Women’s History Month inspires both celebration and reflection on the role of women scientists/engineers across the STEM fields: women have contributed to scientific endeavors throughout history despite disparagement, marginalization, discrediting, and invisibility. This week, we call attention to some tributes to STEM women. For example, the recently published 600+-page Palgrave Handbook of Women and Science Since 1660 offers a “comprehensive overview of the history of women in science from the late 17th century to the present.” The pages abound with previously unknown contributions by women across STEM fields.
Similarly, journal issues devoted to the recognition of women’s contributions to science draw attention to both their presence and marginalization. For example, a recent issue of the International Journal of Radiation Biology featured not only Marie Curie but the work of many women from around the world, highlighting historic contributions, current projects, and continuing obstacles. Preserving and disseminating these stories is important to garner both scientific acknowledgement and public recognition. To these ends, a speaker series initiated by the University of Illinois Archives, is a proactive outreach program to bring visibility to long-hidden contributions of women scientists at the University of Illinois and counter their absence in the cultural heritage. If you would like to learn more about past and present Michigan Tech women and their contributions to STEM, be sure to inquire with the Michigan Tech Archives.
Amid these celebrations, we take note of the recent announcement by the nonprofit advocacy group, 500 Women Scientists, that their operations would need to be curtailed. Established in 2016 in order to promote the infrastructure necessary for women scientists to conduct research, 500 Women Scientists reminds us of the value of collective efforts to realize gender inclusivity throughout STEM. As the founders observed, “Despite a larger public reckoning with structural inequities, . . . efforts to break down racism and oppression in science have often been performative rather than affecting meaningful change.” We note that at Michigan Tech, ADVANCE initiatives such as the Advocates & Allies in conjunction with the Office for the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion promote sense of belonging for all. Now is the moment to build on our momentum to continue advancing women in STEM, across our academic units, and throughout our campus community.
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