On March 8th, communities worldwide will celebrate International Women’s Day. Every year, the day of recognition celebrates the extraordinary achievements of women and brings organizations together to continue the movement for change and empowerment. The theme of 2018 is #PressForProgress, a call to advocacy, activism, and support for gender parity.
Throughout history, women have been making their mark in STEM-related fields. Iconic female pioneers such as Marie Curie, Jane Goodall, Grace Hopper, and Mae C. Jemison paved paths for future female scientists and changed the world in the name of science. Fast forward to the 21st century: even more girls and women are breaking the ceiling in the fields of math and science, and we can support their crusade for equal and diverse representation.
With global activist movements for women’s rights like #MeToo and #TimesUp, the call for gender equality is only the beginning. Since the campaigns of #ILookLikeAnEngineer and #GirlsWithToys, women have emerged from the fog as existing leaders and innovators in the STEM fields. Women scientists, engineers, and explorers are actually hiding in plain sight. In honor of International Women’s Day 2018, we celebrate seven inspiring women who are role models of female representation in STEM.
What if you grew from bravery — unafraid of failure?
Driven by perfection, Saujani spent most of her youth pursuing the perfect résumé. She dreamed of attending Yale Law and holding a career in politics. However, Yale Law rejected her three times, and she lost the race for public office twice. But in her failures, she found opportunities. While visiting public schools, Saujani saw computer rooms packed with boys. Inspired, she ditched law and founded Girls Who Code. Now, she leads the movement to close gender gaps in technology while advocating for a new model of female leadership that focuses on progress through risk and failure.
You can also find her 13-book series in the New York Times best-selling lists, and her name in Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People, Ad Age’s Creativity 50, and Business Insider’s 50 Women Who are Changing the World.
As a board director for Girl Develop It and the senior engineering manager for Patreon, Baker grew her influence from her advocacy in diversity and inclusion for women and people of color in tech. During her time at Google, she sensed a wage gap and circulated a salary spreadsheet to address discrepancies. It caught like wildfire across the company. Not only did people use it to attain equitable pay, but it further spurred the conversation about gender pay gaps. In 2016, she was one of the four black female engineers who accepted an award for fastest rising startup at TechCrunch’s annual tech awards show. Many lauded the winning company, Slack, for making a statement about diversity, but it was Baker who orchestrated this representation, accepting the award instead of the founder.
Baker continues to champion diversity and inclusion through public speaking, Medium blogs, and Twitter. She is also a founding member of Project Include, which won the Level Playing Field Institute Lux Award in 2015, the Crunchies Include Diversity Award in 2016, and included in WIRED Magazine’s 2016 Next List.
How far would you go to prove there’s a disparity in your workplace?
Currano had an impressive track record. Upon earning her graduate degree at Penn State, she went on to work at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and then set out to pursue tenure at Wyoming University — all before the age of 30. However, during her post-doctoral work, Currano was not treated the same as her male colleagues. Men spoke over her, ignored her ideas, and “mansplained” to her at work. Although Currano is equally qualified, male scientists would receive more invitations to participate in projects. It was when she said, “there are days when I wish I could just slap a beard on my face and go to work,” that she decided to take action.
Gracing us with an unconventional approach, Ellen Currano wore a beard to call attention to gender bias in the paleontology field. Creating the first Bearded Lady Project with her colleagues, this documentary and photography project aimed to challenge the “face of science” and celebrate women’s achievements in paleontology. Furthering the cause, Currano hopes to bring the films into classroom showings and film festivals.
Also known as the Madonna of Blockchain, Baldet is the blockchain team lead at JP Morgan’s Blockchain Center of Excellence. Known for her quick-witted intelligence, non-conformist attitude, and steadfast belief for open-collaboration, she represents the same ideals of blockchain in an industry of privacy and decentralization. A rebel in the financial realm, Baldet’s beliefs and role challenged the roles of banks in an ecosystem of disruption.
As a veteran in male-dominated spaces, Amber is aware of social inequities in the workplace. She made it a priority to affect change from within by using her influence to usher diversity and nontraditional voices into the workforce. Her complexity and unapologetic character serve as a role model whenever she speaks at the New York Women in Blockchain meetup. Baldet is also the only person on CoinDesk’s Most Influential List who is working solely on enterprise blockchains. She continues to make waves in her field as she seeks to reimagine how decentralized systems could serve those in need.
From rocket scientist to CEO for the Girl Scouts of the United States, Acevedo exemplifies what it means to use technology for the greater good— universal access to education.
After rising from a background of several Fortune 500 companies including IBM, Dell, Apple, NASA, and Autodesk, she realized her leadership and engineering skills could provide access to education for lower-income communities. Acevedo created the “Fitness Feria” in response to growing health disparities in children of underserved areas. It was a resounding success. Over 27,000 children experienced hands-on sports experiences in Austin and Los Angeles. She also established distribution programs that provided over thousands of supplies for families and children who needed glasses and books.
Her mobilization campaigns awarded her the Ohtli Award, the country’s most prestigious civil rights recognition of non-Mexican nationals, for her work in parental involvement in education. In addition to her job as a CEO for Girl Scouts, she also serves as a commissioner on the White House Initiative for Educational Excellence for Hispanics.
Tracy Chou is currently a software engineer for Pinterest. She’s also one of the leading ladies to challenge the gender issues in the tech industry. You may know her as the woman who brought tech’s diversity numbers out in the open.
After attending a conference where Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg stated that diversity numbers in tech are dropping, Chou believed her. However, she also questioned the lack of data. In a simple Medium post titled, “Where are the numbers?”, Chou asked people to contribute gender breakdown data to address diversity concerns. While smaller companies provided data, it led the way to build over 200 contributions of self-reported data. The results established a concrete way to measure progress. Her activism doesn’t stop there.
With other founding members including Erica Baker, Chou formed Project Include, an organization designed to help executives implement diversity and inclusion strategies at their companies. The strides Chou makes as a speaker, a panelist, and the voice of authority on tech’s diversity problem opened the doors for open data on diversity initiatives.
Momentum to shape passion begins at a young age. That’s why Sterling is disrupting the “pink toy aisle,” and challenging gender stereotypes with a girl engineer character. Garnering over $200,000 on Kickstarter in 2012, she hit the ground running with Goldieblox, a toy and book series starring Goldie, the girl inventor who loves to build.
Years after graduating from her male-dominated mechanical engineering program at Stanford, Sterling discovered something: by playing with building blocks, kids develop spatial skills that nurture their interest in the sciences. Like all budding innovators, she worked tooth and nail to get to where she is now. But these skills could’ve been encouraged at a formative age, where boys and girls imagine what their futures and worlds look like. While studying engineering was isolating during her Stanford years, she hoped to change the image of what an engineer looked like. Her efforts in Goldieblox are meant to inspire girls by building confidence in problem-solving and developing early interest in engineering.
Now, Sterling’s Goldieblox pushes beyond toys to include a children’s multimedia brand, a YouTube series, and a collection of STEM badges for the Girl Scouts.
As the leadership and accomplishments of women heralds bigger change in the future, supporting the underrepresented in STEM fields is one of the many ways to be part of a larger movement and #pressforprogress.
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