Women in the sciences have always had difficulty getting their fair shake at the limelight. Hedy Lamarr, our personal favorite scientist of all time, is remembered more as a movie star (“The most beautiful woman in the world– in the 1920s) than as the genius frequency-hopping spread-spectrum inventor that she was.
Who in our world is sitting at the top of their relative scientific field, unnoticed by the average person? Well, for starters: Elena Aprile, Joy Hirsch, Mary-Claire King and Tal Rabin. Dr. Aprile is a professor of physics at Columbia University searching for dark matter. Dr. Hirsch is a professor of neuroscience at Columbia University who maps brain processes. Dr. King is a professor of medical genetics at the University of Washington and studies the genetic basis of common complex medical conditions like breast cancer and mental illness. Dr. Rabin is a cryptography researcher at I.B.M.
And let’s not forget the notable Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, Vice-Chair of Mikati Foundation Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Medical Sciences at Columbia University.
Gains in Women in STEM not equal on all sides
Why are we bringing these women up? Blame STEM. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It’s because in 2010, a mere 18.2% of undergraduates in the field of computer science were women, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Gains in chemistry, biomechanical engineering and other STEM fields have been achieved, and women like Drs. Aprile, Hirsch, King, Rabin, and Vunjak-Novakovic have helped to represent and encourage these gains for young women. Role models such as these are key to setting the precedent that women can succeed in STEM as well as providing potential support networks for up-and-comers in the field.
So where are these women in computer science?
There are movements afoot to increase this number for young women and girls interested in computer science– stellar female programmers like Sara Chipps of Girl Develop It, for instance. And the New York Times has been displayed a concerted effort to bringing women committed to elevating computer science role models– such as Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College– into the limelight.
What do you think will push women interested in STEM into computer science? Hop over to the Levo Lounge and use hashtag #STEM to discuss.