On International Women's Day, we honour those who fought, those who fight and who will continue to do so for the world where every single woman is heard, and respected and her rights protected. We stand with those who have to combat silently and those who won’t remain speechless. We celebrate the achievements of women who have overcome adversity and fought for their place in the world. We acknowledge the struggles that many women still face in their daily lives. And we remember the remarkable women who broke societal boundaries, shattered gender stereotypes and achieved greatness in their fields.
Maryam Mirzakhani was an Iranian mathematician who made significant contributions to the field of mathematics. She was the first woman to receive the Fields Medal, which is the highest honour in mathematics. Mirzakhani's work focused on the dynamics and geometry of complex surfaces, and her research has opened up new areas of inquiry in mathematics. In addition to her groundbreaking work, Mirzakhani was a role model for young girls in STEM fields, demonstrating that any woman can excel in traditionally male-dominated fields. Coming from a highly conservative environment, she served as an inspiration to countless young women around the world, encouraging them to pursue their passions and break down barriers in society. Tragically, Mirzakhani passed away in 2017 at the age of 40, after a long battle with breast cancer. Her untimely death was a great loss to the mathematical community and to all those who had been inspired by her achievements. Mirzakhani's legacy continues to inspire women around the world to pursue their dreams and fight for gender equality.
Jennifer Doudna is a biochemist and molecular biologist who co-invented the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology, which has revolutionized biomedical research. Before winning the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2020, along with her colleague Emmanuelle Charpentier, Doudna faced numerous challenges as a woman in academia, including being passed over for promotions and having her ideas dismissed. However, she persisted, and her groundbreaking work became a huge leap in the field of genetics. She has spoken out about the challenges that women face in male-dominated fields and has worked to promote gender equality and diversity in science. Doudna's work and advocacy have inspired countless women to pursue careers in science and to break down barriers in their fields.
Rosalind Franklin was a chemist and X-ray crystallographer who made significant contributions to the discovery of the structure of DNA. Despite her important role in the discovery, her contributions were largely overlooked during her lifetime. Like many women at the beginning of the 20th century, Franklin faced numerous obstacles, including being excluded from important meetings and having her work overshadowed by her male colleagues. Coming from an Anglo-Jewish family, Franklin was also facing anti-semitism both during her years at Cambridge and later at work in King’s College. Franklin's legacy has inspired generations of women in science, and her perseverance and determination continue to serve as a reminder of the importance of breaking down barriers and fighting for equality.
These three women are rebels who broke societal boundaries and shattered gender stereotypes in their fields. They refused to let their gender hold them back and pushed forward, even in the face of adversity. Their stories remind us that women are warriors, who had to path their way to success through more hardships than any man. Despite facing discrimination and bias, they persisted, and their achievements have inspired countless others to follow in their footsteps.
International Women's Day is a time to celebrate the achievements of women like Maryam Mirzakhani, Jennifer Doudna, Rosalind Franklin and many more. It is also a time to acknowledge the work that still needs to be done to achieve gender equality in all areas of life. We must continue to fight for women's rights, to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to achieve their full potential. Let us honour these remarkable women by continuing to push forward and break down barriers, for ourselves and for future generations.