first commercial electronic computer, and naval applications for Common Business Oriented Language (COBOL).

Hopper graduated from Vassar College and went on to get her M.A. and Ph.D. at Yale University. In 1943, she joined the U.S. Navy becoming lieutenant and was part of the Bureau of Ordinance’s Computer Project at Harvard. She worked on top-secret calculations and even checked the math behind the plutonium bomb.

Hopper worked on some of the first electromechanical computers (MARK I and MARK II), and when the MARK I was not working, she dismantled the computer only to find a moth – coining the phrase “bug” when a computer has an issue. 

These five women have paved the road for women and girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. They are all incredible role models who promote science for women, help give access to women in different careers, and promote full and equal access within these careers.

Are you a woman in science? Who is another woman in science that you look up to? We’d love to know! 

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Alyson Pittman is a contributing writer for WBD and a JR marketing associate for Excite Creative Studios, an Atlanta-based creative agency.

Alyson graduated from Kennesaw State University with a Bachelors of Business Administration and a concentration in Marketing. She was in multiple organizations at KSU where she held leadership positions. As a part of the Delta Phi Epsilon Sorority, Alyson held the Social Coordinator position and planned/promoted large events.

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