The Trailblazing Women of STEM
by Talia Legge & Sandra Edmund
Hidden figures, no more! For International Women’s Day this year, we are shouting the names of these trailblazing women who have made their own unique mark in STEM. If you don’t know – now you know!
This years International Women’s Day theme is ‘Embrace Equity’, which aims to create conversations around fairness in opportunities and accessibility to all women and non-binary people. What exactly is equity? Equity is recognising that each person has different circumstances, and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.
🤔 How do we achieve equity? Let’s think about it for a moment. All it takes is one person to unlock and make it through the door of opportunity, but to also hold it wide open for the next person and people behind them to follow. Carpe Diem! ☀️ Seize the day, which is why we at Code First Girls do what we do! To continue to build upon the path these trailblazers paved for us, to knock down barriers, seize those opportunities and encourage more to join the exciting pathway that is tech.
So, if we asked you ‘which women in STEM do you look up to?’ would you have an answer? If the answer is “no” you wouldn’t be alone, with the vast majority of women and girls not able to name a role model in STEM. On this International Women’s Day, we are here to change that and give you a bunch of amazing women of STEM, telling you all about them and what they’ve achieved. We hope by the end of this, you’ll be a fan of them too! ⭐
Founding Women in STEM
Ada Lovelace – Well known and recognised as one of the first computer programmers. Her work on Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine in the 1800s is what she is most famous for. Lovelace’s notes on the machine included an algorithm for calculating Bernoulli numbers, which is considered the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine.
Marie Curie – The first woman to win a Nobel Prize, not once but twice! In completely different fields: Physics and Chemistry. A physicist and chemist, her pioneering research on radioactivity led to significant advancements in nuclear physics.
Rosalind Franklin – Franklin was a biophysicist who made key contributions to the discovery of the structure of DNA. Her work on X-ray crystallography provided critical evidence for the double helix structure of DNA. 🧬
Katherine Johnson – Johnson worked for NASA and was a mathematician. She was instrumental in calculating the trajectories for several important space missions, including the Apollo 11 mission that put the first humans on the moon. 🌕
Grace Hopper – Hopper was a computer scientist and naval officer who is credited with developing the first compiler, a program that translates computer code into machine-readable language. She also played a key role in the development of COBOL, one of the first high-level programming languages.
Hedy Lamarr – A pioneer in the field of wireless communications. Her love of invention, combined with her horror at the events of WWII, drove her to collaborate with George Antheil on developing a spread-spectrum radio. It allowed radio signals to ‘hop’ between different frequencies more or less randomly, making decoding difficult.
Emerging Women in STEM
Fei-Fei Li – Li is a computer science professor at Stanford University and the co-director of the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence. She is a pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) and has made significant contributions to computer vision and machine learning.
Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski – Pasterski is a physicist who has been called the “next Einstein” for her groundbreaking research on black holes and quantum gravity. She earned her PhD in physics from Harvard University at just 24 years old and has been named one of Forbes’ “30 Under 30” in science. 🔭
Ayanna Howard – Howard is a roboticist and computer scientist who specialises in assistive technologies for people with disabilities. She is the founder and CTO of Zyrobotics, a company that develops educational technologies and games for children with disabilities.
Kavya Kopparapu – Kopparapu is a young computer scientist and entrepreneur who has developed a mobile app that uses machine learning to diagnose diabetic retinopathy. She is the founder of GirlsComputingLeague, a non-profit organisation that aims to inspire and empower girls to pursue careers in computer science.
Meredith Whittaker – Whittaker is a technologist and AI researcher who is the founder of the AI Now Institute, a research institute dedicated to studying the social implications of AI and other emerging technologies. She is also a prominent advocate for ethical AI and workers’ rights in the tech industry.
Danielle Wood – Wood is an engineer and space technologist who leads the Space Enabled research group at the MIT Media Lab. Her research focuses on the use of space technology to address challenges related to sustainable development and social justice. She is also a strong advocate for increasing diversity and inclusion in STEM fields.
Avye Couloute – Avye is a 15-year-old coder who started Girls Into Coding from her bedroom in 2018. She began coding classes at age 7 and noticed the underrepresentation of girls attending these classes, especially those of colour.
Since then, she has built her networking platform, reaching 1,000 girls with custom workshops on robotics, coding, 3D printing and computing.
Tiffany Janzen – Before getting into Technology, Tiffany had a professional career in modelling and left that behind to further her education. While studying Graphic Communications Management, she came across an introductory coding course and fell in love.
From the coding course, she decided to switch careers, take on a 10-week coding boot camp and pursue a career in software development. 💻
Motivated by her struggles as a woman to transition into the tech industry, she started a platform called TiffinTech. TiffinTech promotes the empowerment of women in the tech industry and a supportive community where they can learn and grow together.
Alia AlMansoori – Alia, who is only 20 years old, has a career that most adults would envy. She is the UAE’s next space prodigy; she founded Emirati Astronaut, a platform that encourages dialogue between aspiring astronauts and veterans of space flight. 🚀 She was named the youngest Scientific Research Fellow at New York University Abu Dhabi.
She won the Genes in Space UAE competition with a proposal to study how exposure to space affects the health of live organisms at the cellular level. Her experiment was loaded onto the August 2017 SpaceX CRS-12 mission. To identify the genes causing heat-shock proteins to be expressed, Al Mansoori’s investigation examined heat-shock protein expression in space. Al Mansoori intends to major in genetics and then go on to graduate school to become an astronaut. Becoming the first Emirati woman to visit Mars is her ultimate goal.
Anna Lee – Bay area based entrepreneur and engineer, Anna Lee is a technical co-founder of Lioness, a sexual wellness company that created the first and only smart vibrator. With this technology, you are able to see and track your orgasm with data which informs you how to make your experience continuously more enjoyable! The Lioness’s mission is to expand both research and understanding of sexual health and destigmatise female seuxality. Lee also holds a Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering from UC Berkeley and previously worked at Amazon launching the Amazon Dash Button.
Our heroes 💘
Before I get into which phenomenal lady has inspired me (even though there’s no way to pick), I’m Sandra, one of the website content coordinators for CFG, alongside my excellent web wiz partner Roybn. Let’s get into it; if you pull my leg to choose one person, it must be Avye Couloute. She is an inspiration to her generation at such a young age. She has been able to accomplish so much while in high school. I believe it’s refreshing and relatable to see individuals in this age group take up a leadership role that helps her peers know they can be a part of the Tech industry no matter their age or gender.
How can I choose just one? It’s so difficult to choose a favourite, Sandra and I struggled to pick who to feature on the blog, let alone picking just one! All these women are so unique and special for different reasons. But if I really have to pick, I think I would have to go with Alia AlMansoori. I think she represents that having a passion can allow you to achieve anything you put your mind, heart and soul into. At the age of EIGHTEEN, she had already conquered, achieved and established such a tremendous career, and that was only the starting point. The amount of potential and knowledge she has, is quite simply extraordinary!
Who’s your new idol?
We hope you enjoyed learning about these amazing women just as much as we enjoyed sharing them with you!
To follow all of the inspirational women that we have mentioned today, you can connect with them on LinkedIn where you will also find their other social media handles.
- Anna Lee
- Alia AlMansoori
- Ayanna Howard
- Fei-Fei Li
- Sabrina Gonzales
- Kavya Kopparapu
- Meredith Whittaker
- Danielle Wood
- Ayve Couloute
- Tiffany Jantzen