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Book review – 50 Women in Technology


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Author Cheryl Robson presents concise biographies of 50 remarkable women who have made significant contributions to the field of technology. The book celebrates the achievements of women from diverse backgrounds across the globe. These individuals emerge as true champions of change, leaving lasting and indelible marks on the technological landscape.

While I was already acquainted with a handful of women in technology, such as Rosalind Franklin, Nettie Stevens, and Lise Meitner, most of the individuals featured in the book were new to me. Exploring their success stories in the realm of technology proved to be genuinely inspiring. In my role as a STEM teacher in Uppsala, Sweden, I was particularly fascinated by the discovery of Emily Holmes, a Professor of Psychology at Uppsala University, whose research had eluded my awareness until I delved into this book.

One standout figure for me is Emmanuelle Charpentier. Her groundbreaking research at Umeå University has laid the groundwork for one of the most significant achievements in molecular biology today. The widespread use of the gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9[1] by thousands of researchers worldwide is a testament to the global impact of her contributions.

The first biography features the pioneer and legend Ada Lovelace, an English mathematician credited with producing what is considered the first computer program. Furthermore, the book highlights various exceptional women, concluding its biographical focus with Stephanie Willerth. Stephanie is an American-born professor and has been recognized as a successful researcher in the fields of Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering.

Since 1901, the Nobel Prize Committee in Sweden has honoured 64 women for outstanding achievements. The book delves into the stories of several laureates, including Marie Curie, the first female Nobel laureate and the only woman to receive the Nobel Prize twice. It also introduces one of the 2023 female Nobel laureates, Kaitlin Kariko. Her research enabled the development of mRNA[2]vaccines against COVID-19.

I have a diverse group of students with various ethnic backgrounds in my classes, for example students of Nigerian background. Reading the book has given me the opportunity to highlight several successful Nigerian women in technology, such as Mary Agbesanwa. Mary, the first woman described in the second part of the book focusing on women in tech today, is passionate about technology and supporting millennials.

As a STEM teacher, I can derive valuable insights from “50 Women in Tech.” The stories in the book shed light on the challenges women face in STEM due to gender stereotypes, making it a useful tool for promoting critical thinking and discussions about gender issues in STEM. It broadens the understanding of the history and current state of women in science, providing a more inclusive perspective for teaching.

The book offers versatile applications in education. For instance, students can pose the same interview questions found in the book to women working with technology in universities or industries. Additionally, it can be linked with exercises like “Can you match the right laureate with the right discovery?”[3]

In our daily lives, we are constantly surrounded by technology, which can have both positive and negative implications. Technological advancements in various fields can be part of the solution, exemplified by the use of mRNA vaccines to save lives during the pandemic. Given that tech skills are becoming increasingly essential, the world cannot afford to overlook the problem-solving abilities of half its population, as emphasized in the book. The book mentioned provides a wealth of examples showcasing successful women in technology, serving as invaluable role models for our students. By emphasizing these achievements, we can inspire the next generation to pursue careers in STEM fields, contributing to a more diverse and innovative future.

[1] CRISPR stands for ‘clustered regularly interspersed palindromic repeats’. More information about CRISPR: https://www.nobelprize.org/uploads/2020/10/popular-chemistryprize2020.pdf

[2] mRNA (messenger nucleic acid).

[3] Nobel Prize resources (https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/)

CC-BY provided by author

Pernilla Berglund, a Biotechnology educator at NTI-gymnasiet in Uppsala, Swedenn. She is a a Scientix ambassador. Known for her global collaboration and innovative teaching methods, Pernilla has actively participated in international projects like Erasmus job shadowing in Cape town and Science on Stage in Prague, showcasing her dedication to international education. Her dynamic and engaging teaching style effectively prepares students for the dynamic field of biotechnology, fostering a deep interest in science.

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