18 Remarkable Women in STEM Who Changed the World

18 Women in STEM Who Changed the World | Abakcus

Throughout history, countless remarkable women in STEM have made invaluable contributions to the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Their pioneering work has not only advanced human understanding in these disciplines, but also paved the way for future generations of female scientists and engineers, shattering stereotypes and challenging societal norms in the process. In this document, we will explore the inspiring stories of 18 such women who, through their relentless pursuit of knowledge and innovation, have indelibly changed the world.

In the past decade, we’ve witnessed a significant increase in the number of women and girls from all backgrounds and races expressing interest in STEM fields. This diversity enriches the pool of minds focused on answering some of the most challenging questions of our time. The surge in female participation has led to an explosion of new perspectives, ideas, and innovations, contributing significantly to scientific and technological advancement. There are now more women scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and technologists than ever before working tirelessly to solve complex problems, making our planet a better and more advanced place to live. This shift is not only encouraging but also critical for the future of global innovation.

Indeed, women in STEM have been breaking barriers and making significant contributions in STEM for many years. Among these trailblazers stands Grace Hopper, a computer scientist and United States Navy rear admiral. Often referred to as “Amazing Grace,” Hopper was instrumental in the development of COBOL, one of the earliest high-level programming languages, and was a visionary in the field of software development concepts.

On the other spectrum of STEM, we find Hayat Sindi, a notable name in the world of biotechnology. Born in Saudi Arabia, Sindi is one of the world’s leading biotechnologists and is a pioneer in the field of medical testing and biotechnology. She has developed a range of impressive inventions, including a cheap, portable device to test for diseases like HIV and Hepatitis in rural and impoverished areas. These women, through their exceptional accomplishments, have not only left an indelible mark on their respective fields but also continue to inspire future generations of women in STEM.

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Women in STEM Who Changed the World

These women in STEM have worked hard and made significant contributions to mathematics, science, technology, and engineering. We’ve compiled a list of just a few amazing women who have produced significant discoveries or improvements in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Rosalind Franklin

Rosalind Franklin
Rosalind Franklin – Chemist

Rosalind Elsie Franklin was an English chemist and X-ray crystallographer whose work was central to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA, RNA, viruses, coal, and graphite. Her researches laid the groundwork for numerous scientific breakthroughs, particularly in the field of genetics and biochemistry.

Franklin’s most acclaimed work was the critical contribution to the discovery of the DNA double helix structure, although her role was under-recognized during her lifetime. Despite facing several challenges as a woman in a predominantly male-dominated field, her relentless pursuit of knowledge and her meticulous approach to crystallography has been instrumental in propelling scientific research forward. Franklin’s enduring legacy continues to inspire and pave the way for future women in STEM.

Hayat Sindi

Hayat Sindi
Hayat Sindi – Medical Scientist

Dr. Hayat AlSindi, a Saudi Arabian medical scientist, is a beacon of inspiration for women in STEM across the globe. She stands out as one of the first female members of the Consultative Assembly of Saudi Arabia, a significant feat considering the traditional societal norms of the region. Dr. Sindi is renowned for her significant contributions to point-of-care medical testing and biotechnology. Her innovative approach and relentless pursuit of knowledge have led to advancements that have made medical testing more accessible and effective. Her contributions are a testament to her commitment to uplifting healthcare standards and improving lives worldwide.

Valentina Tereshkova

Valentina Tereshkova
Valentina Tereshkova – Cosmonaut

Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova is a distinguished engineer, esteemed member of the Russian State Duma, and a former Soviet cosmonaut. Her most significant accomplishment is that she was the first and the youngest woman to journey into space. On June 16, 1963, she embarked on a solo mission on the Vostok 6, marking a monumental milestone not just in her career, but in the history of space exploration as well.

Book recommendation: Valentina Tereshkova, The First Lady of Space: In Her Own Words

This feat not only shattered the glass ceiling in the field of space exploration but also paved the way for future generations of women astronauts. Her courage, determination, and contributions to space science continue to inspire, making her a true icon in the women in STEM.

Sau Lan Wu

Sau Lan Wu
Sau Lan Wu – Particle Physicist

Sau Lan Wu, a Chinese American particle physicist, is the Enrico Fermi Distinguished Professor of Physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Wu’s contributions to the field of particle physics are remarkable and instrumental in shaping our understanding of the universe. Her most notable achievements include her involvement in the discovery of the J/psi particle, which was evidence for the existence of the charm quark, and the discovery of the Higgs boson at CERN, often referred to as the “God Particle.”

Wu’s relentless pursuit of knowledge and unwavering dedication to the field has made her a beacon of inspiration in the global scientific community. Her groundbreaking discoveries have not only advanced the field of particle physics but have also inspired future generations of women in STEM.

Sarah Stewart

Sarah Stewart
Sarah Stewart – Cancer Researcher

Sarah Elizabeth Stewart, a Mexican American researcher, holds a significant place in the annals of medical history. She pioneered the field of viral oncology research, leading the charge in understanding the connection between viruses and cancer. Stewart’s groundbreaking work demonstrated for the first time that cancer-causing viruses could spread from animal to animal, revolutionizing our understanding of how cancer proliferates.

Along with Bernice Eddy, Stewart co-discovered the first polyoma virus, a crucial piece of the cancer puzzle. In recognition of their significant contribution, the SE polyoma virus was named in their honor. Stewart’s work continues to provide a foundation for ongoing research into the viral triggers of cancer, underlining her vital role in the women in STEM field.

Mary Sherman Morgan

Mary Sherman Morgan
Mary Sherman Morgan – Rocket Fuel Scientist

Mary Sherman Morgan, an American rocket fuel scientist, holds a pivotal role in the annals of space exploration history. Her most significant contribution was the invention of the liquid fuel Hydyne in 1957. This revolutionary fuel powered the Jupiter-C rocket, which was instrumental in launching the United States’ first satellite, Explorer.

Morgan’s unparalleled expertise and innovative approach to rocket fuel science propelled the United States into a new era of space exploration. Her enduring legacy continues to inspire future generations of women in STEM, showcasing the profound impact of their contributions in shaping the world.

Mary G. Ross

Mary G. Ross
Mary G. Ross – Engineer

Mary Golda Ross, a trailblazer in the engineering field, holds a unique place in history as the first known Native American female engineer and the first female engineer at Lockheed. She is especially remembered for her contributions to the secretive Skunk Works project, where she was part of the initial team of 40 founding engineers.

At Lockheed Corporation, Ross excelled in her work, making significant strides in the development of defense systems and aerospace vehicles. Her ground-breaking contributions opened doors for other women in engineering and continue to inspire a new generation of diverse women in STEM professionals.

Mary Anning

Mary Anning
Mary Anning – Paleontologist

Mary Anning was an English fossil collector, dealer, and palaeontologist who became renowned for her contributions to scientific knowledge. Born and raised in Lyme Regis, Dorset, a county located in Southwest England, she spent her lifetime uncovering Jurassic marine fossil beds hidden in the towering cliffs along the English Channel.

Her groundbreaking discoveries not only challenged the scientific beliefs of her time but also played a pivotal role in the development of palaeontology as a discipline. Anning’s tenacity and passion for uncovering the secrets of the past continue to inspire generations of scientists, underscoring the significant role women have played in the evolution of women in STEM fields.

Margaret Heafield Hamilton

Margaret Hamilton
Margaret Hamilton – Computer Scientist

Margaret Heafield Hamilton is an American computer scientist, systems engineer, and business owner. She etched her name in history as the director of the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, where she led the development of on-board flight software for NASA’s Apollo program. Hamilton’s leadership and technical expertise played a crucial role in the successful moon landing in 1969, and her innovations in software engineering laid the groundwork for modern, complex computing systems.

Hamilton’s pioneering work has not only transformed the field of software engineering but has also been instrumental in redefining women’s roles in women in STEM. Her accomplishments serve as a testament to the significant contributions of women to technology and exploration.

Mae Carol Jemison

Mae Carol Jemison
Mae Carol Jemison – Astronaut

Mae Carol Jemison is an American engineer, physician, and former NASA astronaut. She holds the distinction of being the first black woman to travel into space, a feat she accomplished when she served as a mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Jemison’s journey to the stars was not just a personal achievement, but a momentous event that broke barriers and expanded the horizon of possibility for black women in the field of space exploration.

Book recommendation: Mae Carol Jemison: Astronaut and Educator by Iemima Ploscariu

Her trailblazing career, her contributions to space science, and her relentless advocacy for science education have made her a prominent figure in women in STEM fields. Jemison’s indelible impact continues to inspire future generations, echoing the powerful message that the sky is not the limit.


Hypatia – Mathematician

Hypatia was a renowned Greek Neoplatonist philosopher, astronomer, and mathematician who resided in Alexandria, Egypt, then a part of the Eastern Roman Empire. She emerged as a leading intellectual figure in the Neoplatonic school in Alexandria, where she imparted her knowledge on philosophy and astronomy to numerous students.

Her extensive contributions to these fields and her pioneering role as a woman in a predominantly male intellectual sphere significantly marked her legacy. Hypatia’s innovation and steadfast dedication to the advancement of knowledge underline the profound impact women continue to make in the women in STEM fields. Her story resonates through time, inspiring future generations to pursue their passions irrespective of societal norms or expectations.

Grace Hopper

Grace Hopper
Grace Hopper – Computer Scientist

Grace Brewster Murray Hopper was an American computer scientist and United States Navy rear admiral. As one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer, she was a pioneer of computer programming who invented one of the first linkers. Hopper’s revolutionary creation was instrumental in the development of the COBOL language, which is still in use today.

Her commitment to innovation and her extraordinary contributions to the field of computer science marked a significant milestone in the transition to modern programming languages. Hopper’s legacy continues to inspire a new generation of programmers and reaffirms the impactful role women can play in STEM fields.

Evelyn Boyd Granville

Evelyn Boyd Granville
Evelyn Boyd Granville – Computer Programmer

Evelyn Boyd Granville was the second African-American woman to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics from an American University, an achievement she accomplished in 1949 from Yale University. Prior to this, she graduated from Smith College in 1945. She went on to perform pioneering work in the field of computing, marking a significant milestone not only in her career but also in the advancement of the discipline.

Granville’s groundbreaking work and unwavering dedication to the field of mathematics have left an indelible mark in the women in STEM arena, effectively carving a path for future generations of diverse professionals in the field.

Elsie Macgill

Elsie Macgill
Elsie Macgill – Engineer

Elizabeth Muriel Gregory “Elsie” MacGill, known as the “Queen of the Hurricanes”, was a trailblazer in the field of engineering. She was the world’s first woman to earn an aeronautical engineering degree, a remarkable achievement that marked a significant milestone in the history of aviation.

Book recommendation: Meet Elsie MacGill by Elizabeth MacLeod

Additionally, she was the first woman in Canada to receive a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. These groundbreaking achievements in a largely male-dominated field not only highlight MacGill’s personal determination and expertise, but also her role in paving the way for future generations of women in STEM. Her legacy continues to inspire and empower women engineers around the globe.

Chien-Shiung Wu

Chien Shiung Wu
Chien-Shiung Wu – Physicist

Chien-Shiung Wu, a Chinese-American experimental physicist, significantly contributed to the fields of particle and nuclear physics. Notably, she was a researcher on the Manhattan Project, where she was instrumental in the development of the process for separating uranium into uranium-235 and uranium-238 isotopes by gaseous diffusion.

Wu’s ground-breaking work not only advanced the field of nuclear physics but also demonstrated the remarkable impact women can make in STEM disciplines. Her legacy continues to inspire women pursuing careers in physics, a testament to the enduring influence of her contributions.

Anousheh Ansari

Anousheh Ansari
Anousheh Ansari – Engineer

Anousheh Ansari is a serial entrepreneur and a shining example of women in STEM leading the charge in the tech industry. She co-founded Prodea Systems, a company dedicated to revolutionizing the consumer’s digital living experience. Ansari’s vision is to ensure that the power of the Internet is accessible to all consumers, simplifying and enriching their lives. Through her innovative leadership, she continually strives to alter the digital landscape and push the boundaries of what’s possible.

Book recommendation: My Dream of Stars: From Daughter of Iran to Space Pioneer by Anousheh Ansari 

Her contributions to the technology sector have been instrumental, and she continues to inspire women in STEM globally to venture into STEM fields. As an entrepreneur, Ansari has not only carved a niche for herself in the tech industry but has also established a benchmark for future innovators.

Alice Ball

Alice Ball
Alice Ball – Chemist

Alice Augusta Ball was an American chemist who developed an injectable treatment for leprosy, revolutionizing the medical field and saving countless lives. Known as the “Ball Method”, her groundbreaking treatment was the most effective solution for leprosy during the early 20th century.

At a time when leprosy was a virtually untreatable disease, Ball’s innovative approach not only provided relief to thousands of sufferers but also marked a significant advancement in medical science. Despite the fact that her life was tragically cut short at the age of 24, Ball’s remarkable contributions to the field of chemistry and her trailblazing role as a woman of color in STEM continue to inspire and pave the way for future generations.

Bessie Coleman

Bessie Coleman
Bessie Coleman – Pilot

Bessie Coleman was an early American civil aviator. Born into a life of hardship and adversity, Coleman surmounted the barriers of her time to become the first African-American woman, as well as the first Native American, to hold a pilot license. Despite facing racial and gender-based prejudice, she ventured to France to pursue her aviation dreams, earning her license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale on June 15, 1921.

This commendable achievement made Coleman the first Black person to earn an international pilot’s license. Her courageous journey and remarkable accomplishments paved the way for future generations, challenging societal norms and breaking barriers in the aviation industry.

What does women in stem means?

Women in STEM means that women are increasingly playing a vital role in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It is important to recognize the contributions of women in STEM fields because they bring a unique perspective and skill set that benefits all of society. From developing life-saving medical treatments to creating innovative technology, women are making significant strides in STEM and opening doors for future generations. However, despite progress in recent years, there is still a significant gender gap in these fields, and it is important to continue to advocate for equal opportunities and representation for women in STEM.

What percentage of STEM is female?

Despite progress in recent years, there is still a significant gender gap within STEM fields. According to the National Science Foundation, women in STEM make up only 28% of the workforce in science and engineering occupations. This underrepresentation of women in STEM can be attributed to a number of factors, including unconscious bias and lack of access to opportunities. However, it is crucial that we work towards increasing female representation in these fields, not only for the sake of gender equality, but also to ensure diverse perspectives and approaches to problem-solving within the women in STEM community. By empowering and supporting women in STEM, we can drive innovation and advancements that benefit society as a whole.

You may also enjoy reading these:

• Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science-and the World
• 30 Remarkable Women in Science and Math
• The First Woman in Space: Valentina Tereshkova
• 20 Greatest Mathematicians: the Masters of Mathematics from the Past, Present, and Future

Ali Kaya


Ali Kaya

This is Ali. Bespectacled and mustachioed father, math blogger, and soccer player. I also do consult for global math and science startups.