At The Little Market, we are committed to celebrating women’s contributions to all fields while honoring their diverse identities and unique talents.
Today, we recognize the International Day of Girls and Women in Science, an observance set forth by the United Nations. The 6th International Day of Women and Girls in Science Assembly will virtually convene to continue advocacy for gender equity programming.1 The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) reports that less than 30 percent of the world’s scientific researchers are women.2 In the United States, there is also an overrepresentation of men in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Only 36 percent of bachelor or higher degrees in these fields are conferred on women. In terms of race and ethnicity, Asian and Asian American students represent 33 percent of total undergraduate STEM degrees conferred and White students represent 18 percent.3 Women, but particularly women of color, remain chronically underrepresented in scientific and medical fields.
The devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder of the critical importance of scientific inquiry and scientific advancement in healthcare and beyond. According to Forbes, “one of the best ways we can remain focused on women’s health is by increasing the number of women, and in particular minority women, in healthcare leadership positions.”4
Public education systems primarily serve low-income families and students of color. Most systems are underfunded and overenrolled, and they often don’t have the resources to provide robust STEM track programming. These dynamics mean that many girls don’t have access to the courses and support for their exploration of scientific disciplines and careers. We must commit to creating supportive systems and pipelines for women of all ages and backgrounds to live out their aspirations and enter STEM fields.
We are highlighting a few prominent women in science; each of their stories reaffirms the power of inclusion.
Alice Ball (1892-1916)
Photo via Biography.com
Alice Ball was an African American chemist who, at the age of 23, developed the first successful treatment for Hansen’s disease (leprosy) patients. She was the first woman and first African American to receive a master’s from the University of Hawaii, and she was the first woman to become a chemistry professor within the university. Sadly, she passed away at the age of 24 due to complications from a lab accident. The significance of her work and legacy was formally recognized in 2017 by the University of Hawaii.
Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski (1993-present)
Photo via Helena.org
Dubbed the “Next Albert Einstein,” Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski obtained an undergraduate degree from the Massachusetts Institution of Technology (MIT) with a 5.0 GPA. She earned her Ph.D. in Physics from Harvard University in 2019. Her expertise is in high energy theoretical physics; she expressed “this kind of physics will create undreamed-of advances that transform the way we live and the world we live in.”5
Tu Youyou (1930-present)
Photo via NobelPrize.org. © Nobel Media AB. Photo: A. Mahmoud.
Pharmaceutical chemist Tu Youyou received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2015 for her lifelong work in a novel therapy against Malaria. Tu draws from traditional Chinese and herbal medicines to develop life-saving treatments. In the 1970s, she discovered artemisinin and volunteered to be the first human subject to test the substance. The Lasker Foundation for medical research has deemed her work “arguably the most important pharmaceutical intervention in the last half-century.”6
Barbara McClintock (1902-1992)
Photo via Brittanica.com. © American Philosophical Society Library—Barbara McClintock Papers/National Library of Medicine.
Barbara McClintock was a renowned botanist whose work made inroads in the field of genetics. Her rich body of research on the genetic structure of maize led her to understand how genetic characteristics are passed down through generations; she identified genetic mobility. Unfortunately, during the 1940s-1950s, the value of our work was underestimated. In 1983, she won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her “discovery of mobile genetic elements.”7
Andrea M. Ghez (1965-present)
Photo via NobelPrize.org. © Nobel Prize Outreach. Photo: Annette Buhl.
Andrea Ghez is an astronomer researching the center of the Milky Way galaxy. She shares the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics for “the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the centre of our galaxy.”8 Ghez earned her bachelor’s degree in physics from the Massachusetts Institution of Technology (MIT) in 1987 and a doctorate from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in 1992.
When asked about the significance of her win marking only the fourth award to a woman, she responded “[…] To me it’s always been very important to encourage young women into the sciences, so to me it means an opportunity and a responsibility to encourage the next generation of scientists who are passionate about this kind of work into the field.”
You can read the full interview here.
1 United Nations. International Day of Girls and Women in Science. Accessed February 4, 2021.
2 Cracking the code: girls’ and women’s education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), 2014-2016 Dataset 2017. Accessed February 4, 2021.
3 National Center for Education Statistics. Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups: Indicator 26: STEM Degrees. February 2019. Accessed February 4, 2021.
4 Wang, Nancy. “The Future Of Health Tech Is Female: Meet The Women Leaders Fighting COVID-19.” Forbes. October 25, 2020. Accessed February 2, 2021.
5 30 Under Thirty. Harvard University. June 19, 2015. Accessed February 4, 2021.
6 “The heroines STEM: Ten women in science you should know.” CNN. January 28, 2020. Accessed February 4, 2021.
7Nobel Prize. Women who changed science. Barbara McClintock. Accessed February 4, 2021.
8Andrea Ghez wins 2020 Nobel Prize in physics. UCLA Newsroom. October 6, 2020. Accessed February 4, 2021.