Women scientists breaking barriers in STEM, academia, and beyond

updated on 29 March 2022

Sruthi Rambhatla           3 min

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Building an equitable future for women to lead

The notion that men and women have different abilities and therefore should have different interests have been implied for decades and reflected in career choices that many women partake in. Women have been primed from such a young age to play with dolls and kitchen sets, which hindered the ability of these young girls to explore, engage in various activities, and be more adventurous in their choices. It's simply called unconscious "gender bias" that is ingrained in our societies globally. Many are not conscious of these biases and we need to bring these stereotypes forward and discuss their dangerous implications on women.

There is no clear evidence that biological differences make one gender superior than the other, specifically in STEM subjects. From sports to spaceships, from physics to politics, almost every field is dominated by males except nursing, personal care workers, such as health care assistants and household chores, teachers, and other professions where women are the main care takers. We have come a long way where more women than ever before are stepping into  STEM and leading in tech. 

Creating workplaces for women to thrive in

A call to action for leaders who have the privilege to make a change in the workplace to foster a culture and empower women by considering these point below:

  •  Understand the multi-layered complexity of the caregiving responsibility and sometimes burden on women (single or married) 
  • Become an ally by empathising with women personal journey of creating a family and their right to a generous maternity leave 
  • Lead with transparency and maximize efforts in closing the gender pay gap 
  • Reward and celebrate women employees often 
  • Revisit outdated policies that might be discriminatory and act to remove or update them

Empowering and celebrating women change makers 

Let's celebrate women in STEM who challenged outdated notions in STEM and beyond crossing all the cultural and social barriers that are imposed on them.

  1. Barbara Askins, born in Belfast is a mother of two kids. She went back to school and completed both her bachelor's and master's degrees in science soon after her kids have grown. She came up with a way of enhancing images using radioactive materials which received a US patent for a "Method of Obtaining Intensified Image from Developed Photographic Films and Plates". It was immensely successful and was adapted for use in NASA research and the medical field as well.
  2. Katia Sycara was born and brought up in Greece. She did her bachelor's in applied mathematics from Brown University, master's in electrical engineering from the University of Wisconsin, and her PhD in computer science from Georgia Institute of Technology. Sycara's team has developed the RETSINA multiagent infrastructure, a technology toolkit that enables the development of heterogeneous software to provide a service or result. She is the founding editor-in-chief of the journal Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems and leads robot teams that have won many international awards.
  3. Deborah Charlesworth was a native resident of the United Kingdom. She had a PhD in genetics and postdoctoral research in human genetics at Cambridge University. Her work along with Brian Charlesworth on mimicry systems and recombination rates have deepened our understanding of the fundamentals of population genetics and evolution. She worked on the evolution of plant sex chromosomes and is a Fellow of the Royal Society. She was the president of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution and received the Molecular Ecology Award in 2011.
  4. Wang Laichun was born in China. She is a chairwoman and co-founder of the electronics manufacturer Luxshare Precision Industry. The company designs and manufactures computer cables and is also a key assembler of AirPods for Apple. She holds an MBA from Tsinghua University in Beijing. In the year 2021, she became the second richest woman in China.
  5. May-Britt Moser was born in Fosnavag, Norway. She graduated from Oslo University, where she began to study the link between the brain and behavior in the laboratory of Terja Sagvolden. She is a professor of neuroscience and director of the university's centre for Neural Computation. Together with her husband, Edvard Moser, she discovered a type of cell that is important for determining position called "grid cells" close to the hippocampus that responds to location, which explains our sense of navigation and coordination in this world. She won the Nobel prize in physiology in 2014.

The 21st century is a time of equality and breaking the bias. With a focus on building workplaces where women thrive, we want to inspire women to pursue their goals without barrier in STEM, foster women’s equality, celebrate women who are creating an impact by leading and inspiring the younger generations.

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