After Hidden Figures hit movie theaters in late 2016, conversations about the real-life Black women featured in the Oscar-nominated film bubbled over.
Yet we questioned why it took so long for the story of these STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) slayers to make it to the big screen.
"There is significant underrepresentation," says Nicole M. Joseph, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville and the author of the upcoming book Mathematizing Feminism: Black Girls' and Women's Experiences in the P-20 Mathematics Pipelines. "We need to disrupt our own negative experiences that we had in school around mathematics…. We need to tell our girls that they can do math."
In many cases, STEM culture is to blame. A 2017 study from the Journal of Geophysical Research revealed that women of color astronomers face harassment more than any other group.
Despite seemingly insurmountable odds, the 15 trailblazers in this list have remained unmoved. Whether they've formed organizations to shed light on diversity within STEM or mentored young STEM hopefuls, they've not only held rank in their careers but they've also paid it forward.
Take a look at 15 Black women who are leading the way in STEM.
This article originally appeared in ESSENCE's February 2018 issue