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  • Writer's pictureEllie

Time to Celebrate Amazing Women in Science!

21121 is a prime number, and it is today’s date, but it is more than that... it is International Day of Women and Girls in Science!

Just six years ago, the United Nations General Assembly officially recognized February 11 as the day women and men, scientists and nonscientists from all over the world, come together to honor the dedication, hard work, and breakthroughs of women in STEM fields.

If you have never before celebrated the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, today is a great time to start. We are increasingly coming to recognize the many achievements, big and small, of women in science.

You may have heard about the pioneering Blackwell sisters. Elizabeth, who in 1849, became the first woman in the U.S. to graduate from medical school, and her sister, Emily, who also became a doctor, opened the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, the first hospital staffed by women.

Learning how much women have contributed to science, math, technology, engineering, and other fields not only helps us appreciate the doors they have opened, but also encourages children, and especially, girls, to pursue STEM education. Even today, only about 30 percent of scientific researchers are women, and women of color are the least represented in STEM careers.

Despite this disheartening data, women have been pioneers in their fields, leading life-changing achievements and creating new research methods and innovations throughout history.

To help kick off this wonderful day, here’s some information on just a few of the amazing, ground-breaking women in science!

Alice Ball (1892-1916)

Alice Ball was an African American chemist and the first woman to earn a master’s degree from the University of Hawaii. At 23, she developed a revolutionary treatment for leprosy, which became the established practice for decades. Her research directly impacted people living with leprosy in the 1900s and allowed them to be treated with dignity in their own homes, without being forced into exile. In Hawaii, February 29th is Alice Ball Day.

Tu Youyou (1930-)

Tu Youyou is a pharmaceutical chemist, who, in the 1970s, developed a malaria treatment using traditional Chinese herbal medicines. She worked relentlessly to find a cure to combat the disease. Many lives have been saved from tropical diseases with artemisinin, a drug she developed from extracts of the sweet wormwood plant. She received a Nobel Prize in 2015 for her work.

Uma Chowdhry (1947-)

Uma Chowdhry is an Indian American chemist who is credited with making breakthroughs both in scientific research and in management. She used her background in chemistry to discover ways to make ceramics conduct electricity much as metals do. She then went on to become the Chief Science and Technology Officer of DuPont, the world’s largest producer of chemicals and science-based products. In 1996, she was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, and seven years later, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Compared to many other leading and steadily emerging countries, the U.S. lacks a strong focus on educating scientists and engineers. American women make up half the national workforce, earn more college and graduate degrees than men, and by some estimates represent the largest single economic force in the world. Yet the gender gap in science persists. And numerous studies have found that women in STEM fields publish less, are paid less for their research and do not progress as far as men in their careers.

How does this change? As Sian Beilock, a cognitive scientist and president of Barnard College, says, “It’s important for young girls to view examples of women scientists. But instead of framing these careers as something they can be, let’s show them science as something they can do.”

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Looking for great books to inspire elementary school children about women in science?

NEW!!! Women in Chemistry

Hot off the press in paperback

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Introduce children to the basic concepts of chemistry through the contributions of influential women in the field. Read it… you’re sure to get a reaction!

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Expires 2/28/21.

Check out all three titles in the Women in Science book set:

Women in Biology

Women in Chemistry

Women in Physics

Available now in English in hardcover and ebooks.

Coming soon in English and Spanish in paperback!

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