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STEM Women's History Month: Women are the Trailblazers of Today and the Future.

Updated: Apr 1

In this blog post, I delve into the significance of women's role in science, engineering, technology, and math in honor of Women's History Month. Furthermore, I incorporate statistics to illustrate the prevalence of girls and women in STEM worldwide, highlighting their underrepresentation and significant achievements.

#womenshistorymonth #womenscientists #womenengineers #womenintechnology
A woman assembling a product.

The central premise behind Women's History Month is to acknowledge the countless women, both historical and contemporary leaders, who have and continue to make a vital difference in various fields. Historically, women's stories, namely women of color, have been written out of our history books or only mentioned in the footnotes section. The beginning of Women's History Month can be traced back to 1980, during Former President Jimmy Carter's reign in office. The impetus behind its start is when various women's groups lobbied for women's history to be recognized in U.S. history on a grander scale. President Jimmy Carter signed a Presidential proclamation to encourage Americans to celebrate National Women's History Week from March 2-8, 1980. The essential premise behind Carter's proclamation was to exalt women as exemplary societal leaders. In this context, women's history is American history. Without women's contributions, we would not thrive as a society. 

In 1981, the U.S. Congress passed Pub L. 97-28, which designated the week of March 7, 1982, "Women's History Week". Subsequently, former President Ronald Reagan signed and issued the Presidential Proclamation 5619, formally designated the Women's History Week celebration for March 7, 1982. The fundamental principle behind Proclamation 4903 was to urge Americans to honor and acknowledge women's invaluable role in U.S. history. In 1987, the U.S. Congress passed Pub L. 100-9 to establish the entire month of March as "Women's History Month." Since its implementation as a monthlong celebration, Congress has since gone on to issue various resolutions and enforced subsequent U.S. Presidents to decree March as Women's History Month, which acknowledges the month of March to be Women's History Month. Our current President, Joe Biden, issued a federal proclamation of Women's History Month in March 2021, the most recent one. 

I will now shift my attention to women in the STEM field. As mentioned, I've chosen to highlight women and their wonderful contributions to STEM for my Women's History Month post because they continue to be underrepresented, excluded, and discriminated against, mainly at the hands of their male counterparts and due to society's standards regarding women's perceived place in society. My primary source of motivation for focusing on women in the STEM field is from reading Katalin Kariko's memoir, "Breaking Through: My Life in Science."  Her journey was an inspiring one to read. She, among a team of scientists, was responsible for creating the COVID-19 vaccine.

#womeninSTEM #femaleengineers #womenscientists #InternationalWomensDay #WomensHistoryMonth
A female civil engineer

According to UNESCO, a little over 30%, or 33%, of women are researchers. Furthermore, on average, 28% of women have degrees in engineering, and 40% of women possess computer science degrees. About 25% of women in the USA are in I.T. positions, and 22% are working in artificial intelligence (A.I.). So, although women have enrolled in university programs on the same level as their male counterparts, the prevalence of them enrolled in STEM majors is drastically low. According to UNESCO data, women are overrepresented in most countries in the "soft sciences" field, such as social sciences and social welfare. Unsurprisingly, the social sciences sectors, such as Social Work and Human Services, tend to be female-dominated. To illustrate this prevalence, take the USA, for example. In 2018 alone, the share of women who earned university degrees in the health and welfare sector was about 82%. In contrast, the share of women who earned university degrees in STEM fields, namely engineering and computer science, was 20%, respectively.

I. Notable Women in the STEM field

Elise MacGill-aeronautical engineer Notable achievements: Elsie MacGill, known as the "Queen of Hurricanes," revolutionized aeronautical engineering. Hailing from Canada, she was a pioneer, becoming the first woman in her country to earn an aeronautical engineering degree. Her groundbreaking work extended to overseeing the mass production of the iconic military aircraft, the "Hawker Hurricane," during World War II. This achievement marked a significant milestone in aviation and shattered gender stereotypes in male-dominated spaces. The "Hawker Hurricane," assembled under MacGill's leadership, was pivotal in defending Allied forces during World War II. Its deployment marked a significant milestone in the aviation field. Her work in aeronautical engineering aimed to dismantle gender stereotypes regarding women's roles in male-dominated spaces, leaving a lasting impact on the industry. MacGill was a passionate advocate for women's rights. She served as a commissioner on the Royal Commission on the Status of Women from 1967 to 1970. Due to her unwavering determination and invaluable contributions, MacGill was inducted into the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame and the Canada Aviation Hall of Fame. These honors solidify her indelible legacy in Canadian history. She was bestowed with numerous high honors and awards, including being inducted into the Order of Canada and the Gzowski Medal. MacGill's remarkable role in the STEM field could ignite a new generation of aspiring engineers, particularly girls and women, to follow in her footsteps, make a difference, and persevere during adversity and challenges.

#Canada #socialjustice #genderequality #representation #STEM #womenengineers #womenscientists
Elsie MacGill- the first Canadian woman to assemble a military aircraft during World War II.

Dr. Asima Chatterjee- chemist/academic researcher

Notable achievements: 

Dr. Asima Chatterjee, a trailblazer in the field of chemistry, was a pioneering chemist and academic researcher in her own right. She was the first woman to be conferred a science degree in her native country, India- from the University of Calcutta, to be exact. She was also the first woman to assume various leadership roles during her university tenure, namely as the founder and head of the chemistry university department. Throughout her distinguished career, Dr. Chatterjee authored and published over 400 research articles in medicinal and organic chemistry. Another way that Dr. Chatterjee was a trailblazer is that she was responsible for developing two groundbreaking medicines that sought to improve people's health and expand their longevity. One of her discoveries was the anti-epileptic drug called "Ayush-56", which sought to control the onset of seizures in terms of alleviating the frequency and severity of seizures, namely for people who dealt with epilepsy. Another discovery of Dr. Chatterjee's is her creation of an anti-malarial drug called "Arimin," which sought to avert malaria transmission and attack the malarial parasite, which is endemic in many tropical regions. 

Due to her illustrious achievements, Dr. Chatterjee received many high accolades and awards for her scientific contributions, including India's highest civilian award in 1975. She also received the prestigious 1995 Silver Jubilee Award, among many others, which cemented her storied legacy in the STEM field. Her story can serve as a beacon of light for succeeding chemists to excel in the field and make a difference on a societal level. 

Rosalind Franklin- biologist 

Notable achievements: 

Originally from the United Kingdom(London, England), Rosalind was part of a 4-part scientific team responsible for co-discovering DNA and messenger RNA (mRNA) structure. Her direct contribution was her expertise in utilizing the chemical techniques of diffraction and crystallography to capture X-ray images of fibers present in DNA in terms of its atomic and molecular structure. Her most well-known contribution was "Photo 51", the name of her captured X-ray image. Photo 51 is monumental in its purpose to provide valuable insights about DNA's biochemical properties, namely its structure. 

  Diffraction is a scientific technique for studying and analyzing the atomic molecular structure of chemical compounds and biological matter. Rosalind's scientific contributions set the precedent for our understanding of DNA and its invaluable role in genetics and heredity. 

Sadly, Rosalind succumbed to ovarian cancer in 1958 before being posthumously awarded the 1962 Nobel Peace Prize. Sadly, her efforts have gone unnoticed and or relegated to the footnotes in our history books. Her male counterparts, such as James Watson, received all the glory and recognition for discovering DNA. 

 51" to study DNA's atomic and chemical structure.  Her contributions have shaped our understanding of DNA and its vital role in heredity.
A black and white photo of Rosalind Franklin

Katalin Kariko- Biochemist 

Notable achievements:  

Kariko's research on mRNA's biochemical properties was the primary catalyst for developing the BioNTech & Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. Upon its initial rollout, the COVID-19 vaccine boasted a successful 95% efficacy rate in averting the SARS-Cov2 (COVID-19 virus) transmission. Messenger RHA is primarily responsible for instructing the DNA in our bodies to produce proteins. Due to her heroic efforts in developing the vaccine, various organizations greatly honored her. She was featured in Time Magazine in 2021 and was considered a Time Hero of that year. Furthermore, Kariko received several honorary degrees from various universities, such as Yale University and Duke University. 

Katalin's memoir inspired me greatly. Her journey inspires me to continue persevering during times of adversity and challenges. One of the most significant challenges in her career was the constant resistance or skepticism from colleagues about messenger RNA's potential role in immunotherapy. She admiringly did not waver from her beliefs and steadfastly believed in its vast potential. Her story illustrates that the dividends will pay off in the long term when you put your mind to something. The fruits of her labor led to her discovery of modified mRNA biochemical properties, which led to the creation of the COVID-19 vaccines. Its impact on people was priceless because it tangibly touched people's lives and enabled them to live longer.

Katalin Kariko was instrumental in developing the COVID-19 vaccine  based on her research on messenger RNA's biochemical properties.
Vials of the COVID-19 vaccine

I'm fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, and I am tremendously grateful for its impact and high efficacy. It has protected me from contracting the virus. A key takeaway message that I got from reading her memoir was never to stop believing in oneself. This message is valuable, and I encourage everyone to live by this mantra. Never stop giving up, consistently perfect, and hone in on your talents and hobbies. One of my hobbies is blogging. To be fully transparent, I sometimes get discouraged and question the purpose of publishing blog posts. However, I am confident that, one day, I will see the fruits of my labor and make a massive impact on the world. My sole purpose in writing is to inform people of social justice issues. Through this medium, I hope to shift someone's paradigm and change someone's mindset or perspective. I want to close out with a quote from Kariko's memoir. 

Keep going, keep growing, and keep moving toward the light."

-Katalin Kariko, (Breaking Through: My Life in Science)

Keep going, keep growing, and keep moving toward the light"
-Katalin Kariko, (Breaking Through: my Life in Science)



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