Women’s History Month

This past month has been an
exciting celebration of women and their achievements in science and engineering
(S&E). As part of our efforts to raise awareness during Women’s History Month,
we asked NSF-funded women working and learning in science, technology,
engineering and mathematics (STEM) to share their stories on Instagram and to
use the hashtag #NSFstories. The response was incredible! To all the women who
took the time to share their journey, thank you.

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I also had the pleasure of joining
a diverse panel of six women from NSF for a discussion on how they overcame a
variety of societal barriers to achieve success at NSF, as well as within the
nation’s scientific community. It was an incredible experience leading the
discussion among these women before joining them in answering questions from
the audience.

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Photo credit: NSF

A new report from the National Center for Science and
Engineering Statistics shows that women have earned about half of all
S&E bachelor’s degrees since the late 1990s. We have come a long way, but women
are still underrepresented in fields like physics and engineering. We must
promote gender diversity in all STEM disciplines, and support women every step
along their path to a science or engineering career.

Programs like NSF’s ADVANCE – established
to increase the representation and advancement of women in academic S&E
careers – have helped spark large-scale changes and institutional
transformations. But more needs to be done to excite and support women of all
ages in STEM. We must work harder to build an awareness among young women that
the keys to unlocking the mysteries of our world are in their hands. They are
the future!

Even as Women’s History Month draws
to a close, recognizing the advances women have made in STEM will inspire the
next generation of young women to pursue STEM careers and achieve success in
them. When I started out as a scientist, it helped knowing that brave, powerful
women had faced the same roadblocks as me and had overcome them. This has only
become more true with each new generation of successful women.

I wouldn’t be where I am today,
though, if I only reflected on women’s successes and struggles one month out of
the year. Every day we should recall the work of the trailblazing women who
came before us, and who persevered in spite of the obstacles. Just as they
carved out the path on which we now walk, so we must do for the next generation.