March Feminist Four

Women in STEM

Women in STEM

This month, we celebrate four women who fought tooth and nail for everything they achieved, and then turned around and used their power to make the path easier for the women following behind.

Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu, Nuclear Physicist (1912-1997)

Wu

Click here for a video on the life of Chien-Shiung Wu

Chien-Shiung Wu was born in 1912 in a small town near Shanghai. Her father had the unusual belief (for the time) that women should be educated, and so she attended school in China. In 1936, Wu immigrated to the U.S. to continue her studies, and enrolled in the University of California at Berkeley. After graduating, she became a physics professor at a number of universities and colleges, including Princeton, Smith, and Colombia. During World War II, she was a key contributor on the Manhattan Project. After the war, Dr. Wu continued her work in theoretical physics, and became a U.S. citizen in 1954.

One of her more notable findings was her confirmation of Enrico Fermi’s beta decay theory. Dr. Wu’s expertise in beta decay led to her collaboration with two male theoretical physicists that ultimately resulted in her male colleagues being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for the trio’s work in 1957. Despite being overlooked, Dr. Wu continued her research, and served as a professor at Columbia University until the end of her life, where she focused on encouraging and empowering other women by mentoring them and sharing her own stories of dealing with discrimination.

It is shameful that there are so few women in science… There is a misconception in America that women scientists are all dowdy spinsters. This is the fault of men.

Dr. Ellen Ochoa, Astronaut (1958- )

Ochoa

Click here to see footage of Ellen Ochoa in space

A native Californian, Ellen Ochoa earned her undergraduate degree in physics at San Diego State University before pursuing her master’s at Stanford. During her early career, Dr. Ochoa not only published several papers regarding optical systems, but her innovative work also resulted in the filing of three patents. She began working at NASA in 1988 before being selected as an astronaut in 1990. She became the first Hispanic woman to travel through space on the STS-56 mission. Dr. Ochoa went on three more missions to space over the next ten years. Since then, she has used her platform in several ways, from speaking out against the lack of diverse astronaut suit sizes (they are made to fit the average man, not woman) to speaking at conferences like the Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers. The Dr. Ellen Ochoa Award is now granted annually to Latina STEM professionals for demonstrated excellence.

There are great minds across all ethnicities, races and genders, and we want to make sure we’re pulling from all of those.”

Lisa P. Jackson, Chemical Engineer (1962- )

Jackson

Click here to learn more about Lisa Jackson’s career.

Lisa P. Jackson studied chemical engineering at Tulane and Princeton University before joining the EPA in an entry level position in 1987. Jackson worked her way up through the ranks, eventually serving as the Administrator of the EPA (a politically appointed, cabinet-level position) from 2009-2013. She was the first African-American, and the fourth woman, to hold this position. At the EPA, Jackson fostered several critical changes in environmental regulation, including her designation of carbon dioxide as a pollutant that jeopardizes public health in 2007, which made it eligible for regulation under the Clean Air Act.

Jackson now works as Apple’s first vice president of environment, policy, and social initiatives. She oversees Apple’s $100 million racial justice initiative, focusing on issues from education to reforming the criminal justice system. In this role, Jackson not only works to protect the future of the planet through environmental work, but also the quality of those futures through racial equity programs.

You can read about some of the early American feminists who paved the way for the next generation of women in the Songs of the Suffragists.

Lisa Gelobter, Computer Scientist (1971- )

Gelobter

Click here to learn more about Lisa Gelobter and her diversity initiatives.

Lisa Gelobter has held the title of computer scientist, innovative designer, and chief officer throughout her long and illustrious career. She graduated from Brown University in 1991 with a degree in Computer Science. Her innovative technological work in computer programing contributed to the creation of popular sites and interfaces like Hulu and Shockwave. The popular internet trend of sharing short, looped animated pictures called GIF’s exist in no small part as a result of Gelobter’s research. Too often, we celebrate only the final step in what is often a long road to breakthrough technology — Gelobter’s innovative work in animation software was crucial to the invention of the GIF.

Beyond her inventiveness with 0s and 1s, Gelobter also paved the way for other computer scientists in politics and the business world. From 2015 to 2017, she served as the Chief Digital Service Officer for the Department of Education, building new database tools to broaden the metrics available to rate higher educational institutions (including tuition, loan repayments, and graduation rates). And in 2017, Gelobter founded tEQuitable, a B2B technology company that provides businesses with an independent, confidential platform to address issues of bias, harassment, and discrimination in the workplace.

It’s powerful. Whether you’re Black, whether you’re female, or whether you come from a low income family. Being able to actually show up and represent, that is powerful.

About the Feminist Four

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The Feminist Four is a monthly newsletter that describes four ways feminists leveraged their cultural and political influence to fight for women’s equality in the US. It is part of the LWV-BHNPS’ ongoing Songs of the Suffragists Project, which includes a bookdocumentary film, and discussion guide. Click on the photos in this email if you would like to learn more about the described topics. Support our project by buying our book. And please reply by email if you would like help presenting a virtual Songs of the Suffragists program in your community!

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