Worldwide, only 28 percent of the researchers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are women. This number, provided by UN research, is ridiculously low and actually quite worrying about the state of the world in 2016. Great talent is being lost because women are often discouraged to progress their career in science or to study a STEM subject at university.
The media has definitely played a role in the portrayal of scientists as old white dudes, so to help showcase more diversity, here’s our list of extraordinary women scientists working today as we celebrate International Women's Day. The list is definitely not exhaustive, but we believe it is representative of the incredible pool of talent found in every scientific discipline.
Portrait of Fabiola Gianotti taken when she was a spokesperson for the ATLAS experiment. Claudia Marcelloni De Oliveira via Wikimedia Commons
Italian particle physicist Dr. Gianotti was one of the driving forces behind the discovery of the Higgs boson at CERN, which she announced in July 2012. She is now director-general of CERN, in charge of 2,513 staff members and over 12,000 associated and visiting engineers from 608 universities and research facilities worldwide.
Margaret Hamilton, lead Apollo flight software engineer, in the Apollo Command Module. NASA
Margaret Hamilton is the computer scientist responsible for writing the in-flight code that allowed the Apollo missions to land on the Moon. She has published over 130 papers, proceedings, and reports on the six major programs and 60 projects she’s been involved with during her career.
Ada Yonath at the Weizmann Institute of Science, via Wikimedia Commons
Professor Yonath is responsible for the discovery of the atomic structure of the ribosome, for which she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2009. Ribosomes are complex molecular machines that synthesize proteins by linking amino acids together, a fundamental part of cells. Yonath also discovered how 20 different antibiotics target microbial antibiotics.
Shirley Ann Jackson
Shirley Ann Jackson speaking at the World Economic Forum in 2010. Qilai Shen via Wikimedia Commons
Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson is an American physicist and the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate at MIT. During her illustrious career, she served as the Chairperson of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and she is now the 18th president of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Her compensation ranked first among USA private university presidents in 2014.
Capt. Cristoforetti photographed leaving the ISS via Twitter
Captain Cristoforetti is an Italian astronaut, Air Force pilot, and engineer. She traveled to the International Space Station (ISS) on behalf of the European Space Agency in 2014/2015, and she holds the records for the longest single space flight by a woman and for the longest uninterrupted space flight of a European astronaut (199 days, 16 hours, 42 minutes).
Jackie Y. Ying
Professor Ying photographed for the Institute of Bioengineering in Singapore.
Professor Ying is the current executive director of the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore. She became one of the youngest MIT full professors when she got her professorship in 2001 at only 35. Her research focused on the synthesis of advanced nanostructures for biomaterial applications, and she has authored over 330 articles.
Maryam Mirzakhani, professor of mathematics at Stanford University
Professor Mirzakhani is the first woman to win the Fields Medal, the highest honor a mathematician can receive. She was awarded the Medal for her outstanding contribution to understanding the dynamics and geometry of Riemann surfaces, a special class of curved surfaces used in math and physics.
Photograph of Elizabeth Blackburn receiving the 2012 American Institute of Chemists (AIC) Gold Medal. Chemical Heritage Foundation via Wikimedia Common
Professor Blackburn is the current president of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2009 for her study of the telomere, a structure at the end of chromosomes that protects the genetic material.
Dr. Joanne Liu of Médecins Sans Frontières pictured during a discussion at Chatham House, via Wikimedia Commons
Dr. Liu is a Canadian physician and the international president of Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières). Her team was the first to respond to the Ebola outbreak in Guinea. It is widely believed that her timely response and the pressure she put on world leaders and public health officials was a key factor in containing the virus.