4 women in STEM who made history

4 STEM women in history that changed the world

Historically in the Western world, STEM fields have been considered ‘men’s work’. It wasn’t until the first and second world wars that women in Australia started to abandon the ‘homemaker’ lifestyle in favour of working in factories, producing munitions, aircrafts, ships and other wartime necessities.

Fast forward seventy years and women in the workforce are more common than not – but we’re still seeing a lack of women in STEM fields. Only 16% of STEM professionals in Australia are women. 6.2% of girls are studying maths in high school, and 6% of girls are studying physics. There’s also a massive shortage in people working in STEM in Australia, with the numbers of STEM graduates dropping for both men and women over the last decade.

Why does it matter? STEM skills are behind the future of work. From space travel, to climate change solutions, STEM careers and skill-sets are vital for tackling the big problems that face our world today and in the future.

To change the future, sometimes you have to look to the past. Despite the social and cultural expectations of their time, these 4 women have powered through stereotypes to establish themselves as history-making women in STEM. If they could do it, why can’t we?

Here’s 4 STEM women in history that changed the game for today’s women in STEM.

4 STEM women in history

Florence McKenzie

Florence McKenzie was Australia’s first female electrical engineer, and founded the Women’s Emergency Signalling Corps (WESC) ahead of World War II.

Read more about Florence McKenzie.

Florence McKenzie, Australia's first female electrical engineer

Makereti Papakura

Makereti Papakura was a well-known Māori tourist guide during the early 20th century, before she turned her talents to anthropology and the study of Māori culture.

Read more about Makereti Papakura.

Makereti Papakura

Elizabeth Blackburn

Australian molecular biologist Elizabeth Blackburn is a Nobel laureate who discovered the secret to the immortality of cells.

Read more about Elizabeth Blackburn.

Nobel Laureate Elizabeth Blackburn

Marie Maynard Daly

Marie Maynard Daly (1921-2003) was the first African American woman to obtain a PhD in chemistry in the United States.

Read more about Marie Maynard Daly.

Marie Maynard Daly

Know some STEM women in history (or men!) we should know about? Tweet us @CareerswithSTEM or message us on Facebook and let us know! We’ll be adding more historical STEM figures to our new profile section in the future.

Want to learn more about current STEM professionals? Head to our profiles section to find interviews, inspiration and career pathways from people working in STEM today.

Eliza Brockwell

Author: Eliza Brockwell

Eliza is the Digital Producer for Careers with STEM. Eliza is passionate about creating content that encourages diversity of representation in STEM.

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