Hidden No More: 10 Women in STEM for Women's History Month

Kim Moldofsky is the publisher of The Maker Mom and STEM Kids Chicago.

As we dive into March--Women’s History Month--there’s a lot of talk of uncovering “hidden women” in STEM. This is no doubt thanks to a popular movie with a similar title. Fortunately, though, women in STEM are more visible than ever. Thanks to social media, it’s easier to find women scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians. Even better, you and your students can join them in conversations and even invite them to your classroom, at least for a virtual visit.

 

Hidden No More

By searching hashtags on Twitter, such as #WomenInScience, #FemaleEngineer, and #WomenInSTEM, you’ll meet women in a variety of STEM professions. In addition to broadening your network, connecting through these hashtags will uncover a broad range of roles, degrees, and career opportunities for all of your students.

Historically, when we speak of women in science, a handful of names tend to get mentioned year after year. Think: physicist Marie Curie, conservationist Rachel Carson, primatologist Jane Goodall, and astronaut Sally Ride. This gives students the impression that women haven’t made all that many contributions to our understanding of how life works. I want to share a ten women to add to your list.

 

10 Women in STEM (not just) for Women's History Month

 

Aprille Ericsson-Jackson, aerospace engineer, is the first African-American woman to earn a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Howard University well as a PhD from the NASA Goddard Space Center.

Chien-Shiung Wu was a Chinese-American who made important contributions to our understanding of nuclear physics. She played an important role on the Manhattan Project and later came to be known as the First Lady of Physics. (Read more about the women of the Manhattan Project here and here.)

Ellen Ochoa has logged nearly 1,000 hours in space. In 2013 she became the second woman, and the first Latina, to direct the Johnson Space Center. Watch her here.

Esther Lederberg was a microbiologist and pioneer in the field of bacterial genetics. Her discoveries included a mutation that helped increase our understanding of antibiotic resistance.

France Anne-Dominic Córdova was not only the youngest NASA chief scientist, but also the first woman in that role. In 2014 she was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Flossie Wong-Staal, a molecular biologist and virologist, was a key player in making the link between HIV and AIDS. Her work forged the route to develop the first tests for HIV. A holder of many patents, she also developed an enzyme-based "molecular knife" that can cut genetic information.

Jeanette Epps is a true rising star. In May 2018 she is scheduled to be the first African-American woman to live aboard the International Space Station. If some of your students dream about going into space and think they have the right stuff, encourage them to check out Jeanette’s biography and see what it takes to earn a spot on the ISS these days. Follow along with her training adventures on Twitter.

Shirley Ann Jackson, is the first African-American woman to graduate with a doctorate degree in particle physics, Dr. Jackson’s work led to technological advancements that we take for granted today. For example, her findings led to advancements like touch-tone dialing (even more remarkable if you grew up dialing on a rotary phone), call waiting, and fiber-optic cable. Dr. Jackson is currently the president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Katherine Johnson, one of NASA’s early human computers and previously a “hidden figure,” is an African-American physicist, space scientist, and mathematician who contributed to America's aeronautics and space programs with the early application of digital electronic computers at NASA. She calculated the trajectory for many early space flights, including the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the Moon. 

Rosalind Franklin was a molecular biologist who is credited for much of the research that helped explain the structure of DNA. Given the politics and assumptions of the role of women in the middle of the 20th Century, much of the credit for understanding DNA’s structure went to Francis Crick and James Watson. Read more here.