One of my biggest problems about how we talk about women in STEM is that we act as if we aren’t already here. Or if we do acknowledge women are already in these fields, we act as if it’s a new thing. Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science-and the World aims to change that perception. Over 224 pages (288 pages with notes) author Rachel Swaby gives introductions to 52 female scientists. She leaves out Marie Curie, since she’s already the woman scientist most of us are familiar with (her daughter is featured though). Swaby also draws attention that her book is lacking women of color. She based her criteria on women who have finished making their contributions to science, and that opportunities were simply not there for women of color as early as they were for white women.
As I started reading this book, I was initially disappointed. Afterall 52 women in 244 pages leaves only a few pages for each woman. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized this book isn’t for me. This book is for the young women who are still in school. The young women who think that they’ll be the only woman in their class, if not in their field. This book says to them “We’re here.” And at that point, the short story on each scientist made sense. It’s to be an introduction. A place for young women to feel welcome, and to give them some direction as to where to look for role models.
Books like this are important. When I was in high school, we had to do a project and interview an expert in the field. I interviewed the Dean of Mechanical Engineering at IUPUI about robotics. Afterwards he sent me a book called Cool Careers for Girls in Engineering. This showed me that despite what popular culture and dialog had told me, I wouldn’t be alone entering a technical field. I pored over that book time and time again. Because of that, I’d like to see more books like this tackling more diversity issues in STEM fields. I’d love to see one detailing out the accomplishments of people of color (male or female) in STEM. In my experience, there is even a greater lack of representation along racial lines than gender lines. But that’s another topic for another time.
Headstrong is that book for today’s young women, and I recommend it for middle school (I think, I don’t have kids so it is kind of hard to say) and older girls. The only complaint I have is that there are no pictures of the women in the book. While I can conjure up images of Grace Hopper, Ada Lovelace, and Sally Field, I can’t for these other women. If I had a picture of them in mind, it’d help their stories stick in my head.
You can pick up a physical copy of Headstrong for $16.00 or the digital for $9.99.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Headstrong for review through Blogging For Books. I receive no other compensation unless you click on one of the Amazon links to buy the book yourself.