Past, Present, Future: The Role Models In STEM

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By Deba Priya R

Posted on February 9, 2024


4 min read

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STEM education

Annie Jump Cannon, a renowned astronomer, once said, “It is through the pursuit of knowledge that we can truly appreciate the complexity and diversity of the universe.” Numerous women have made significant historical contributions to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Even while most people are aware of the names Marie Curie and Florence Nightingale, there are a ton of brilliant women whose names may not be as well-known. These women were leaders in their areas, created important discoveries, and their efforts had a significant impact on social and political development.

The Past: Pioneering Women Breaking Barriers 

In the past, structural obstacles kept women from participating fully in STEM fields. Despite these challenges, there were eminent leaders who disobeyed social expectations and made substantial contributions to a range of scientific fields. In the face of hardship, Marie Curie the first female Nobel laureate and the only one to win in two distinct fields exemplified fortitude and intelligence. Other unrecognized women have made significant contributions throughout history. Including Rosalind Franklin, whose work on X-ray diffraction was essential in helping to determine the structure of DNA. Ada Lovelace, who is frequently credited as the first person to program a computer.

India’s past is filled with inspirational women who broke social expectations and made substantial contributions to STEM fields. Dr. Asima Chatterjee is a distinguished organic chemist whose pioneering work established the groundwork for medicinal chemistry in India. She was recognized internationally for her work on alkaloids and medicinal plants, and she was the first Indian woman to win the coveted Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize. Janaki Ammal, a revolutionary botanist renowned for her contributions to phytogeography and cytogenetics, is another noteworthy individual.

The Present: Women Shaping STEM Today 

Women still have a significant influence on the direction that STEM professions are going in the present. It is crucial for the next generation of female scientists, engineers, and inventors to have visible role models because they empower and encourage them. Initiatives and organizations working to advance gender diversity in STEM fields have also gained traction. Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) and Girls Who Code are two organizations that work to support and encourage women to actively participate in STEM fields by offering resources, mentorship, and support.

These days, Indian women are shattering preconceptions, advancing cutting-edge research, and taking on important roles in a variety of STEM fields. The “Missile Woman of India,” Dr. Tessy Thomas, is a prime example of the accomplishments of Indian women in the field of aeronautical engineering. She serves as an inspiration for ambitious women in STEM as the Director General of Aeronautical Systems and the former Project Director for India’s ballistic missile defense program.

Global health projects have also benefited from the contributions of Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist of the World Health Organization. During the COVID-19 pandemic, her leadership and knowledge were especially visible, highlighting the critical role those Indian women play in tackling global issues.

The Future: Nurturing the Next Generation

As we work toward equality, the need for female role models in STEM fields will only increase. By tearing down gender preconceptions and presenting varied role models, we can inspire young girls to pursue their interests in science and technology. Since STEM subjects are ever-evolving, it is beneficial to include diverse viewpoints as it fosters creativity and problem-solving skills.

Teachers all throughout the world are realizing how important it is to showcase the accomplishments of women in STEM history in the classroom. Regardless of gender, teachers can ignite students’ interest and passion by incorporating these stories into their curricula. Early exposure to a variety of role models helps cultivate the idea that anyone, male or female, may make a significant contribution to science.

Going forward, creating a diverse and inclusive atmosphere would depend more and more on the presence of women role models in STEM fields. Aiming to reduce the gender gap in STEM education and jobs, initiatives like “Women in Science” and “Girls in STEM” are becoming more and more popular. Encouraging young girls’ goals requires successful women scientists and engineers to participate in outreach programs and mentorship activities.

In conclusion, the story of women in STEM is changing as a result of past successes, contemporary resiliency, and hopes for a more welcoming future. It is impossible to overestimate the importance of women role models in the continuous fight for equality. As we recognize the achievements of women in STEM, let’s keep paving the path for upcoming generations and making diversity the cornerstone of scientific advancement and innovation.