The Monochrome Canvas of Innovation: A World Without Women in STEM

February 16, 2024

Elkida Bazaj

On February 11, the world unites to celebrate the UN International Day of Girls and Women in Science, recognizing the pivotal role they play in STEM fields. But why stop at just one day? The truth is, every day is a good day to celebrate their amazing contributions. As a young woman eager to carve out my path in STEM, specifically in the exciting world of machine learning, I know the road ahead is filled with challenges. There were times I worried about speaking up about my dreams, fearing skepticism or disbelief. But seeing other women excel in STEM fields has been a beacon of hope for me. They prove that it's not just possible to succeed—it's expected. Now, let's take a moment to think about what the world would look like without these incredible women. By looking back at their achievements and imagining a future without their influence, we can better appreciate the crucial role they play.

The impact through real-life examples

Imagine a world without the discoveries of Marie Curie, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the only person to win in two different scientific fields. Her groundbreaking work on radioactivity paved the way for the development of X-rays, which transformed medical diagnostics. Without her contributions, medical imaging might have been delayed, affecting millions of lives over the past century.

Consider the work of Dr. Patricia Bath, an ophthalmologist who revolutionized cataract surgery with her invention of the Laserphaco Probe in 1986. Her innovative approach not only transformed the field of ophthalmology but also restored the sight of individuals who had been blind for over 30 years. In a world without her contributions, millions might have remained in the shadows of blindness, illustrating the critical need for diverse perspectives in medical research and innovation.

Grace Hopper, a rear admiral in the U.S. Navy, was a pioneering computer scientist who invented one of the first compiler tools, which transformed computer code into machine language. Hopper's work laid the foundation for modern programming languages like COBOL, making computing accessible to a broader range of applications and industries. Without her foresight and innovation, the digital landscape today might be drastically different, potentially delaying advancements in everything from finance to healthcare.

The story of Katherine Johnson, a mathematician whose calculations of orbital mechanics were critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. manned spaceflights, including the Apollo moon landing mission, serves as a beacon of inspiration. In a world without her contributions, not only would the course of space exploration have been altered, but countless girls might have lost a powerful role model who demonstrated that gender and race are no barriers to achieving astronomical success.

Gerty Cori's groundbreaking work on glycogen metabolism transformed our comprehension of how the human body stores and retrieves energy, a cornerstone in treating diabetes and other metabolic disorders. Without her pioneering insights, the advancement of medical treatments for these widespread diseases could have experienced significant delays, affecting the health and well-being of millions across the globe.

Tu Youyou's discovery of artemisinin marked a turning point in the global fight against malaria, dramatically reducing mortality rates. In the absence of her groundbreaking work, efforts to combat this preventable disease would have faced severe setbacks, resulting in increased suffering and loss of life.

"Silent Spring" by Rachel Carson played a pivotal role in awakening public and scientific consciousness to the dangers of unchecked pesticide use, spurring the modern environmental movement. Without this critical work, the mobilization against environmental toxins might have been delayed, potentially leading to worsened ecological damage and a significant loss of biodiversity.

The contributions of Rosalind Franklin, particularly her x-ray diffraction images, were instrumental in unveiling the double helix structure of DNA. Lacking Franklin's vital contributions, the field of genetic research and the development of critical biotechnological applications and medical treatments would have progressed at a much slower pace, delaying advancements that have become fundamental to modern science and medicine.

Empowering the future: The essential role of women in STEM

Thinking about the future of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), it's clear that we can't afford to miss out on what women have to offer. Without their ideas and leadership, we might find ourselves stuck, unable to come up with fresh solutions to big problems like climate change, keeping our computers safe, and finding new ways to stay healthy. Women bring different viewpoints and creativity to these fields, which is super important for coming up with the best answers to the world's toughest questions. If we don't include everyone's talents, especially those of women, we're not using all the brainpower we have. This could slow us down in making discoveries and solving important issues. That's why having women in STEM isn't just nice—it's necessary for a bright and innovative future. For young girls aspiring to make their mark in these fields, remember: your journey in STEM is not just about pursuing your passion but also about contributing to a future where everyone's potential can be realized.

Stay Curious: Always ask questions and seek answers. The world of STEM is vast and exciting, full of mysteries waiting to be solved. Your curiosity is the key to unlocking discoveries.

Embrace Challenges: Don't be afraid of difficult tasks or subjects. Each challenge is a stepping stone to learning and growth. Remember, some of the world's best inventions and discoveries came from trial and error.

Find Role Models: Look up to women who have paved the way in STEM fields. Their stories of perseverance and success can inspire you and show you that your dreams are achievable.

Join STEM Clubs or Groups: Being part of a community with similar interests can be incredibly supportive. You'll learn from others, share experiences, and make friends who encourage your passion.

Believe in Yourself: Trust in your abilities and know that you have what it takes to succeed in STEM. Your unique perspective and intelligence are valuable and needed in the world of science and technology.

Keep Learning: The world of STEM is always evolving, so there's always something new to learn. Stay open to new ideas, technologies, and innovations.

Let's work together to ensure that the path of science and technology is wide open to all dreamers, innovators, and leaders, regardless of gender. Your curiosity, determination, and intelligence have the power to shape the future of STEM, making it more diverse, inclusive, and vibrant.