Today we recognize females who are a part of the scientific community by celebrating the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. A recent study estimates that less than 30-percent of researchers worldwide are women, and other studies have indicated that only around 30-percent of all female students choose to pursue STEM-related fields in higher education.
A few other startling statistics are that 65-percent of children entering primary school these days will have jobs that don’t exist yet; and for every twenty STEM jobs that open up, only one is likely to be occupied by a woman, whereas a male has a one in four chance of being appointed the position. This indicates that society still has a long way to go before we see equality in the STEM arena.
For years, women have been an intricate part of moving things along in the world, even if it is from the shadows of men. We have been chemists and engineers, surgeons and oceanographers, astronauts and activists, botanists and zoologists, interpreters of empirical data in areas of expertise. The trailblazers before us chipped away at the stereotypes that pigeon-hole women into certain boxes within the STEM workforce.
Dr. Jane Cooke Wright, attributed as the first black female doctor, revolutionized the study of cancer and chemotherapy, alongside her father.
Dr. Vera Rubin is in the history books for proving that dark matter exists in the Universe through researching the effect of gravity on planets and stars. It was biophysicist Dr. Rosalind Franklin who made significant headway in the studies of DNA, X-rays and molecular structure.
As for modern female scientists, astrophysicist Dr. Katherine Freese is building upon Dr. Rubin’s work as she makes dark matter a matter of priority, studying “dark stars” (something that has never been directly observed by a human).
At fifty years young, Dr. Sara Seager has discovered 715 (yes, 7-1-5) planets during her time working with the Kepler Space Telescope.
20-something NASA breakout star Tiera Guinn is making historical waves as one of the designers and structural analysts building the Space Launch System that is supposed to send people to Mars. What a world we live in, ladies and gents!
Finally, I want to give a quick shout out to the newest crew of NASA astronauts that just recently graduated (here’s a cool little article about ‘em). Out of eleven space cadets, six are women! These people are preparing for missions to the International Space Station (Side note: If you haven’t watched A Year in Space on Netflix, do it!), the Moon and yes, one day, Mars. Heck yeah!
Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of the fearless women (living and dead) who haven’t let gender inequality (and other pesky disparities) dampen their passion, scientific spirit and sense of adventure. Remember…well-behaved women seldom make history (or...herstory!) Fun Fact: Pulitzer Prize winning historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich is said to have written that sentiment in a 1976 article about Puritan funeral services. Now you know!