It’s no surprise that women have faced challenges in society. For centuries, women have been kept out of a variety of fields by men looking to increase their power. And while the plight of women has been stressful, it has been undoubtedly much more infuriating for women of color. Women of color have faced far worse adversity, and yet they still manage to persevere and push forward. This is a great testament to their resolve.
Considering that February is Black History Month, I wanted to take a moment to highlight some of the most influential black women who’ve made major strides and progress in STEM fields.
Alice Ball was a go-getter, through and through. Not only was she the very first woman of color to graduate from the University of Hawaii with a science degree, she was the first woman to do so, period. That’s a major achievement. Alice is most widely known for her contributions to finding a cure for leprosy. By using the oils from a chaulmoogra tree, Ball was able to find an injectable cure for leprosy, and her method was used for years.
Katherine Johnson is a pioneer in women’s rights and we salute her to this day for her tremendous work. Since her youth, Ms. Johnson has always had a way with numbers, and she utilized that skill to not only earn degrees in mathematics and French, but she also became a pivotal part of NASA’s plan to send a human to space and back. Johnson’s ingenious calculations helped propel America’s aeronautics program into the limelight; in fact, Johnson’s work was so famed that her story was recently adapted into a best-selling book as well as a major Hollywood motion picture.
Where Katherine Johnson’s work was crucial in sending a man into space, Jemison focused her work on actually going herself. Jemison’s impressive resume boasts a degree in chemical engineering from Stanford University, a medical degree from Cornell University, and a few years of Peace Corps service as a medical officer in Sierra Leone and Siberia. A career like this would normally be enough for most people, but Jemison wasn’t done just yet; she was eager to go even further. She eventually set her sights on space and became an astronaut. After applying to NASA’s astronaut program in 1986, Jemison was chosen to be part of a 15-member team to go into space, and in 1992, she became the first African-American woman in space!
These women are more than just successful women of color — they are trailblazers. They set standards for the women of today by never yielding to anyone. Their determination and success shows that, with determination and knowledge, you can do anything you set your mind to.
And don’t be fooled, the world of STEM does not solely have three influential women of color — quite the contrary, actually; STEM has been graced with a bevy of black women, far too many to name in one single article. Go out and learn about their amazing feats, utilize their spirit and go and make your own success!