Five influential female scientists and engineers for International Women's Day 2019Lauren Mineau | March 08, 2019
Each year on March 8, events worldwide are held to celebrate International Women’s Day.
The day offers a chance to reflect on the strides women have made to achieve equality, while also offering a look ahead at the work that needs to be done.
The day was first suggested on Feb. 28, 1909 by the Socialist Party of America. International Women’s Day was first observed on March 19, 1911, in Austria, Demark and Sweden. More than one million people attended rallies in support of women’s right to vote, hold public office and end workplace discrimination.
Since 1975, the United Nations has celebrated the day on March 8. In 2015, participating countries adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals. This is a roadmap for progress in many areas including gender equality, poverty, sustainability and quality education, with a goal deadline of 2030.
The theme for 2019 is #BalanceforBetter. The initiative hopes to create gender-balance in areas like workplaces, media coverage, sports coverage and governments.
Progress has been made to make STEM fields more welcoming to women, like foundations that hope to inspire girls to pursue careers in science. But recent studies conclude female researchers receive less funding than their male counterparts.
As part of International Women’s Day, here are some notable female trailblazers in science, engineering and technology.
These are just a handful of influential, historical female engineers and scientists - there is no shortage. Check out IEEE-GlobalSpec's CR4 Woman of the Week blog series to celebrate women each week, not just once a year.
Grace Hopper created one of the world’s first computer programming languages and was the first female admiral in the U.S. Navy. She made machine-independent programming languages a popular concept. By bringing them into the conversation, the high-level programming language COBOL was invented; it remains in use today.
Mary Walton was a crucial part of reducing smog produced by factories that arose as part of the Industrial Revolution. In 1879, she patented a device to help minimize smoke emissions from factories. She also developed a device to minimize the extremely loud sound of New York City’s subways.
At age 21, Martha Coston found herself a widow with four young children. She found preliminary plans for a signal flare that had been drawn up by her husband. She used his ideas as inspiration for her own invention, which was later patented and used by the U.S. Navy. Her signal flares proved particularly effective in the discovery and capture of Confederate blockade runners during the Union blockade of southern ports during the Civil War.
Edith Clarke is hailed as the first American female engineer and also achieved numerous “firsts.” She was the first woman to earn an electrical engineering degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the first woman to present a technical paper at the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE, now IEEE); and the first female fellow of the AIEE. She was also the first woman to teach engineering at the University of Texas, Austin. She worked numerous jobs as a "computer," which in her day was a person who solved mathematical equations. In 1945 she received a patent for her graphical calculator, which was used to solve electric power transmission problems.
Annie Easley had a 34-year career at NASA, she worked not only on technologies that led to hybrid vehicles, but also on software that enabled great strides in spaceflight and exploration. She did all of this as one of the first African Americans in her field.