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Celebrating Wonder Women

A young girl prepares for a life as a scientist / Photo by YY TEOH on Unsplash

Does anyone remember the Grolier Encyclopedia, the supplemental Science encyclopedia, and Value Tales that salesmen guilted parents into buying when they saw kids gathered to hear pitches from someone offering a wealth of knowledge? Value Tales were hardcover books aimed at children that were shipped regularly to your house â€” think of Columbia House but for a young, curious reader instead. The books taught kids about love, compassion, imagination, helping, self-discipline, learning, etc., with each lesson corresponding to a historical figure. The Value Tale about learning was the story of Marie Curie.

Curie was not only the first woman to win the Nobel Prize but the only woman to win the prize twice for her work in radiology. Her work, and that of her husband Pierre Curie, allowed “battlefield surgeons to x-ray wounded soldiers and operate more accurately” during World War I, paving the way for introduction to the general public, according to NobelPrize.org. Women have been at the forefront of advancements in scientific discoveries throughout history. But it wasn’t until December 2015 that an official day was set to recognize their achievements: The United Nations’ International Day for Women and Girls in Science, celebrated on Feb. 11.

“Women need to know that they have a place in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and that they have a right to share in scientific progress,” United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Director-General Audrey Azoulay said on the UNESCO site. Science isn’t merely peering into a microscope. The heart of it touches all aspects of study: medicine, law, theology, accounting, engineering, computer engineering, architecture, physical and chemical science … any field based on observation, and the study of that observation.

Some young girls look to Wonder Woman as the bastion of strength. But what of Curie, Jane Goodall — who pioneered communication with apes; Mae C. Jamison — the first black woman in space; Rosalind Franklin — known for her work in studying DNA; and Tiera Fletcher — one of the designers building the Space Launch System for NASA? These and many more are wonder women in their own right who need to be recognized to encourage young girls.

“By the time students reach college, women are significantly underrepresented in [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] majors,” Houston Methodist Hospital’s Gabrielle M. Ferguson said. “The effort to change this has to start with our young girls — encouraging and supporting learning opportunities and providing positive messages and role models.”

Two local events will provide positive messages this week. On Feb. 9, Houston Methodist Hospital hosts its fourth annual Women in Science Panel Conversation at Noon, and the McGovern Medical School Women Faculty Forum hosts its fifth annual International Day of Women and Girls in Science Symposium at 4:30 p.m. in the Memorial Hermann Hospital Conference Center.

We urge you to go to these events and learn about other wonder women, not just on this day or on Feb. 11, but throughout the year to teach children another Value Tale: women can do anything.