Updated: Dec 14, 2021
It is a well known fact that women are highly outnumbered in STEM. Only 29% of the STEM workforce is made up of women. Despite being outnumbered, women have made some of the greatest accomplishments in their fields. It is important to recognize their achievements to reduce discrimination against women in STEM and encourage more women to pursue careers in STEM.
Florence Nightingale, an English statistician, was commonly known as the founder of modern nursing. Her notability began in the Crimean War, when she theorized that death was mainly caused by poor living conditions. Nightingale emphasized the importance of sanitation both on the battlefield and in middle class homes. Later in life, she wrote Notes on Nursing and made the Nightingale Training School to help further the nursing profession. She also normalized the concept of medical tourism, which is traveling abroad for medical treatment. Without Florence Nightingale, we might have not developed the high standards of sanitation that we have today.
Jane Goodall is a primatologist mostly known for her research on chimpanzees. During her work in Tanzania, she cleared up many misconceptions about chimpanzees and discovered that they display highly developed social behaviors. She found that chimpanzees are omnivores, not vegetarian, and that they are the only animals that can make and use tools. After recognizing that habit destruction and illegal trafficking was threatening their species, Jane Goodall began a new method of conservation focused on chimpanzees’ social nature. She later founded the Jane Goodall Institute in California, as well as a youth service program called Roots & Shoots. Jane Goodall’s work completely changed our knowledge of chimpanzees, showing how similar their social behaviors are to humans.
The mathematician Ada Lovelace, often called the first computer programmer, was most known for her work on the Analytical Engine. Lovelace wrote an article explaining the function of the Analytical Engine, a mechanical computer, and managed to help many other scientists grasp its function. She also used this machine to find an algorithm which calculates Bernoulli numbers, a sequence used in number theory. This program is considered the world’s first computer program. She also theorized that future machinery might be able to manipulate concepts beyond numbers, such as music and letters, anticipating technology decades before it came about. Without Ada Lovelace’s forward-thinking work, modern computer science may have been much further behind than what it is today.
Nightingale, Goodall, and Lovelace are great examples of how much women have impacted and still continue to impact the STEM field. It is vital to celebrate these accomplishments in order to normalize women working in STEM careers.