You may not have heard of these pioneering women. But, chances are, you may know some of their work…
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) has a reputation for being a male-dominated discipline. In fact, according to the most recent government figures, women only make up 24% of the STEM workforce.
However, even though relatively few women work in STEM right now, those who have or who do work in this field are credited with involvement in some of the most important research and discoveries of our time. Something which should hopefully encourage more women to pursue a career in STEM over the next few years.
We’ve already covered five of the best-paying STEM jobs, but to help inspire you, here are six women in STEM you should know about (both past and present):
Born in 1918 in West Virginia, Katherine Johnson was a child maths whizz and later on would be described as a human computer.
Katherine is most well-known for developing the mathematical formula used by NASA to guide spacecraft into orbit and to land on the moon. Without this formula, the 1969 moon landing wouldn’t have been possible.
Before this, Katherine was also involved with the trajectory analysis for Alan Shephard’s 1961 mission Freedom 7 – America’s first human spaceflight.
Katherine worked for NASA for 30 years, where she worked on many other important projects, including the Space Shuttle. In 2015, Katherine was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom (America’s highest civilian honor) for her contribution to space travel.
Engineer and mathematician Radia Perlman was one of a handful of women who were involved in the early work towards what we now call the Internet.
Radia invented the ‘Spanning Tree Protocol’ (STP), which enables network bridges to locate loops in a local area network. This is an essential function that allows information sharing between computers. The importance of Radia’s invention gained her the nickname ‘The Mother of Internet.’
Radia is an avid inventor and has over 80 patents. She has also written and co-written several textbooks and has developed a child-friendly coding language that is inspiring the next generation of coders and engineers.
Anne-Marie Imafidon, MBE
Born in England in 1990, as a child Anne-Marie Imafidon was described as a maths, computing and language prodigy (she speaks six languages!) who had gained a master’s degree at the University of Oxford by the age of 20.
Anne-Marie is co-founder and CEO of Stemettes, an organisation whosemission is to inspire girls and non-binary people to be involved with STEM. Stemettes runs a series of programmes and events and regularly publishes content that highlights the work of girls and non-binary people in STEM.
Anne-Marie pioneered the ‘Outbox Incubator’, the world’s first business accelerator for teenage girls. Anne-Marie describes this as one of her greatest achievements to date, along with helping girls realise their potential as business leaders.
In 2017, Anne-Marie was awarded an MBE for services to young women and STEM sectors.
Marie Curie’s name is synonymous with finding treatments for cancer, but her story is much more than this.
Born in Poland in 1867, Marie moved to France in 1891 and attended Sorbonne University. Here she met her husband, Pierre Curie, and together their work led to the discovery of Polonium and later Radium – both radioactive elements.
The Curies were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903, and later in 1911, Marie was awarded her second Nobel Prize for Chemistry for creating a method to measure radioactivity.
During the First World War, Marie worked on a small mobile X-Ray unit that could identify injuries in soldiers close to the frontline. After securing money for its development, in 1914, Marie worked on the frontline with her daughter Irene.
In 1930, the first Marie Curie Hospital was opened, a facility staffed entirely by women to treat female cancer patients using radiology. Later, the Marie Curie Charity was formed to support terminally ill cancer patients.
14 year old Anika Chebrolu from Texas identified a molecule that can be used as the base for an antiviral against Covid-19.
The lead molecule can bind itself to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and change its shape, preventing it from latching onto other human cells and spreading throughout the body. Still in the research phase, the discovery of this lead molecule could potentially save thousands of lives.
Anika discovered her love of science in 2016, and a year later, started researching the Spanish Flu and other viruses. The following two years, she spent most of her time scouring databases and using the in-silico method to find an anti-influenza drug.
This research won Anika the 2020 3M Young Scientist Challenge and in the midst of the covid pandemic, Anika pivoted her research to developing an antiviral for SARS-CoV-2 (Covid).
Hilda Lyon is a British mathematician and engineer who invented the Lyon Shape – a streamlined design that’s used for airships and submarines.
Born in Yorkshire in 1896, Hilda studied for a BA in mathematics at Newnham College, Cambridgeshire. However, this was classed as a ‘title of degree’ as women weren’t full degrees until 1948!
Following her graduation, Hilda worked for several British manufacturers. Later on, she was admitted as an Associate Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, where she was involved in the development of the R101 minimum drag airship.
Hilda traveled to America to further her studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Her work there led to the development of the Lyon Shape, the optimum shape to reduce drag in airships and later submarines.
If you’re inspired by these trailblazing women, then search for your perfect STEM job.