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On November 3, President Sian Leah Beilock hosted New York Times technology and healthcare reporter Katie Hafner and Memorial Sloan Kettering bioethicist Amy Scharf for an on-campus/online event to discuss the launch of their new podcast, Lost Women of Science. Scharf and Hafner are the podcast’s executive producers and the founders of the Lost Women of Science Initiative, a nonprofit organization that’s partnered with Barnard to empower young women and girls to pursue STEM careers. The event was part of the Barnard Year of Science, a campus-wide celebration of everything related to science, technology, engineering, and math at the College.
President Beilock moderated the discussion and connected the podcast’s mission to Barnard’s advancements in STEM fields. “Highlighting what women have contributed to science in the past, thinking about what they’ll contribute in the future, both at Barnard and beyond, is something that’s really in line with what [the College] is doing,” President Beilock said. “We’re so excited to partner with Amy and Katie to hear about what they’ve done on the podcast.”
The podcast lays out reported narratives on women scientists who made groundbreaking achievements in their fields yet have gone largely unacknowledged for their pivotal work. “Part of our mantra is that for every Rosalind Franklin or Marie Curie, whose story has been told, there are scores of women — these amazing scientists — whose stories haven’t been told,” said Hafner. “And we’ve accrued a database of between 150 and 200 women whose stories deserve to be told.”
This cohort is made up of scientists from diverse backgrounds and represents a wide cross-section of disciplines, from math and physics to botany and computer science. The podcast kicked off its inaugural season with the story of Dr. Dorothy Andersen, a pediatric pathologist who, in the 1930s, helped to identify cystic fibrosis. Each subsequent season will shine a spotlight on a seminal scientist whose work has largely flown under the radar.
The goal, Scharf said, is to at once honor the past and chart a new path for the future. “The Lost Women of Science Initiative is a dual mission. It’s not only to tell the stories of these women whose stories must be told, but in telling them we hope to then help create relatable role models who can inspire girls and young women to begin the STEM pipeline and if they’re in the STEM pipeline, to persevere through.”