By Shaista Gohir (Co-Chair of MWNUK)
Today is international day of women and girls in science. The purpose of this day is to motivate more women and girls to take up STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects so they are equally represented in STEM occupations. Why is it important? If less girls choose stem subjects at school, a very low percentage of women will then end up STEM careers, meaning that women are missing out on higher paid jobs. Some analysis has been conducted on why less girls choose these subjects at school, ranging from biological explanations to social constructs. If we want to close the gender gap in in STEM occupations, we need to create the pipeline now. To do that girls need to be exposed to the range of careers that can be taken up after studying STEM, including potential earnings with comparisons with other professions. They also need to be informed about role models, both past and present. Women in science is not something new even for Muslim women but their stories are often not told. Here are a couple Muslim women science geniuses that you may not know about but it’s important they are not forgotten because they show Muslim girls can end up being leaders in their field.
Professor of Mathematics
(1977- 2017: Iran / US)
When Maryam Mirzakhani was awarded the prestigious International Mathematical Union’s Fields medal in 2014, she became the first woman and Muslim to receive the prize in its then 80-year history. The award is only given every four years and is also known as the ‘Nobel Prize of mathematics.’ She was given the award for her work on the symmetry of curved surfaces. Maryam was born and brought up in Iran, graduated from Tehran's Sharif University of Technology and then went on to earn a doctorate at Harvard University in 2004. When Maryam won the medal, she was only 37 years old and was also a professor at Stanford University. Sadly, Maryam died of breast cancer three years later in 2017. Despite being ground-breaking and reaching the pinnacle in her field, most of the Muslim world seem to be unaware of her work. However, when her death was covered in Iran, some newspapers broke with convention and showed images of Maryam without her hair covered (by the hijab), signifying how highly they regarded her achievements.
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