In her speech as United Nations Women executive director in 2011, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet suggested women will be the true revolutionaries of the 21st Century, a period she dubbed the “century of girls and women”.
Six years on today, thanks to technology and the shunning of patriarchal workplace traditions, more women are smashing boundaries to become business moguls, filling roles typically given to men.
But while this is true of most industries, women are still underrepresented in the male-dominated science and engineering workforce, even as they made up half the total United States’ college-educated workforce in 2016. Only 28 percent were employed in the field.
Still, as Bachelet envisioned, the world is on the brink of a new female-powered era. Even the term “house husband”, a concept once unheard of, is now in the Cambridge English Dictionary, defined as, “a man who stays at home and cleans the house, takes care of the children, while his partner goes out to work.”
Here we list five famous – and female – STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) trailblazers who have been going against the grain and taking the world by storm.
Mayim Bialik – Neuroscientist and actress
Some people may know Bialik as Amy Farrah Fowler, a neurobiologist in US comedy The Big Bang Theory’.
But here’s something most probably don’t know about Bialik’s off-screen achievements – she’s also a fully qualified neuroscientist.
In 2000, she earned a BSc from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in Neuroscience along with Hebrew and Jewish Studies before going on to complete a PhD in Neuroscience in 2007.
Naomi Wu – Web developer and YouTuber
Wu is a 23-year-old DIY expert and hardware enthusiast from Shenzen, China. Wu builds ‘FashionTech Wearables’ and shares them online via YouTube and Social Media, going by the name ‘SexyCyborg’.
Wu studied English in school but learned her tech skills on the Internet via WeChat groups, and is now one of the pioneers for young women in technology fields.
Dr Mamta Patel Nagaraja – Project manager at Women@Nasa
Dr Mamta Patel Nagaraja is an American biomedical engineer in charge of the Women@Nasa initiative, a project born of a 2009 presidential executive order that created the White House Council on Women and Girls.
As project manager, she advocates for exposing girls to math and science at a young age to encourage them to pursue STEM roles. Mamta has a degree in aerospace engineering, a masters in mechanical engineering and a PhD biomedical engineering.
Since working for Nasa, Nagaraja has been awarded the Nasa Exceptional Service Medal in 2011. The award is given to an employee that embodies multiple contributions to Nasa projects.
Dr. Fabiola Gianotti – European Organization for Nuclear Research director-general
In 2014, particle physicist Dr Fabiola Gianotti, became the first woman to be given the role of Director-General of CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research).
The Italian received a PhD in experimental particle physics from the University of Milan in 1989 and since then has been both the author and co-author of over 500 publications in scientific peer-reviewed journals.
Furthermore, Gianotti has received multiple awards for her work, including the honour of “Cavaliere di Gran Croce dell’ordine al merito della Republica”, which translates to mean the ‘Order of Merit of the Italian Republic’, an accolade presented to her by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano in 2014.
Reshma Saujani – Founder of Girls Who Code
Reshma Saujani is an American former lawyer and founder of “Girls Who Code”, a non-profit organisation that aims to close the gender gap in technology and to inspire, educate and equip girls with the computing skills to pursue 21st-century opportunities.
Reshma, a vocal advocate of women pursuing STEM careers, is the author of the book \Women Who Don’t Wait in Line: Break the Mold, Lead the Way”.
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