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Influential women throughout history

March 8, 2021

This International Women’s Day, the Feminism Equity Advocates wanted to highlight various influential women throughout history across the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM). Join us in celebrating these incredible women today and beyond! 


Rosalind Franklin 

Franklin played a crucial role in discovering the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) alongside Jason Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins [1]. Using X-ray crystallography, Franklin was able to visualize DNA that served as the basis of the double-helix DNA model proposed by Watson and Crick [1]

Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett 

Dr. Corbett is an African-American immunologist at the US National Institutes of Health [2]. Dr. Corbett was a part of the team that worked on creating the mRNA-based vaccine for COVID-19 with the brand Moderna [2].


Indra K. Nooyi 

Nooyi was the CEO and chairman of PepsiCo Inc. She climbed the corporate ladder in PepsiCo Inc. from being the senior vice president of corporate strategy and development, president, and chief financial officer [3]. She oversaw a variety of revenue-building projects. Upon her joining as PepsiCo Inc’s CEO in 2006, revenues increased from $35 billion to $63.5 billion in 2017 [3].

Madam C.J. Walker

Walker was the first self-made American millionaire [4]. She claimed this title by creating a hair care line for African-American women upon experiencing hair loss herself in the 1890s [4]. Walker also developed Madame C.J. Walker Laboratories to make her products and nurture and support aspiring beauticians [4]

If you’re interested in learning more, Self Made is a Netflix series based on the life of Madam C.J. Walker.


Emily Warren Roebling 

Upon the death of her father-in-law and the illness of her husband who was respectively in charge of the design and engineering of the Brooklyn Bridge, Roebling played an integral role in seeing the project to completion from 1869-1883 [5]. She was also the first person to take a carriage ride across the bridge when it opened in May 1883 [5]

There have been a variety of books written about Roebling and her accomplishments: 

Kimberly Bryant 

Bryant felt there was a lack of accessibility to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and the overall number of African American women in STEM [6]. Thus, Bryant founded the nonprofit organization Black Girls CODE to empower and create an environment for aspiring African American girls to learn the art of technology and computer programming [6].

Margaret Hamilton

Margaret Hamilton was the person in charge of coding Apollo 11! Not only was she a computer scientist, engineer, and business owner, but she also was the director in the software engineering division of the MIT Laboratory, contributing to the development of the flight software for NASA’s Apollo. Margaret has published over 130 papers and reports about software engineering, so much that people accredit her towards the creation of the term “software engineering” [7]. Her businesses include two software companies - the Higher-Order Software and the Hamilton Technologies companies. In 2019, Google made a tribute to Hamilton with respect to 50 years since the launch of Apollo 11! [8]

Damyanti Gupta

Damyanti Gupta was the first ever woman with a Masters in Engineering to be hired by Ford Motors in 1967! She was also the first woman who was allowed to attend the college for Engineering in India and from there decided to move to Michigan. Gupta decided that she wanted to be an engineer at the age of 13, which was quite unheard of during that time! Right away, she told her mother, who supported her every step of the way! The college that she attended for engineering did not even have a women’s bathroom. But due to Gupta’s stay, they created one soon after. Not only did Gupta persevere, but she has succeeded greatly! [9]


Dr. Kakenya Ntaiya

Dr. Kakenya Ntaiya is the founder of the Kakenya Center for Excellence. Not only does she empower women, but she also protects them from Maasai genital mutilation. When Dr. Ntaiya was younger, she struck a deal with her father to proceed with the genital mutilation ceremony in exchange for having an education and continuing to high school. After high school, she convinced her village elders to allow her to attend college in the States. This is where she found out that what was done to her was illegal, that she was wrongfully abused. To stop this from happening to other girls, she vowed to start her academy. Now, all of the academy graduates attend secondary school. Truly an inspiring woman indeed! [10]

Shukla Bose

Shukla Bose started the Parikrma Humanity Foundation so that at least one child living in the slums of Bangalore, India, could have the chance to have an education from kindergarten to college. The school not only takes care of the educational aspect of things, but they also take care of nutrition and healthcare. Now, some of the students of Parikrma have gone onto earning money for their families, and they also have equivalent education to that of the topmost schools in India! [11]


Katherine Johnson 

Among her many accomplishments, Johnson played a major role in the success of John Glenn’s NASA orbital mission in 1962 [12]. With the complexities of orbital flight, Glenn did not want to leave his mission’s trajectory in the sole hands of computer-based equations and analysis [12]. Johnson was asked to double-check the numbers and equations used to guide Glenn’s mission which she did by hand, leading her to confirm that the numbers were accurate [12]. Johnson was portrayed by Taraji P. Henson in the 2016 film, Hidden Figures.  

Maryam Mirzakhani

Mirzakhani was a mathematics professor at Stanford University and the first woman to receive the Fields Medal in 2014, the most prestigious honour in the field of mathematics [13]. She specialized in the mathematics of moduli spaces, Teichmüller theory, hyperbolic geometry, and many others [13]. She passed away in 2017 due to breast cancer but is remembered by those that she worked with and inspired throughout her journey as a mathematician [13]