It may be a man’s world but, let’s face it, far more often than not, it’s the women who are running it. It’s the women who provide the brains as well as the heart, the wisdom and the care.

However, for all the remarkable contributions women have made, and continue to make, to human history, barriers persist. The fields of science and technology, for example, continue to be overwhelmingly populated by men.

Nevertheless, women are at last breaking into the boys’ club of the STEM fields. In this article, we’ll explore the STEM fields in which women are playing an increasingly important role. We’ll also celebrate the women who are breaking the glass ceiling and unlocking the doors for the female scientists and technologists of the future.

Terica Clewis
Staff Sgt. Terica Clewis has been assigned to the Air Force Technical Applications Center performing various roles for the past three years. Her current duties include designing innovative software systems that assist center personnel (as well as the rest of the Air Force) efficiently manage, store and process large-scale data. (U.S. Air Force photo by Susan A. Romano)

Health Technology

Innovations in health technology are fundamentally changing the practice of modern medicine. These technologies are not only revolutionizing how illness and injury are diagnosed, treated, and prevented, but they’re also reconfiguring the relationships between patients and care providers.

This is especially important in an era of healthcare reform, where innovation and entrepreneurial spirit are essential to ensuring that those who need care receive it, whenever, wherever, and however they may require it. Perhaps most exciting of all, these technologies are also opening the industry to healthcare visionaries ready to unleash the ever-evolving power of technology to transform care. And women are leading the way.

Though women had long dominated the healthcare field in principally caregiving roles, an increasing number of women are now assuming executive positions in the healthcare system. As healthcare today becomes ever more tech-driven, female health system executives find themselves faced with the exciting challenge of combining skilled leadership, compassionate care, and technological expertise.

Take, for example, Judy Faulkner, the President, and CEO of Epic Systems Corp, The company she founded and continues to head is raising the standard for harnessing the power of technology to drive public health. And Faulkner was recently named one of Forbes’ richest self-made women!

Cybersecurity

From the outset, the IT industry has been overwhelmingly male-dominated. There continue to be precious few women in leadership positions in this field. Cybersecurity, in particular, remains a testosterone-saturated, man-heavy field.

And yet there are powerful women seeking to turn the tide, coming together to become a profound force in the industry. Thanks to these efforts, women are expected to comprise at least 20% of the cybersecurity workforce by 2021.

Best of all, though, we don’t have to wait until next year to see the strides women are making in the industry! In fact, though they still represent a significant minority in the field, women are spearheading cybersecurity in some of the world’s most powerful companies. Take, for instance, Angela McKay, who is Senior Director of Cybersecurity Policy for a little company you perhaps have heard of-Microsoft!

And then there’s Dr. Alissa Johnson, who is not only shattering glass ceilings at some of the technology industry’s most storied legacy enterprises, like Xerox but who also made it all the way to the White House. There, Johnson served as the White House Deputy Chief Information Officer, proving that women truly have the skills to succeed when the stakes literally couldn’t get much higher!

Astronautics

Women in STEM: Astronaut Christina Koch
NASA astronaut Christina Koch makes observations from the International Space Station’s cupola. In October 2019 she was part of the first all-female spacewalk and now she is poised to make history again. On December 28, 2019, she broke the record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman. Image Credit: NASA

As influential a role as women are beginning to play in fields like health technology, IT, and cybersecurity, it’s in the field of astronautics, perhaps, that women are truly shining. That’s right. We said astronautics. As in space.

In December 2019, Christina Koch broke the world record for the longest spaceflight by a woman, having spent nearly a full year onboard the International Space Station. Koch was also a part of the first-ever female-only spacewalk in history.

And it doesn’t end there. In January 2020, NASA, in partnership with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), introduced its new team of 13 astronauts. Of those 13, who were selected from a candidate pool of more than 18,000, nearly half are women.

If all goes as planned, this new class of space explorers will take humanity back to the surface of the moon by 2024. They may even be a part of the team to get us to Mars by 2035.

But it’s not only space flight where women are leading the way. Women are also taking the helm in guiding the next generation of girls to a career in space science.

Scientist, entrepreneur, and visionary, Carie Lemack, for instance, is the founder and CEO of DreamUp. DreamUp is a nonprofit designed to introduce students to space science, from the physics of space flight to the processes of space-based experimental research.

Making It Happen

Breaking the glass ceiling isn’t easy, and it doesn’t happen all at once. It takes time and determination. It requires you to know your worth and to understand your rights. The fact is that gender discrimination in the workplace is illegal.

If you are being harassed in the workplace, or if you find yourself being discriminated against in terms of promotions or other employment opportunities, you do have legal options. The most important thing is to understand the protections you are entitled to under the law and to seek support when you need it.

The Takeaway

The STEM fields are no longer an exclusive boys’ club. While women continue to be underrepresented in the arena of science and technology, the tide is turning. In the IT and cybersecurity fields, for example, women are coming together to increase their numbers and strengthen their voice in an overwhelmingly male-dominated field. Likewise, women are now playing an increasingly important role in healthcare leadership and the health technology industry.

It is, however, in the area of space science that women are shining the brightest. Women are breaking records for space flight. They are a significant force in the future of space exploration. Above all, they are paving the way in the education of tomorrow’s female space scientists.

Maggie Potter

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