Today we celebrate the lives and achievements of women while asking how we can continue to empower women and girls. International Women’s Day should also be a day of reflection; we know that STEM is a tool for positive change, however CSIRO reports that women make up only 27 per cent of the STEM work-force.
In honour of International Women’s Day, we are dedicating this blog post to some inspiring women in STEM whose work has transformed the way we live and interact with the world around us.
‘A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for’.
Rear Admiral Grace Hopper was a computer scientist that developed FLOW-MATIC, a pioneering programming language. In 1943 Hopper joined the Naval Reserve where she worked on Mark I, the first large scale calculator and fore-runner of the computers we know today.
After a moth became stuck in the circuits of Mark I, shecreated the term bug to refer to unknown computer failures.
‘All creative people want to do the unexpected’.
One could call Hedy Lamarr the ‘Mother of Wi-Fi’, however Lamarr is best well known for her acting career during Hollywood’s Golden Age. Yet Lamarr’s scientific endeavors have shaped the way we communicate and share information.
As well as being a movie-star, Lamarr was a mathematician and inventor. In World War II Lamar assisted in creating a communication system able to skip radio frequencies, blocking the Nazi’s ability to intercept messages.
Lamarr’s pioneering work in this field laid the base for digital communications such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and mobile phones.
‘I like to learn. That’s an art and a science’.
A college graduate at the young age of 18, Katherine Johnson is a mathematician whose work calculated the trajectories for many of NASA’s missions into outer space.
In 1953, Johnson began working with an all African American group of women to manually solve mathematical algorithms for NACA’s (predecessor to NASA) program engineers. This unit was called the West Computers and Johnson was joined by Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson.
In 2016, the film Hidden Figures based on the lives of Johnson, Jackson and Vaughn was released.
The inspiring lives of Grace Hopper, Hedy Lamarr and Katherine Johnson represent the ability of women to change the world.