Focus is on STEM during Women's History Month event
April 10, 2013
WIESBADEN, Germany - Women who sought to answer questions of why, how, and where were the inspiration for the day at the Women's History Month event March 29 in Wiesbaden's Tony Bass Fitness Center.
Rachel Carson, Sophie Germain and Maria Mitchell were three women topping the list of local educator Dr. Susan Hargis who delivered the keynote speech for the event which had the theme, "Women Inspiring Innovation through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics."
Brief glimpses at the lives of the environmentalist, mathematician and astronomer showed many in attendance the world has been impacted by women who persevered and succeeded in STEM fields.
Hargis touched briefly upon the history and paths each woman journeyed to reach their point in history.
Carson sought to know why birds were dying in a friend's private sanctuary. She discovered that it was a result of pesticides that were also killing other natural resources and people. When she published the answer to the mystery, she became the protagonist in an environmental movement and an antagonist to big business, chemical companies and governments.
Germain, like most teens, rebelled against her parents' and social prejudices of the era to become a leader in the field of mathematics. Her pursuit to know how mathematics could be so captivating took her on a journey where she had to work under a male pseudonym to have her works reviewed and validated by accomplished names in mathematics. Her perseverance led to her being credited for work in elasticity and numbers theory.
Mitchell, encouraged by her father at a young age, met obstacles of inequality on her way to being recognized for her work in astronomy. On her quest, she discovered a new comet over the North Star that won her acclaim from the King of Denmark. This praise garnered a certain degree of celebrity and notoriety as the first female professional astronomer. She went on to become the first faculty member of the astronomy department at Vassar College -- a school founded as an equal to Harvard and Yale to offer women the same quality education as men.
Because their histories were a lot about the struggle to be considered equal with their male counterparts, Hargis stressed that encouragement and support is necessary for girls interested in such fields.
"STEM support should follow a girl from the nursery to her eventual choice of a career," she said recommending that support start at home and carry over into school and the workplace. "The responsibility of our daughters' futures falls to us -- teachers, coaches, counselors, principals, friends, volunteers and leaders. We must work in daily partnerships to stimulate support, and sustain our girls' interests in STEM."
Patricia Bath, Helen Greiner, Jill Pipher and Flossie Wong-Staal were also honored in a skit that opened the event. According to the National Women's History Project website, these were several among other women of the honorees regarded as "extraordinary visionaries and role models in the STEM fields."
All of the women honored impacted the world through their success in their respective fields. But without encouragement and possibility one would be left to wonder how different life would be.
"The bottom line is this: Girls are interested in making a difference in the world, but they need more support and opportunities in order to excel in STEM fields," Hargis said.
The event was hosted by the 2nd Signal Brigade in conjunction with community Equal Opportunity advisers.
Learn more about some of the women honored during the event at www.nwhp.org/whm/honorees2012.php.