It has long been a concern that not enough girls continue their education in maths and science. The lack of girls doing these subjects means that fewer women are then able to pursue careers in the associated fields like engineering and computing.
Better careers guidance is one area which has been identified as a way to encourage more girls to stay in maths and science. Knowing what fields they can go into with different qualifications might help students to see the benefit of continuing with those subjects.
A report by The Independent suggested that female students lack confidence in their own abilities with regards to maths and science, and that this is the reason why they are underperforming in those areas.
But how do we inspire girls to realise their potential in maths and science? One way is to raise awareness of the pioneering women in those fields.
Here is a list of 10 inspirational women (in no particular order) who have made important innovations in science and engineering.
1. Stephanie Kwolek
Kwolek invented lightweight, high-tensile Kevlar which is five times stronger than steel and has been used in bullet-proof vests. Read more about Stephanie Kwolek here.
2. Mary Anderson
Anderson invented the first manual windshield wipers in 1903 – making driving in bad weather much safer. Read more about Mary Anderson here.
3. Mary-Claire King
Among other things, King showed that chimpanzees and humans are 99% genetically alike and proved that breast cancer can be inherited. Read more about Mary-Claire King here.
4. Katharine Blodgett
Blodgett discovered a process which resulted in glass which eliminated glare and distortion, thereby revolutionising cameras, microscopes, eyeglasses, and more. Read more about Katharine Blodgett here.
5. Grace Hopper
Hopper invented the compiler that translated written language into computer code and coined the terms “bug” and “debugging”. She was also part of the team that developed COBOL, one of the first modern programming languages. Read more about Grace Hopper here.
6. Rosalind Franklin
Although not credited at the time, it was Franklin who honed a technique to closely observe molecules using X-ray diffraction. She was the first to capture a photographic image of DNA. Read more about Rosalind Franklin here.
7. Margaret Knight
Knight invented the paper bag machine. Perhaps not the most important invention, it is the fight she undertook to gain credit for the invention which makes her inspirational. It was claimed at the time that a woman was incapable of such a breakthrough. Read more about Margaret Knight here.
8. Alice H. Parker
Parker filed the first U.S. patent for the precursor to a central heating system. The system was able to regulate the temperature of a building and carry heat from room to room. Read more about Alice H. Parker here.
9. Marie Curie
Curie developed ways to separate radium from radiation leading to many current practices, including chemotherapy. Read more about Marie Curie here.
10. Barbara McClintock
McClintock discovered that genes were able to “jump” between different chromosomes. Her work explained, for example, how bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics and how species are able to make evolutionary leaps. Read more about Barbara McClintock here.
Garner, Richard (January 2014), The Independent, Gender gap in UK schools means girls’ lack of confidence in maths and science puts them off applying for engineering jobs, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/gender-gap-in-uk-schools-means-girls-lack-of-confidence-in-maths-and-science-puts-them-off-applying-for-engineering-jobs-9078197.html, accessed: 15/07/2014
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