Women in STEM Icons and Innovators in Every Field

In scientific research, women are in the fore. Both historically and currently. Many scientific achievements would not have been achieved without the contributions of women, and there will undoubtedly be many more in the years ahead. Women may be underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), accounting for only 34% of the workforce – and much less so in Black, Latina, and Indigenous women, who account for less than 10% of the workforce – but they’re responsible for some pretty amazing science.

For International Women’s Day 2022, we look at some of the remarkable women who have changed, and continue to alter, the game – the trailblazers and innovators who continue to lead the way for women in STEM. In 1938, Lise Meitner was engaged in the discovery of protactinium and nuclear fission. Her male colleagues were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1944 for the latter, from which she was excluded, despite receiving an incredible 48 nominations for additional contributions in both physics and chemistry.

Chien-Shiung Wu was a Chinese-American scientist who worked on the Manhattan Project, which produced the first nuclear weapon, during World War II. She, like Meitner, was denied a Nobel Prize for her role in the discovery of parity violation in 1957.

Shirley Ann Jackson is a physicist from the United States who was the first African-American woman to receive a PhD from MIT. She has since become the first African-American woman elected to the National Academy of Engineering and the first woman and African-American chair of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Sau Lan Wu, a particle physicist, was a key figure in the 2012 discovery of the Higgs Boson particle. Wu is a visiting scientist at CERN at the moment.

Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, an astronomer and astrophysicist, was the first to discover that stars are made up of hydrogen and helium. In her doctoral thesis, published in 1925, she postulated this, which was regarded as “the most brilliant Ph.D. thesis ever written in astronomy.”

Caroline Herschel and her brother were the first to find Uranus. She was also the first woman to discover a comet in 1786, and the first to be rewarded for her services to science. She went on to identify seven additional comets. She is widely regarded as the world’s first professional female astronomer. Vera Rubin established the presence of dark matter, a mysterious element that accounts for 85 percent of the mass of the cosmos.

Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman to walk on the moon. As part of the Russian Cosmonaut Corps, she flew a solo trip aboard the Vostok 6 in 1963. On the US Space Shuttle Endeavour, Mae Jemison became the first Black woman to journey into space.

The first all-female spacewalk was led by astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir. Koch also holds the record for the longest single female spaceflight At 328 days. Jocelyn Bell Burnell discovered radio pulsars, which was one of the most significant physics discoveries of the twentieth century. Her male supervisors were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1974 for their discovery. She was also the Institute of Physics’ first female president.

Grace Hopper was a computer scientist who invented the first compiler and contributed to the development of one of the earliest programming languages. Hopper was also one of the first to program the Harvard Mark I, one of the first computers. During her 34-year career at NASA, which began in 1957, Annie Easley rose to prominence as a notable computer scientist. She was active in the development of battery technology for early hybrid automobiles at the time.