This Women’s History Month, we’re elevating and celebrating the women who broke barriers and showed the world what they’re made of.
Whilst research has long supported the truth that fewer women pursue careers in STEM than men, this norm is changing slowly but surely. According to a Stanford study, women only count for a quarter of STEM-related positions, a statistic that has long been associated to factors such as “stereotype threat,” a situation where a negative gendered stereotype affects performance evaluation, or implicit bias.
Despite this, the women on this list have shattered baseless stereotypes and biases to dominate STEM, and given futures generations of young Muslim women the role models they deserve. So, which STEM Muslimah reached for the stars and had a galaxy named after her? Which phenom graduated med-school at an age when most undergrads are still getting used to their course loads? Read ahead to find out:
1. Anousheh Ansari
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Buzz Lightyear who? Anousheh Ansari is an Iranian-American astronaut. She studied electrical engineering at George Washington University, as if that wasn’t enough, she can add co-founder of not one, but two, tech companies to her already impressive list of accomplishments.
2. Burçin Mutlu-Pakdil
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What do you get when you combine someone’s love for the stars and physics? Say hello to Burçin Mutlu-Pakdil, a renowned astrophysicist. Born and raised in Turkey, she came to America to further her studies at Texas Tech University. She continued on to earn her PhD from the University of Minnesota. However, this STEM powerhouse didn’t stop there. She truly reached the greatest of heights when, whilst studying for her PhD, she discovered a new galaxy that was named after her. If you ever look through a telescope, maybe you’ll get to see Burçin’s galaxy.
3. Layla Shaikley
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Shaikley is an MIT alum, who co-founded her own software company, WISE. The company focuses on creating routing software. This is just one of her many accomplishments, as she has also spent time interning with NASA, and working on robots intended to reach Mars. Not only is she breaking stereotypes of women in STEM, but she also created the video “Muslim Hipsters: #mipsterz,” to break social stereotypes about Muslim women.
4. Dr. Hina Chaudhry
Dr. Chaudhry is the director of the Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine department at Mount Sinai. She is currently working on research in gene therapy, and has been published multiple times. This medical powerhouse is also the founder and Chief Scientific Office of the biotech company, VentriNova.
5. Maryam Mirzakhani
Mirzakhani is the first Muslim woman to receive a Nobel prize in complex geometry and dynamic systems. She was born and raised in Iran, moving to America to continue her education at Harvard University. She continued her career in mathematics as a professor at Stanford University.
6. Sameena Shah
Sameena was born and raised in India, completing her Masters degree at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Delhi. She currently works as the director of research at Thomas Reuters and has published over two dozen articles of research. In 2009, she was the recipient of the notable Google India Women in Engineering Award.
7. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim
Ameenah Gurib-Fakim is a biodiversity scientist who received her PhD from Exeter University. Thanks to her many accomplishments, she made her way onto the Forbes Power Women list in 2016. She didn’t just prosper in science, but extended her accomplishments to becoming Mauritius’ first female president!
8. Hayat Sindi
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Sindi is a Saudi biotechnologist who received her PhD from Cambridge University. Whilst she has stated that many people told her that her religion and gender would be the reason she wouldn’t succeed, she proved them all wrong when she was accepted into Cambridge, and advanced her career to the heights she had dreamed of. She is currently working on the impressive feat of creating a device which will pick up on the presence of diseases through body fluids. Her focus is on helping developing countries, which is why she has co-founded Diagnostics-For-All.
9. Afghan All-Girl Robotics Team
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You may have heard of this determined group of girls on the news when their requests for a U.S. visa to compete in a Washington-based robotics competition was denied twice. These girls, ranging from ages 14 to 17, did eventually compete in the international robotics competition, and won a silver medal for their innovating design at the First Global Challenge robotics competition in Washington. For persevering in the face of repeated rejection and hardship, this group of courageous and determined girls is well-deserving of their place on this list!
10. Iqbal Al Assaad
At age 14, Assaad wasn’t your ordinary high schooler. Why, I hear you ask? She was already in her first year of medical school, that’s why. At the age of 20, when most kids her age were adjusting to life as an undergrad, this Palestinian phenom had already graduated from medical school. She intends to use her considerable talents to help the Palestinian cause and offer aid to those suffering.
Edited by Manal Moazzam.