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Breaking Barriers: Women in STEM Education, Part I
by: Priyanka Raha ~3/28/2024

Exploring the Journey of Women in STEM and the Push for Greater Inclusion

Imagine a world where the gender gap in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields is a thing of the past. A world where women are equally represented in these sectors, contributing their unique perspectives and innovative ideas to drive progress. The journey of women in STEM education has been a challenging one, fraught with systemic biases and societal stereotypes. However, the winds of change are blowing, and there is an increasing recognition of the need for diversity in these fields.

In the heart of this revolution is education. It is the key that can unlock the doors of opportunity for women in STEM. It is the tool that can equip them with the knowledge and skills they need to excel in these fields. And it is the catalyst that can propel them towards leadership roles in STEM.

So, how can we foster a more inclusive environment in STEM education? It begins with breaking down the barriers that women face. This includes challenging the stereotypes that discourage girls from pursuing STEM subjects, providing mentorship and role models, and creating opportunities for hands-on learning. Secondly, it is crucial to integrate STEM learning across the curriculum, making it a part of everyday learning. This can help to demystify these subjects and make them more accessible to all students, regardless of their gender. Finally, we need to celebrate the achievements of women in STEM, to inspire the next generation of female scientists, engineers, and technologists.

Countless women in STEM have played pivotal roles in advancing this field. This article aims to honor some of these remarkable individuals who have made significant impacts in science, technology, and engineering.

*Stay tuned as we split our coverage of these pioneering women across two articles. Keep an eye on this space for our upcoming edition, where we'll continue to spotlight more trailblazing women.*

Mae Jemison

Mae Jemison is a trailblazing figure whose accomplishments span across science, space exploration, and education, making her an enduring inspiration to many. Born on October 17, 1956, in Decatur, Alabama, and raised in Chicago, Jemison made history in 1992 as the first African American woman to travel in space aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Before her historic flight, Jemison was a highly skilled physician and engineer, holding a B.S. in chemical engineering from Stanford University and an M.D. from Cornell University. Her multifaceted career also includes working in medical research and practicing medicine as a general practitioner.

Beyond her achievements in space and science, Jemison has been a powerful advocate for science education, particularly for minorities and young girls. She founded the Jemison Group and the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence, which introduces students to space, science, and technology. Jemison's passion for science education and her groundbreaking journey into space exemplify her commitment to pushing the boundaries of exploration and inspiring future generations to dream big and pursue their goals relentlessly.


Hypatia was a renowned mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher who lived in Alexandria, Egypt, during the late 4th and early 5th centuries CE. She is one of the first female mathematicians whose life and work are well recorded. Hypatia was the daughter of Theon, a well-known mathematician and astronomer who is thought to have been her teacher. She eventually surpassed her father in reputation and became a leading scholar of the Neoplatonic school in Alexandria, where she taught philosophy and astronomy.

Hypatia is known for her work in mathematics and astronomy; she is credited with editing the work "On the Conics of Apollonius," which dealt with the geometric properties of conic sections. Her intellectual prowess, combined with her role as a public speaker and teacher, made her a prominent figure in the academic community of Alexandria. Unfortunately, Hypatia's life ended tragically; she became a victim of political and religious turmoil and was murdered by a Christian mob in 415 CE. Despite the tragic end to her life, Hypatia remains a symbol of learning and enlightenment in the face of ignorance and superstition, and her legacy continues to inspire scholars and scientists around the world.

Chien-Shiung Wu

Chien-Shiung Wu was an exceptional Chinese-American physicist whose groundbreaking work revolutionized the field of nuclear physics. Born in 1912 in Liuhe, Jiangsu, China, Wu became known as the "First Lady of Physics" for her pivotal contributions to the Manhattan Project during World War II and her subsequent research in beta decay—a process by which unstable atomic nuclei lose energy. Most notably, Wu's experiment disproved the law of conservation of parity, showing that in the weak force, one of the four fundamental forces of nature, left and right symmetry does not hold. This landmark discovery challenged long-held physical theories and led to the 1957 Nobel Prize in Physics for her male colleagues, while her own contributions were notably overlooked by the Nobel committee.

Wu's career was marked by a relentless pursuit of knowledge and excellence, earning her numerous accolades, including the inaugural Wolf Prize in Physics. She was a trailblazer not only for her scientific achievements but also for breaking gender barriers in a male-dominated field, inspiring generations of women in science.

Maryam Mirzakhani

Maryam Mirzakhani was an Iranian mathematician renowned for her groundbreaking work in the fields of geometry and dynamical systems. Born on May 3, 1977, in Tehran, Iran, she became the first woman and the first Iranian to be honored with the Fields Medal, often referred to as the "Nobel Prize of Mathematics," in 2014. Her research focused on the complexities of geometric structures on surfaces and their moduli spaces, including Riemann surfaces and hyperbolic geometry. Mirzakhani's work has deep implications for understanding the symmetry of curved surfaces and the dynamics of geometric structures.

Throughout her career, Mirzakhani was a professor at Stanford University, where she continued her research in theoretical mathematics. Her contributions have significantly advanced our understanding of the mathematical universe, leaving a lasting legacy in the world of mathematics. Tragically, Mirzakhani passed away on July 14, 2017, after battling breast cancer, but her profound contributions to mathematics continue to inspire scholars and mathematicians around the world.

Katalin Kariko

Katalin Karikó is a Hungarian-born biochemist whose pioneering work on mRNA-based (messenger RiboNucleic Acid) therapeutics has been instrumental in the development of mRNA vaccines, most notably the COVID-19 vaccines by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Born in Szolnok, Hungary, in 1955, Karikó faced numerous challenges throughout her career, including funding difficulties and skepticism from the scientific community regarding the viability of mRNA as a therapeutic tool. Despite these obstacles, her relentless pursuit of mRNA research, alongside her collaborator Drew Weissman, led to a critical breakthrough: modifying nucleosides in mRNA to evade the immune system's detection, which was a key hurdle in mRNA therapy development.

Karikó's work has had a profound impact on the field of medicine and biotechnology, paving the way for the swift development of effective vaccines against COVID-19 and potentially revolutionizing the approach to vaccine development and treatment of various diseases. Her contributions have been recognized worldwide, and she has received numerous awards and honors for her work in mRNA technology.

Janaki Ammal

Janaki Ammal was an Indian botanist known for her pioneering work in the field of cytogenetics and plant breeding. Born on November 4, 1897, in Tellicherry, Kerala, E.K. Janaki Ammal was one of the first women scientists to receive a Ph.D. in botany in the United States. Her work significantly contributed to the understanding of plant genetics and hybridization techniques, especially in sugarcane and eggplants. Janaki Ammal is particularly renowned for her research on the chromosomes of a wide variety of garden plants, including her study on the cytogenetics of garden peas, which added valuable insights into the field. She was also instrumental in developing new varieties of sweet sugarcane adapted to the Indian climate.

During the 1940s, she worked at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in the UK, where she made significant contributions to the study of the cytology and phylogeny of a wide range of plant species. Upon returning to India, she continued her research and played a crucial role in establishing the Central Botanical Laboratory in Allahabad. Janaki Ammal was honored with various awards and recognitions for her contributions to science, including the Padma Shri by the Government of India. Her legacy as a pioneering woman scientist in India continues to inspire future generations in the fields of botany and genetics.

The road to gender equality in STEM education may be long and winding, but it is a journey worth undertaking. For it is not just about empowering women, but about enriching our society and advancing our collective knowledge. So, let us take up the mantle of change. Let us strive to break the barriers and shatter the glass ceiling in STEM education. And let us work towards a future where every girl has the opportunity to reach for the stars.


Finding new ways to inspire kids to stay curious, learn, and communicate effectively is one of my life’s work which is why I include many fun activities in our writing classes to inspire the next generation of thinkers and explorers. Want to learn more about our story writing classes? Check us out here.

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