Science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM for short, are some of the most important tools we continuously utilize to make the world a better place. From inventing technologies to take on the biggest problems our planet faces to cracking the code to the Universe’s biggest mysteries, STEM is what keeps the world moving forward into the future!
Women throughout history have been key players in making the world what it is today through their contributions to STEM. Many of them were trailblazers who took risks to learn, practice, and discover during a time when women’s opportunities in STEM were limited. Many stepped outside of the bounds placed on them by gender and race to share their skills and make the world a better place. And all of them changed the way women are represented, respected, and recognized in professional fields. Thanks to these past and present go-getters, innovators, risk-takers, and leaders paving the way, women’s involvement in the STEM fields continues to grow.
Meet just a few of the women of courage, confidence, and character that made their mark on the world through their influences on science, technology, engineering, and math.
Dian Fossey was a primatologist and conservationist known and respected for her studies of mountain gorillas in Africa. She founded the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda and worked to protect the gorillas from poaching and habitat destruction. Her work and impact changed the views the world had towards the conservation of mountain gorillas and their habitats. Learn more about Dian Fossey and her work with gorillas here.
Katherine Johnson was a mathematician for NASA and made strides for women of color in the STEM fields. Known by many as a “human calculator,” Katherine had incredible talents in math and geometry. According to NASA, she studied how to use geometry in space travel and developed paths for space crafts to travel during missions. She was a key figure in NASA safely sending astronauts into orbit during the 1960’s, especially during the first moon missions. Learn more about Katherine Johnson and her impact here.
Mae Jemison made an impact on the status of women of color by becoming the first African American woman to go to space. Mae had a dream of going to space at a young age. After obtaining her medical degree from Stanford and working as a medical officer in the Peace Corps, Mae made that dream a reality. Mae continues to be an inspiration to girls everywhere, showing them the importance of going for their goals and dreams! Learn more about Mae and her time in space here.
Yoky Matsuka is an Asian American computer scientist with an interest in robotics. She worked to help others by developing a robotic device that assists the human body and brain during rehabilitation from injuries. Her technological impact has been felt throughout a variety of technology companies. Currently, she serves as the Chief Technology officer of Nest. Learn more about Yoky’s professional work here.
Jedidah Isler is an astrophysicist who studies hyperactive supermassive blackholes. According to her website, she has had an incredible impact on inclusion within the STEM fields by being the first African American woman to receive her PhD from Yale. She continues to spread her impact by being an advocate for inclusion and empowerment for women in the STEM fields. Learn more about Jedidah’s incredible accomplishments here.
Jane Goodall is an ethologist who made an impact on environmental science through her studies of Chimpanzees in Africa. Throughout her studies, she made discoveries about the social behaviors of chimpanzees. These discoveries led to her developing a passion for the animals, and she ultimately become a distinguished voice for environmental conservation. In 2002, she was named a UN Messenger of Peace for her work and impact. Read more about Jane Goodall and her work with chimpanzees here.
Grace Hopper defied gender stereotypes to not only become a computer scientist, but a Navy admiral as well. She is known as a Pioneer of Computer Programming and helped develop the first commercial electronic computer. Learn more about Grace Hopper and her impact on STEM here.
Sylvia Acevedo is a rocket scientist who became a trailblazer for Hispanic women after becoming the first person of Hispanic decent, male or female, to earn a graduate degree in engineering. She continued her impact on STEM by working on the Voyager mission for NASA. She now works as an advocate for underserved children and empowers girls everywhere as the National CEO for the Girl Scouts of the United States. Learn more about Sylvia and her many accomplishments here.
Rinki Sethi is the Senior Director of Security operations and strategy at Palo Alto Networks. She is credited with building a world-class security operations center to improve threat detection in technological organizations. She works to empower women in the STEM fields by helping to create the curriculum for Girl Scouts cybersecurity badges as a way to introduce children to the importance of cybersecurity. Read more about Rinki and her work in technology here.
All of these women show how STEM can help make the world a better place, as well as the importance of working towards your goals. They show that anyone with an interest in STEM, no matter your gender, color of skin, or social background, should have the opportunity to learn, discover, and practice their skills. So if your goal is to build a robot, create an app, invent a medical device, create a video game, design a car, protect wildlife, send a spaceship into the milky way, cure a disease, or keep the oceans clean, the possibilities for your impact are endless!
Get started in the world of STEM with Girl Scouts by checking out our new STEM journeys and badges. Take a glimpse at a variety of STEM fields and find out which one most aligns with your dreams and talents!