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Office for Women

Women Trailblazers and Role Models

Women have contributed richly to the achievements of science, technology, engineering and maths. Many of these accomplishments have been forgotten, ignored and even hidden. Without their pioneering work, our quality of life would be much different.

A survey organised by the Royal Society revealed that 90% of 18-24 year-olds could not name a female scientific figure—either current or historical.

Positive female role models are important if we are to challenge the myths about who becomes a scientist, technologist, engineer or mathematician, both among the public, young women, their teachers and parents. Role models can also inspire women already in STEM to continue and progress, and they can help all STEM managers and staff to break down barriers.


  • Ada Lovelace (mathematician) world's first computer programmer
  • Amelia Earhart (aviator) first person to fly solo anywhere in the Pacific, first persont to attempt to circumnavigate the globe by plane
  • Emmy Noether (mathematician) recognised as the most creative abstract algebraist of modern times. Described by Albert Einstein as the most important woman in the history of mathematics. She also well-known for her groundbreaking contributions to theoretical physics
  • Florence Nightingale (nurse and statistician) founder of modern nursing, invented a form of the pie chart
  • Ginni Rometty (electrical engineer) first woman CEO and Chair of IBM
  • Hedy Lamarr (actress and inventor) invented communication technology that is used in WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth and almost every single modern communication device
  • Hypatia (mathematician, astronomer and philosopher) first recorded woman scientist in history
  • Jane Goodall (primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist) world's foremost expert on chimpanzees
  • Joceylyn Bell Burnell (astrophysicist) discovered radio pulsars
  • Maria Mitchell (astronomer) discovered the 'Miss Mitchell's Comet' in 1847 and was the first person (male or female) to be appointed as professor of astronomy at Vasser University
  • Marie Curie (physicist and chemist) first woman to win the Nobel Prize (in Physics) and first person to win one in two categories (she also won in Chemsitry). Discovered polonium and radium.
  • Mary Leakey (archaeologist and scientific illustrator) discovered the first ancient skeleton of a primitive ape 'Australopithecus'. She also located the fossilized footprints of our human ancestors that confirmed that they had started walking upright 3.6 million years ago
  • Rachel Carson (marine biologist, writer and naturalist) famous for advancing the global environmental movement through her writings. She is regarded as one of the most influential people of the 20th century.
  • Rosalind Franklin (biophysicist and X-ray crystallographer) best known for her work on the X-ray diffraction images of DNA which led to the discovery of the DNA double helix
  • Valentina Tereshkova (astronaut) first woman in space
  • Virginia Apgar (anesthesiologist) invented neonatology including the Agpar method of measuring the health of newborn babies

Australian women in STEM

International women in STEM

State Government of South Australia © Copyright DCSI .

Provided by:
Department for Communities and Social Inclusion
Last Updated:
16 May 2017
Printed on:
22 Nov 2017
The Office for Women website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia Licence. © Copyright 2016