Girl Powered is celebrating Women’s History Month by shining a light on women leaders in STEM! These inspirational figures have done amazing work and have impacted the industries they serve and helped pave the way for future female innovators to do the same. Read below to see what we’re talking about!
Maria Mitchell was a leader in the astronomy field due to her efforts and discoveries. In 1847, she became the first woman to discover a comet 1847 (named Miss Mitchell’s Comet in her honor). One of the very first professors at Vassar College, she taught young women to learn through direct observations and analysis. She worked hard as an educator to encourage young women to become independent thinkers and reach for intellectual achievement at the school. Maria also advocated for women’s rights and helped to establish the American Association for the Advancement of Women. As a tribute to Maria for her contributions to science and women’s rights, the observatory on Vassar’s campus is named in her honor.
“We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics, nor all logic, but somewhat beauty and poetry.” - Maria Mitchell
Sally Ride, Ph.D.
Sally Ride, Ph.D. was the youngest American astronaut and first American woman to travel to space in 1983. She worked alongside a team of engineers to develop a robotic arm that she would later use on later space missions. After retiring from the space program, she taught at universities and wrote children’s science books. She co-founded Sally Ride Science at UC San Diego in 2001, a nonprofit organization to inspire young people in STEM and to promote STEM literacy. Their goal was to motivate more students (with a focus on girls and minority groups) to stick with STEM as they go through school. Sally served as CEO until her death on July 23, 2012, after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer.
“All adventures, especially into new territory, are scary.” - Sally Ride
Grace Hopper, Ph.D.
Grace Hopper, Ph.D. received numerous awards for her work in the computer science industry. She joined the Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service) after receiving her master’s degree and a doctorate in mathematics from Yale University. Her team worked on Mark I, an early prototype of the electronic computer. It was during this project that she coined the term “bug.” She was also involved in the creation of UNIVAC, the first all-electronic digital computer. She invented the first computer compiler, a program that translates written instructions into codes that computers read directly. Because of this work, she co-developed the COBOL, one of the earliest standardized computer languages that enabled computers to respond to words in addition to numbers. After retiring, she taught computer science in classes until her death on January 1st, 1992.
“It is often easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.” - Grace Hopper
Mae Jemison, Ph.D.
Dr. Mae Jemison became the first woman of color to travel to space when Mission Spacelab-J took off on September 12, 1992! Since then, Dr. Jemison has been a strong advocate for science, social responsibility, and education.
On top of serving as a NASA astronaut for six years, she has also founded two technology companies, created the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence, and more! She is currently a member of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Women’s Hall of Fame and sits on the Board of Directors for Kimberly-Clark, Scholastic, and Valspar. You can learn more about her here.
"Never be limited by other people's limited imaginations... If you adopt their attitudes, then the possibility won't exist because you'll have already shut it out... You can hear other people's wisdom, but you've got to re-evaluate the world for yourself." - Mae Jemison
Anousheh Ansari became the first Iranian American astronaut and first female private space explorer on September 18, 2006. She is the co-founder of Prodea Systems, and before that, she served as co-founder, CEO, and chairman of Telecom Technologies, Inc. before their with Sonus Networks, Inc., in 2000. Anousheh and her family have contributed to space exploration through their Ansari X Prize, a $10 million cash award for the first non-governmental organization to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks. From immigrating to America as a teenager who didn’t speak English, Anousheh has proved her success and leadership from the numerous board memberships and awards received. Click here to learn more about her.
"Find something you enjoy and love and you're passionate about. And then dedicate all you've got to make it a success. And if you have those two things, I think with your passion and dedication, there is nothing that you cannot accomplish." - Anousheh Ansari
We invite you to take our Girl Powered pledge! We're committed to showing how exciting it is to be involved with STEM, showcasing examples of how women are changing the world, providing tools for success, and enabling comfortable environments where all students' confidence and abilities can flourish. The Robotics Education & Competition (REC) Foundation and VEX Robotics are working to make robotics reflective of the diverse world we live in, and the one we want to leave behind.