Celebrating Women in STEM


Last week we celebrated Professor Karen Ulhenbeck, University of Texas, the first woman recipient of the prestigious “Abel Prize 2019” in mathematics. This represents a breakthrough in gender stereotypes as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) are traditionally dominated by men. Yet, girls are as good as boys in mathematics, but social pressure discourages them.

STEM is not exclusively for males, it is for both males and females.  The brain of all human beings are divided into the left and right hemispheres. On the right we have creativity, intuition/imagination, emotional intelligence; on the left, logic, numbers, analytical reasoning. Either men or women can have left or right brain dominance, therefore to restrict men to STEM is not justified. Moreover, it is important to have a female perspective in STEM to break the stereotype bias. The “Nobel Prize of Mathematics” awarded to a woman for the first time provides a powerful role model to young girls/women.

Today, women constitute only about 20% in STEM, yet during WWII the military called on women to participate in complex calculations. As an example, Naval Officer Grace Hopper, also a mathematics professor, developed a compiler, a program that translates English instructions into computer code. This paved the way for modern computing language.  To find out more about women’s contribution to computer, please take a look at this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZ7zX6LalLI&feature=youtu.be and or read this article from Olga Khazan,staff writer at The Atlantic magazine https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/02/the-more-gender-equality-the-fewer-women-in-stem/553592/

This afternoon at the House of Representatives' annual Women's History Month reception, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi honors Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vauthan whose story was published in the book and film “Hidden Figures”

Katherine Johnson is a mathematics genius who did the trajectory analysis for Alan Shepard’s May 1961 mission Freedom 7, America’s first human spaceflight; in 1962, in NASA’s orbital mission, Dr. Johnson had the complete confidence of astronaut John Glenn; he said “get the girl, if she says the numbers are good, then I am ready to go”. Katherine Johnson did the calculation on her mechanical calculation machine, not the computer. Mary Jackson, mathematician and aerospace engineer, Dorothy Vauthan, mathematician, and the team of “human computers” were also key in the project.

Two women astronauts were ready to walk into space for the first time this week; NASA had to delay due to lack of right size suits! This is symbolic of women being ready while society is not!

Thank you to all the women who broke barriers despite race and gender bias!