STEM comprises education in 4 specific fields; science, technology, engineering, and math. Much of the innovation, discovery, and entrepreneurship that has happened in the past has come as a result of STEM education. When students receive high levels of STEM education, they are better prepared to develop problem-solving skills, generate new ideas, and enter the workforce.
Women have long played an important role in STEM careers and in education, however their efforts are not always well known. Malala Day is an international day dedicated to the rights of girls in education and women in the workplace. This day was named after Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani student and activist fighting for the rights for girls' education, as she grew up without such opportunities. It is important to bring to light the many stories of women who have made impacts on STEM and on the educational rights of girls everywhere. These stories are the inspiration many young girls are searching for in their own personal journeys to success. Let us celebrate these stories as we strive for greater equality in the fields of STEM education.
“I tell my story not because it is unique, but because it is the story of many girls.” Malala was born and raised in Pakistan where her father was a schoolteacher for an all-girls school in their hometown. Malala attended the school up until the Taliban took over and banned all girls from attending school. As Malala began to speak out against the Taliban and their bans on girls and school attendance, she became a target and was shot in the head. After her recovery in the United Kingdom, Malala began the Malala Foundation, a charity organization dedicated to the goal that ever girl deserves to go to 12 years of school. Malala is working so that stories, like hers, can be heard around the world. Check out her experiences and many other stories like hers:
Other Women who have made an impact on STEM and education:
Katherine’s work as a mathematician was instrumental in NASA’s space race in the 1960s. Before astronaut John Glenn embarked to be the first United States citizen to orbit the earth, he called upon Katherine to confirm the calculations for orbital flight. As John stated: “If she says they’re good, then I’m good to go.” Additionally, she became the first women in the Flight Research Division to receive credit as an author of a research report. Many achievements and contributions in STEM research by women, especially women of color, have been overshadowed and downplayed. However, Katherine’s work does not go unrecognized as she is an inspiration for many people to the power women of color can have in STEM research.
Barbara Askins began her career as a schoolteacher before she completed her education after her 2 children began school. After graduating with a master’s in chemistry, she began to work for NASA where she invented the autoradiograph, which brought clarity to blurry images taken by telescopes. Later, this technology was applied to the medical field in the use of Xray images. She was named inventor of the year in 1978.
Ogino resolved to be a doctor after dealing with medical problems throughout her teen years. She became the first female registered doctor in Japan and soon after opened a hospital specializing in obstetrics and gynecology. She led the way for many women to enter the medical fields in the future.
Marissa is a successful businesswoman, entrepreneur, computer engineer and was the inventor behind the simplistic Google search page, with the single search bar surrounded by white. She was one of Google’s earliest employees and engineers. She helped with many other Google interfaces, such as Google Maps and Gmail. She specialized in AR technology and worked as the CEO of Yahoo! until 2017. She later started her own company, Sunshine, and is a member of the board of directors of Walmart.
Lillian was an early pioneer in her work of applying psychology to time-and-motion studies to help workers work most efficiently. She was a psychologist, industrial engineer, one of the first female engineers to ever receive a PH.D., and mother of 12 children. She patented many new kitchen appliances and was instrumental in improving the design of kitchens.
Lucia is the founder and CEO of the company Emerge, a technology-based company helping create more efficient movement of goods, people, and resources. She uses her company to create ecology modules for impact projects to help conservation efforts around the world, such as in the Amazon Rainforest conservation. She also started a non-profit to build libraries in underserved communities in Honduras.
An engineering teacher and an author? Sudha Murty has proven she can be successful in both. She is the founder of several orphanages, author of numerous books, and worked to bring both computers and libraries to the public schools of Karnataka, India.