Sarah Owen, Director of The UWI Open Campus Continuing and Professional Education Centre in St. Kitts and Nevis, touched on the under-reporting of accomplishments on Wednesday’s (March 06, 2019) edition of the radio and television programme ‘Working for You.’
“Women have been doing a lot in STEM historically,” she said. “I think it also comes to the story that’s being told, and historically who told the story. If the women are not being engaged in the storytelling, then it is only now that we are finding out that many things that we thought were invented by men were actually invented by women.”
The UWI Open Campus official cited the true story of three African-American women mathematicians, who played a pivotal role in the early years of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the 1960s. Their stories were captured in a 2016 film called Hidden Figures. The film’s studio described the trio as “the brains behind the launch into orbit of astronaut John Glenn, a stunning achievement that turned around the Space Race.” Hidden Figures’ screenplay was co-written by Allison Schroeder and was based on a book authored by Margot Lee Shetterly.
Mrs. Owens noted that learning about these accomplishments should not come as a shock in 2019 as they did back then. She added that she also recently connected with a Trinidadian neuroscientist and was overwhelmed by her work in the field.
“What I think we need to do more of is to tell the success stories of women who are achieving especially in fields where we don’t think they are achieving,” she said, citing STEM industries.
Minister of State for Gender Affairs, the Honourable Wendy Phipps, also raised the issue of recognizing the success stories in a national address to commemorate the 2019 International Women’s Day on March 08.
She said the “organizers of International Women’s Day events would do well to remember the many ground-breaking women who have shattered the glass ceiling in the STEM and Design sectors. Such feminine genius has been evident in women such as: the late Iraqi-British architect, Dame Zaha Hadid whose award-winning designs are modern architectural and engineering marvels that distinguish the business landscapes and skylines of major world cities.
The minister also highlighted the works of: “Repeat Nobel Prize-winning Polish physicist and chemist, Marie Curie, whose pioneering discovery of Radium (and Polonium) led to modern-day radiation that is used in much of today’s cancer therapies and medical diagnostic testing; and Black American theoretical physicist, Dr Shirley Jackson whose developments include the touch-tone telephone, caller ID, and fiber-optic cable.”
Minister Phipps continued that: “The histories, challenges and discoveries of such women should be told and re-told as an inspiration to current and future generations of young women. In this way they will understand that greatness is within their reach if they would only believe in themselves, persevere and trust God in all things.”