International Women’s and Girls Science Day Books

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In 2015, the United Nations designated 11 February as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. It recognizes the contributions and achievements of women in science and highlights the importance of women and girls continuing to enter science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

Women make up nearly half of the workforce, but are still underrepresented in STEM fields (just 27% in 2019). Girls and women have been found to be systematically tracked away from these areas. By the time they graduate high school, an equal number of boys and girls plan to major in STEM fields, but fewer young women choose to major in these fields during their first year of college. By graduation, more men than women are earning degrees in STEM fields, which is further reflected in graduate programs. This report examines this in more detail, but there are many factors: teachers and professors encouraging girls and women, outdated gender stereotypes and gender role expectations, and even self-assessment due to larger cultural stereotypes and assumptions.

By reading about famous women scientists and STEM professionals, we can help develop a love and enthusiasm for STEM in children and show them worthy role models. We can examine our own stereotypes about these fields and innate abilities (I know I’ve been doing this with myself and math; it’s hard to forget this information after listening to it for decades), and encourage A love of science and exploration.

I’ve put together a list of books for children and adults to celebrate women and girls in science any time of year. I could list dozens of books, but this is just a sample.

Women in Science: 50 Intrepid Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotowski

This interesting book features 50 women in STEM fields, both famous and not-so-famous, such as Marie Curie, Rachel Carson, Chenxiong Wu, and Mae Jemison. The illustrations are interesting and informative, with scientists presenting work in various fields and on very different topics. This book is suitable for all ages: for younger children, they can read more overviews, and for older children, they can read the entire biography, which can then be used as a springboard for further research.

Roda Ahmed book cover

Beauty in the Stars by Rhoda Ahmed and Stacia Burlington

This beautiful picture book is inspired by Mae Jamison, the first black woman in space. It tells the story of Mei wanting to go to space as a child and dreaming of being in the sky, surrounded by stars. Her parents encouraged her even when others didn’t. It’s a story of believing in yourself, working hard, and chasing your dreams.

Mary Anning Cover

Mary Anning of Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara and Popy Matigot (Little People, Big Dreams)

This series is great and this book is a great addition to the series. In this book, children can learn about Anning, a leading figure in the field of paleontology. The illustrations are fun and the text is easy to understand while still being educational. The back of the book has a biographical timeline and more details about her life.

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Sally Ride: Sue Macy’s Mission Life

Ride was the first American woman to go into space, but it was much more than that. This biography explores her work as a professor and the founder of a company focused on encouraging girls and women into science and math. This is a middle grade book and a great introduction to this astronaut and her many accomplishments.

girl with a math mind cover

Girls with a Math Mind: The Story of Rey Montagu by Julia Finley, Mosca and Daniel Reilly

When Montague was a young girl, she wanted to be an engineer — but ended up encountering sexism and racism as a black woman. She produced the first computer-generated draft of a U.S. Navy ship. This lyrical picture book tells her story, complete with a timeline and notes from Montague.

reach for the moon cover

Reaching the Moon: The Autobiography of NASA Mathematician Kathryn Johnson

Another middle school book, this autobiography is filled with information and stories about Katherine Johnson, who not only worked on some of NASA’s biggest programs, but also helped launch Apollo 11. Although she excelled in mathematics, she faced racism and sexism throughout her studies and studies. Career paths – and keep going.

black women in science covers

Black Women in Science: Kimberly Brown Pellum’s Children’s Black History Book

In this middle school grade book, kids learn about Bessie Coleman, Mamie Phipps Clark, Patricia Bath, Mae Jemison, and more. These pioneering women are in multiple fields: aviation, ophthalmology, forensics, psychology and other STEM fields, which speaks to the breadth of options.

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Maryam’s Magic: The Story of Mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani by Megan Reid and Aaliya Jaleel

Maryam grew up in Tehran and didn’t like math. She loved stories – until she discovered geometry, where shapes and numbers became their own stories. She threw herself into mathematics, eventually becoming the first woman to receive the Fields Medal, the highest honor in mathematics, and the first Iranian. This is her story.

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The Marie Curie Complex: The Hidden History of Women in Science by Julie Des Jardins

This one is for teens and adults as there is always more to learn! Des Jardins looks at the long-standing myth of the solitary male scientific genius, exploring the profiles of various female scientists, and examining women’s long unnoticed and unrecognized contributions.

The Disordered Universe: Dark Matter, Space-Time, and the Journey of Dreams postponed book cover

The Disordered Universe: Dark Matter, Spacetime, and the Journey of Dreams, Postponed by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein

Theoretical physicist Prescod-Weinstein combines memoir and reportage in this wonderful book. She looks at the sexism and racism that is still rampant in physics/science, and discusses various topics in the field with enthusiasm and authority, while making them accessible to the layperson. Black feminist traditions, popular culture, faith, social justice, history, and politics—all of which tie into her discussion of physics are thought-provoking readings.

If you want to learn more about women in science, check out Mary Roach’s Reading Path, and this article on books on women in scientists.

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