Many inven­tions have transformed the world today, with a significant number being the brain work of women, yet little light is shone on the achievements.

Brilliant innovators and inven­tors have transformed the lives of humanity through discoveries that we cannot live without. Have you ever wondered how life would be without computer programmes as inspired by Ada Lovelace (1815- 1852) or Grace Hopper, nicknamed ‘Amazing Grace’, one of the first women to achieve a PhD in Mathe­matics and developer of Harvard’s Mark I Computer in 1952?

Without Hedy Lamarr’s frequen­cy-hopping communication system in 1941, there would have been no wireless communications like GPS or Bluetooth today, earning her the nickname ‘the mother of Wi-Fi’.

British chemist Rosalind Frank­lin’s discovery of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in 1952 and a vital breakthrough in 1991 by Ann Tsu­kamoto in cancer research via stem cell isolation have saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

The luxuries of Nancy John­son’s ice cream maker in 1843 and Josephine Cochrane’s dishwasher in 1887 are also worthy of note. Ms Cochrane’s model is reportedly used in some hotels and restau­rants.

Yet, huge plaudits evade female inventors and are relegated to the background, sometimes in oblivion.

According to the UNESCO Science Report: The Race Against Time for Smarter Development (2021), just one in three researchers is a woman.

The report also highlights various issues, including smaller research grants for women and less recognition from their peers.

Additionally, only 12 per cent of members of national science academies are women.

What’s more?

The Nobel Prize and the Sverig­es Riksbank Prize in Economic Sci­ences in memory of Alfred Nobel have been awarded to women 61 times between 1901 and 2022.

This means less than four per cent of Nobel Prizes for science have been awarded to women, and women in Europe hold only 11 per cent of senior research roles.

The 2016 American biographical drama film, ‘Hidden Figures’, still sends chills down the spine as it highlights polarity and unfairness in acknowledging women in science.

‘Hidden Figures’ unveils the story of the black women who helped the United States to win the space race.

Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan were comput­ers who made calculations by hand to aid NASA’s early space missions.

Yet they remained unsung heroes for many decades.

For example, it wasn’t until 2015 that President Barack Obama award­ed Katherine Johnson a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honour. She died peacefully five years later at 101.

In Ghana, some excellent females have done fantastic work in science. On a day like this, we acknowledge and celebrate their efforts against all odds.

Efforts that have changed scien­tific methods, efforts that have im­proved medical diagnostics, efforts that have improved the way we live, and efforts that have saved lives.

For example, Dr Sylvia Anie is a Ghanaian scientist (CSci, CChem, FRSC, FRSM, Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, UK, Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, UK) known for significant contributions to science.

Her research and patent (filed in 1990) in contrast agents for Mag­netic Resonance Imaging of the gastrointestinal tract paved the way for enhanced diagnoses and imaging. Dr Anie addressed the UN Assem­bly on Health and HIV (2011) and continues to advocate for an enhanced role of low and mid­dle-income countries in health research.

In 2015, she was selected and honoured as an African Science Hero because of her contribu­tions to health and science, and she continues to facilitate and drive reforms to protect the mar­ginalised and empower them to demand their health rights.

Dr Priscilla Kolibea Mante is a Ghanaian neuropharmacolo­gist, researcher and lecturer at the Kwame Nkrumah Univer­sity of Science and Technology (KNUST).

Her progress in alternatives of plant-based therapeutic options to manage drug-resistant epilepsy has won her international acco­lades.

In 2019, she was the only African recipient, and one of 15 total, of the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Interna­tional Rising Talent Award.

Ghanaian food scientist, Dr Mavis Owureku-Asare, a senior research scientist at the Biotech­nology and Nuclear Agriculture Research Institute of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), has developed agricul­tural technologies and solutions to help farmers and improve the livelihoods of women in Ghana.

One of her primary outcomes was the development of im­proved solar drying technologies for the post-harvest management of agricultural produce.

Dr Owureku-Asare invented te Ewiahemaa Solar Dryer—a so­lar-drying system for processing fresh tomatoes into powder, which can be used for other secondary products.

Ghanaian environmental chemis,t Professor Marian Asantewah Nkan­sah, also features prominently.

Her work focuses on solving envi­ronmental problems associated with toxic substances like heavy/trace metals, persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in food, water, soil, rocks, sediments and other environmental samples.

Larisa Akrofie founded Levers in Heels, a website bringing visibility to African women in STEM through its featured interviews, research, and mentorship programs.

Prof. Elsie A. B. Effah Kaufmann, a Ghanaian academic, academic administrator, biomedical engineer and current National Science and Maths Quiz host, is also credited for promoting girls’ science education.

This list is not exhaustive and may take up a significant space listing all Ghanaian scientists making a differ­ence in their own ways.

Women who have excelled in var­ious fields must be given the credit they deserve, as this is the only way to create role models for the next generation of girls.

Ghana celebrated its 66th inde­pendence anniversary a few days ago. As far back as the pre-inde­pendence era, the man who led Ghana to freedom, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, knew the importance of women to national develop­ment. But how can we liberate girls of the current generation to unleash their potential to con­tribute to societal growth without giving them role models in similar fields, especially science, technology and engineering?

Showcasing exceptional wom­en and their achievements would not only close the gender gap but make it easier for girls and wom­en to choose a career in science.

Even though it is established that Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) play essential roles in the development and growth of na­tions, enrollment by girls in these sectors has been poor.

The few successful women who climb to the peak also have shorter and less well-paid careers.

It is time for action as the world marks International Wom­en’s Day, and governments, in­stitutions, private entities, and all stakeholders must work towards balance, equity and women’s upliftment.

For International Women’s Day and beyond, let’s all fully #EmbraceEquity.

[The writer is a Journalist and Science Enthusiast]


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