Undervalued but Overqualified

Time and time again throughout history and still today, women of color, specifically African American women, are overlooked and undervalued. Despite the fact that they do the same amount, if not more work in comparison to their non-women of color and male counterparts. Women of color are not only severely underrepresented, but they are also more likely to face discrimination and far less likely to be promoted. Despite this, they continue to persist and persevere and overcome these adverse circumstances, and have gone on to make vital contributions in STEM fields. Here is a list of pioneering African American women that without, our world would never be the same. 

Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson calculated the trajectories that made the Apollo 11 land on the moon and for Neil Armstrong’s safe return in 1969. She also made it possible for Alan B. Shepard Jr. to become the first American in space and, in the following year, allowed for John Glenn in the Mercury Vessel Friendship 7 to become the first American to orbit the Earth. Despite her many achievements and vast credentials, very few would know her name till decades later.

Dr. Gladys West

Dr. Gladys West was inducted into the Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers Hall of Fame in Dec 2018 after being recognized for her mathematical work leading to the invention of the Global Positioning System (GPS). Also, in 1956, she began working at the U.S. Naval Weapons Laboratory, where she helped produce a study that proved the regularity of Pluto’s motion relative to Neptune.

Mae Jemison

Mae Jemison worked in the medical field as a general practitioner while also attending graduate engineering classes when she was accepted into the NASA astronaut training program in June 1987.  Jemison would later go on to become the first African American woman astronaut and then as of Sep 12, the first African American woman to go to space. Jemison’s other credentials include acting as a Peace Corps medical officer for Sierra Leone and Liberia.  

Dr. Shirley Jackson

Dr. Shirley Jackson was the first African American woman to graduate with her doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in any field. Jackson was also the second African American woman to earn a doctorate in physics in U.S. history. She has been credited in helping with the development of technology that led to the creation of caller ID and call waiting.

Dr. Patricia Bath

Dr. Patricia Bath was the first African American woman to complete an ophthalmology residency and also to receive a medical patent. Dr. Patricia Bath is said to have changed the face of medicine through her invention of a new device and technique called laserphaco. Bath conducted research where she identified the presence of health disparities between African American patients compared to those of other races; specifically, that there is a high prevalence of blindness among blacks, and this is due to lack of access to ophthalmic care. To help mediate this problem, she started a program known as community ophthalmology. “Community ophthalmology combines aspects of public health, community medicine, and clinical ophthalmology to offer primary care to underserved populations.” This has resulted in the sight of thousands being saved who would have otherwise gone undiagnosed and untreated. 

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