When girls enter school they often encounter a system that is biased against them. It’s not uncommon for young women to feel unsupported when they enroll in subjects related to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). These are the subjects being used to improve our lives today, and they will be used to construct our future. Will women be encouraged to participate in building that future?

By 2018 the U.S. Department of Labor projects there will be 1.2 million jobs in STEM related fields. However, they are concerned that there will not be enough qualified people available to fill those positions. Casey Santos, Chief Information Officer of General Atlantic, provides a powerful testimony supporting the role of women in STEM careers.

She grew up as the only Hispanic child in her Iowa neighborhood. Despite her outsider status Santos found that she had a gift for STEM subjects and the determination required to compete against obstacles—including bias and prejudice. Her parents supported her interests, and when they moved to Florida’s Space Coast she actually watched rocket launches. This further inspired her interest in STEM subjects and her eventual acceptance to and graduation from MIT with a major in aerospace engineering.

After graduation Santos worked in mission control as a space shuttle propulsion engineer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. She went from watching space launches to making space launches happen and supporting American astronauts working on the Hubble Space Telescope.

Other women have also created successful careers in STEM fields. Here are some of their accomplishments:

Katrin Amunts: Neuroscientist

Amunts leads a team of researchers in the study of the human brain in order to understand the source of consciousness and personality. Working with her colleagues, she built a map of the human brain in three dimensions. Her work is leading to a greater understanding of how the construction and organization of our brains impacts human behavior.

Jennifer Eberhardt: Social Psychologist

In 2014 Eberhardt became a MacArthur Fellow, focusing her research on racial bias and methods people use to form judgments with in the criminal justice system. She uses her findings to improve relationships between police departments and their communities.

Katherine Freese: Physicist

As one of the fist women to graduate from Princeton University with a major in physics, Freese has gone on to make groundbreaking discoveries in her field. Currently she is the Director of the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics. Her study of dark matter—the invisible matter making up our universe—has led to an increased understanding of the particles that form its structure.

Maryam Mirzahkani: Mathematician

Studying shapes and surfaces in abstract mathematics has led Mirzahkani to answer difficult questions in the field of hyperbolic geometry. She is the first woman to be awarded the Field Medal for her research. There is no Nobel Prize for mathematics; the Field Medal is commensurate with that award.

Holley Moyes: Archaeologist

Moyes is an anthropological archaeologist. When she’s not working as assistant professor at the University of California at Merced you’ll find her exploring caves searching for Mayan artifacts. She has explored over 100 caves in Belize and has made significant discoveries in the study of Mayan ideology.

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