8 Women in Science to Know and Celebrate

Every year, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science is celebrated on February 11th. The inclusion of women and girls in science is no small feat as historically women’s contributions to science have been overlooked or stolen. 

Although the number of women in science fields is increasing, only 30% of the world’s researchers are women and there are still cultural and societal forces that limit the capacity of women to operate in this field. The underrepresentation of women in science deprives the world of potential mind-blowing sustainable solutions. 

We’ve picked 8 women in science whose achievements we’d like to celebrate with you today and every day.

1. Nemonte Nenquimo

Nemonte Nenquimo was the recipient of the 2020 Goldman Environmental Prize, and recognized by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of the year. She is the first female president of the Waorani of Pastaza from the Ecuadorian Amazon. 

Nemonte succeeded in protecting 500,000 acres of rainforest and Waorani territory from oil extraction. She also co-founded the Ceibo Alliance and has worked with Indigenous women from numerous tribes. Nemonte’s message is of Indigenous resistance to defend the forest and valuing traditional knowledge by being a voice for her community.

“And now, as a woman, as a mother, as a water protector and a forest defender, I want you to join us in our fight to defend our way of life, our forests and our planet.”

2. Vanessa Nakate

Vanessa Nakate is a Ugandan climate activist from Kampala. Her mission is to raise awareness about the issues within Africa and internationally after seeing the impacts of climate change in her community. She began her activism in 2018 leading Fridays for Future protests and is demanding climate change education for children in Ugandan schools. 

She is also the founder of the Rise up Climate Movement, which aims to highlight the voices of African activists. Vanessa Nakate has become one of the most prominent young African voices on climate change and is currently leading a project on installing solar stoves in schools. 

You can keep up with Vanessa on Twitter.

3. Dr. La Daana Kanhai

Dr. La Daana Kanhai is a Trinidadian marine scientist whose PhD research in plastic pollution led her to became one of the first Trinidadian nationals to reach the North Pole, in August 2016 on an Arctic Ocean expedition researching microplastics in sea ice. In 2019, she joined the all-female crew for eXXpeditions around the world voyage to research and raise awareness of plastic pollution in the Caribbean sea. 

Her other research interests include anthropogenic threats to coastal and marine ecosystems, chemical contaminants in wetland ecosystems and attitudes related to current environmental issues. 

Read more about Dr Kanhai’s work on her blog here, or follow her on Twitter.

4. Leah Thomas

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Leah Thomas is an intersectional environmental activist and eco-communicator based in South California. As a communications specialist and blogger, she uses her platforms to share resources on environmental justice, inclusivity within environmental education and movements. She highlights the need for environmentalism to be inclusive of all people and to stand for black lives:

“If environmentalism isn’t inclusive and intersectional then it doesn’t really stand for justice in the first place.” By exploring the relationship between social justice and the environment she is determined to make the world a little more equal while protecting our planet. 

You can connect with Leah on Instagram and read more about her work here.

5. Komal Dadlani

Komal Dadlani is a Chilean biochemist and entrepreneur teaching science to kids across Latin America. She is the co-founder of Lab4U, an app meant to “democratize science and change the way science is taught” by giving everyone, particularly students and teachers, the opportunity to have a Lab in their pockets. 

Komal has developed methods of using cell phones to mimic lab equipment which has supported teachers to help teach science focusing on critical thinking and data analysis skills. From this work she has been recognized as one of MIT Technology Review, Spanish Edition’s Innovators Under 35 Latin America 2017, Toyota’s Mothers of Invention, and numerous other awards.

Keep up to date with Komal on Twitter or Instagram.

6. Megan Smith

Megan Smith is the CEO and founder of shift7, a company working collaboratively on systemic social, environmental and economic problems. She is also a former U.S. Chief Technology Officer ( 2014-2017), an award-winning entrepreneur, engineer, and tech evangelist. 

Before serving in government, she was Vice President at Google for eleven years, led acquisitions of Google Earth, Maps, Picasa and an engineering transition of Google.org. Over the years, Megan has contributed to a wide range of engineering projects, including an award-winning bicycle lock, space station construction program, and solar cookstoves.  

You can keep up to date with Megan here.

7. Janine Benyus

Janine Benyus is a biologist, author, innovation consultant, and self-proclaimed “nature nerd.” 

She’s evolved the practice of biomimicry, consulting with businesses and conducting seminars about what we can learn from nature. Biomimicry is the practice of looking to nature for inspiration to solve design problems in a regenerative way. Her work encourages everyone to look to nature when we have questions to create sustainable designs but to better relationships and communities.  

She has received several awards including Time Magazine’s Hero for the Planet Award 2008, United Nations Environment Programme’s Champion of the Earth for Science and Technology 2009. You can learn more about biomimicry from her Ted Talk here.

8. Flossie Wong-Staal

Flossie Wong-Staal was a Chinese-American virologist and molecular biologist. She was the first scientist to clone HIV and determine the function of its genes, a significant step in proving that HIV is the cause of AIDS.

 For her contributions to science, the Institute for Scientific Information named Wong-Staal the top female scientist of the 1980s. She died of pneumonia on July 8, 2020, but leaves behind a lasting legacy as a trailblazer for women in science.

We always love to hear about brilliant innovations in science so we can lift up the women whose voices in this field are so rarely heard. Luckily, the number of women for this list grows exponentially every year. We could not capture nearly all the brilliant female scientists and climate activists in one article, so please let us know who we missed in the comments – or send us a DM @WallaceaFriends on Instagram. 

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