Inclusion in action
Celebrating women pioneers in science
Mae Jemison became the first woman of color in space. Rita Levi-Montalcini redefined how our bodies work. And Tu Youyou’s breakthrough malaria treatment has saved millions worldwide. Still, 64% of young women in America can’t name a woman in a single scientific discipline.
Meet the women who have broken boundaries in their fields—from chemistry to medicine to astronomy—and discover the stories of perseverance behind their breakthroughs.
- Frances Arnold, Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2018Science, like all human endeavors, is evolutionary. We build by adding to and recombining what is already there
Rosalyn Yalow launched a new era of medical research
Rosalyn Yalow went from being a part-time secretary to becoming the lone woman faculty member at a major university. She eventually developed a revolutionary method for measuring concentrations of hormones in the blood, known as radioimmunoassay (RIA), for which she received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1977.
Rita Levi-Montalcini changed our understanding of the human body
Rita Levi-Montalcini defied all odds. She studied medicine when her peers in Italy were expected to be wives and mothers. As the Holocaust forced her family to flee, she set up a laboratory in hiding. And a decade later, she made her stunning nerve growth factor discovery that led to her winning the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1986.
Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin uncovered mysteries of the molecular world
As a child, Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin loved chemistry and archaeology—so, she studied both in college. But eventually, chemistry won out. Working through chronic rheumatoid arthritis, she developed X-ray crystallography, uncovering the complex structure of penicillin and being awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1964.
- Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin, Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1964I believe in perfecting the world and trying to do everything to improve things, but not because I know what’s to come of it.
Follow Barbara McClintock’s journey of discovery that shaped modern genetics
Throughout her career, Barbara McClintock made discoveries in cytogenetics—the study of chromosomes and their genetic expression—that were so far beyond the understanding of the time, other scientists essentially ignored her work for more than a decade. But she persisted, trusting herself and the evidence under her microscope.
Genetics as a discipline was still new in the 1920s. But McClintock took to it immediately, developing a lifelong interest in the field of cytogenetics. She earned her bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD degrees at Cornell and had great success in her research on the cytogenetics of maize.
McClintock studied the mosaic colors of maize, observing that the kernel patterns changed too frequently from one generation to the next to be simple mutations. What was responsible for this? The answer—explained by her theories of genetic transposition—contradicted prevailing genetic theory. “They thought I was crazy, absolutely mad,” said McClintock.
In the face of such resistance, McClintock stopped trying to convince others—but she never stopped pursuing her theories. “I just knew I was right,” she said. Finally, in the mid-1960s, the scientific community began to validate her findings. In 1983, McClintock received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine—more than 30 years after making her cytogenetic discoveries.
McClintock made discovery after discovery over the course of her long career. But she’s best remembered for genetic transposition (or “jumping genes”). The phenomenon is fundamental to understanding genetics, as well as related concepts in medicine, evolutionary biology, and more. But beyond her discoveries, McClintock’s legacy is one of uncommon persistence.
- Tu Youyou, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2015Every scientist dreams of doing something that can help the world.
Beyond the Nobel Prize, there are countless women who have pushed boundaries and explored new frontiers in the sciences—often as unsung heroes. Astronaut, scientist, and physician Dr. Mae Jemison is trying to change that. As the first woman of color in space, she’s working to bring to light the women who made critical contributions to the US space program.
Dr. Mae JemisonWe all have wonderful imaginations, and it’s incumbent upon organizations with the wherewithal to make sure that they actively include people.
Dr. Mae Jemison, first woman of color in space
From an early age, Dr. Mae Jemison has believed strongly that representation, inclusion, and diversity matter. It’s a belief that guided her path to becoming a scientist, a physician, and eventually, an astronaut: “When I was a little girl growing up, I was really irritated that there were no women astronauts and no people of color. As a seven-year-old, I thought, ‘What if aliens run into this crew? They’re going to think that those are the only people on Earth!’ I thought it was unreasonable for us not to have everyone represented.”
That’s why she joined forces with Microsoft, Smithsonian magazine and the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum to create a mixed reality experience called Defying Gravity: Women in Space showcasing the unsung women of the US space program.
Dr. Mae Jemison’s career has brought her around the globe—literally. From volunteering at a Cambodian refugee camp in Thailand to serving as a Peace Corps medical officer in West Africa to orbiting the earth in the Space Shuttle Endeavor, Dr. Jemison has strived to build a world where opportunity is available to all. In Defying Gravity: Women in Space, her hologram guides guests from all walks of life through the experience.
- Dr. Mae JemisonInclusion isn’t just a nicety. It’s a necessity. We need to use every perspective, and all the talent we have.