Although Black women have contributed to STEM in more ways than a little bit, they are still grossly underrepresented in the field.

In 2016, Black women reportedly only made up a mere 2.9 percent of students earning bachelor’s degrees in STEM. Today those numbers have increased thanks to pioneers like Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson whose stories were brought to light in the hit film, “Hidden Figures.”

Here are five women who also shattered glass ceilings and accomplished anything they put their minds to in STEM.

Dr. Patricia Bath

As the first Black doctor to land a medical patent for the laserphaco probe,  a device uses to treat cataract patients, Dr. Bath became the first Black woman to complete an ophthalmology residency in the U.S.

She was also the first to document that Black people suffered blindness at alarming rates compared to other racial groups.

Soon, the late Dr. Bath could become the first Black woman to be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for her contributions in STEM.

Dr. Marie Maynard Daly

A pioneering biochemist, Dr. Daly was the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry in America.

After landing a grant from the American Cancer Society in 1948, she conducted a seven-year study that revealed how the body constructs proteins. She also is responsible for outlining the connection between heart health and diet while studying the cause of heart attacks.

On a mission to lift as she climbed, Daly encouraged minority students to pursue higher education in STEM fields by teaching biochemistry and founded her own scholarship at Queens College in 1988.

Valerie L. Thomas

Much like the hidden figures, Thomas’ professional career started in STEM as a mathematical/data analyst at NASA.

She worked her way up to NASA’s imaging processing team for Landsat — the first satellite to send multispectral images used to examine the Earth’s resources from outer space.

An innovator too, Thomas invented the illusion transmitter and received a patent in 1980, a device that produces three-dimensional optical illusions by way of two concave mirrors and light rays and is still used by NASA today.


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Dr. Latanya Sweeney

A barrier-breaker, Dr. Sweeney was the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. in computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

She is an award-winning computer scientist, known for co-introducing the theory of k-anonymity, Dr. Sweeney is still on a mission to “create and use technology to assess and solve societal, political, and governance problems.”

Currently, Dr. Sweeney serves as Professor of Government and Technology in Residence at Harvard University.

Dr. May Edward Chinn

A woman of many firsts, Dr. Chinn became the first Black woman to graduate from New York’s Bellevue Hospital Medical College.

Not only was she the first Black woman to intern at Harlem Hospital, but Dr. Chinn was also the first woman allowed to ride in the hospital’s ambulance during an emergency call.

Despite the fact that this was a time that Black doctors weren’t even allowed medical treatment or the ability to complete hospital residencies, Dr. Chinn opened her own private practice in New York.


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