Updated: Feb 15, 2021
Happy International Day of Women and Girls in Science
Better late than never, as some of you may know yesterday was international women in science day! So we thought we would share with you some very cool, intelligent and amazing women who have changed science and helped shape the world as we know it.
It is well known that over the years STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) careers have been male dominated. Approximately less than a quarter of the world’s researchers are women and around only 35% of STEM university students in the UK are women. It has been shown that gender-related images influence children’s career aspirations, with female students regarding STEM subjects to be associated with males.
Lack of diversity is not just a gender- focused issue, in the USA women from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds make up only 11.5 % of science and technology jobs. In the UK’s top tech firms, women of BAME backgrounds only make up around 2% of senior and board positions, highlighting the need for representation in these industries.
There is a lot to be done to achieve gender equality: increasing the number of STEM graduates, providing equal pay for all, promoting career progression and changing gender stereotypes. There also needs to be more representation of women in science in our media and television & film industry. Equality in STEM is possible, as some countries have shown. For example, in Central Asia women account for almost 50% of researchers in STEM.
Women and girls make up half of the world’s population. If women have the same opportunities globally as men do, together we have greater human potential and we can achieve so much more. An equal world is an enabled world.
There are so many amazing women in science around the world - thank you for all the work you do, you're killin' it! We want to celebrate women in science, so here are some of our fave gals...
Alice Ball was the first African American to gain a master's degree from The University of Hawaii. She was also the first Black and the first female chemistry professor there. Not only this but Alice Ball developed a ground-breaking treatment for leprosy, impacting countless lives.
Unfortunately Alice died before she could publish her work and for some time her work was published without credit to her. However, a previous supervisor later published a paper crediting Alice for her brilliance. Additionally, the governor of Hawaii declared the 29th of February as Alice Ball day!
Tu Youyou is a Chinese medical scientist known for her discoveries of a novel malaria therapy, for which she received Nobel Prize in 2015, being the first Chinese mainland scientist to receive this award.
Tu Youyou reviewed ancient medicinal texts in an aim to identify traditional Chinese methods of treating malaria. Tu and her team identified and isolated a compound of interest, testing it on herself and a colleague before moving onto patients, where it had an impressive recovery rate!
Dr Jane Goodall
Dr Goodall has dedicated her life to conservation work, in particular protecting chimpanzees. She immersed herself in their habitats and in 1960 discovered that chimpanzees make and use tools. In 1965 she was one of the first to obtain a PhD without having a degree. She now travels around the globe educating the next generations about the importance of protecting the environment and wildlife. Her compassion and enthusiasm for our planet has changed the world of conservation and inspired many to follow in her footsteps.
Emmanuelle is a french scientist who won The Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2020 alongside Jennifer Doudna for developing the CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology. CRISPR-Cas9 can be used to edit DNA sequences and has been used widely in treating and preventing diseases, a huge success that is changing the world of medicine. She has been presented with several awards in recognition of her great research.
The women behind the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine including Professor Sarah Gilbert, Catherine Green, Dr Maheshi Ramasamy and Professor Teresa Lambe
In one of the most difficult times many of us have faced, Professor Sarah Gilbert led the vaccine group at the University of Oxford to race against the clock to produce the Oxford vaccine manufactured by Astrazeneca. These scientists worked tirelessly and selflessly to produce one of the first vaccines
against COVID-19. The vaccine can be rolled out globally, is affordable and does not require a cold chain (temperature controlled supply chain). What an achievement!
Check out these resources we have gathered for more information!
Makarova, E., Aeschlimann, B., & Herzog, W. (2019). The Gender Gap in STEM Fields: The Impact of the Gender Stereotype of Math and Science on Secondary Students’ Career Aspirations. Frontiers in Education, 4. doi:10.3389/feduc.2019.00060
Shannon, G., Jansen, M., Williams, K., Cáceres, C., Motta, A., Odhiambo, A., Eleveld, A. ant Jenevieve Mannell (2019). Gender equality in science, medicine, and global health: where are we at and why does it matter? Lancet 393: 560–69. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(18)33135-0
Rigby, S, (2021). 22 pioneering women in science history you really should know about. Science Focus, [online] Available at https://www.sciencefocus.com/science/10-amazing-women-in-science-history-you-really-should-know-about/
- L & A