“I go after problems that excite me. When I started this project, I didn’t know anything about black holes and honestly, it was a risky project. But my heart was in this project. I love this project, and I think that that’s what makes it a success. When you get really smart people together, who are super motivated by the problem that they’re working on, I think people will figure out the answers.”
– Katie Bowman
Katie Bowman is one of the 200 scientists that collaborated to capture an image of light in a Black Hole. Seeing inside a black hole was an impossible feat until now and it was an international risk. Despite the risk and not having previous knowledge of how black holes worked when she started on the project six years ago, it was her algorithm that allowed scientists to capture the image that stunned the world.
I was overwhelmed with excitement and surprise when the image was finally revealed and upon learning of Katie’s contribution it took me down this rabbit hole of ideas circling around, what is next for women in STEM? The STEM field is comprised of roughly 28% women and that needs to grow. Everyday a new IT firm or incredible invention, or discovery such as this one occurs and the number of women doing it is slowly rising. The next generation is preparing for the overwhelming jobs that will be available in the STEM or STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts Mathematics) fields, but for now we need to push for retraining and education for women interested in this field.
In 2017, the International Visitor Leadership Program also known as Hidden No More, brought together 48 women from around the world with “hidden talents” in STEM to go through workshops and networking opportunities to nurture their skills and create ideas that they could bring back to their respective countries. This idea came after the movie Hidden Figures premiered and sparked an interest in who else was “hidden” that could change the course of the STEM field. We need to continue to do programs like this on the Federal, State, and Local levels to encourage the interest which will cultivate opportunities and provide growth for the country. If it is possible to create such an opportunity for 48 women, why not 100? Why not 1000?
Katie had an opportunity to put her skills to the test, challenge herself, and achieve what was once impossible at the age of 29. She joined the project without knowing anything about it and created an opportunity for herself to overcome a barrier as a woman, engineer, and scientist; ultimately, all she had was hope to rely on. That hope, while deeply rooted in extensive education, is what took us quite literally across the universe. Her algorithm was a risk, her speaking up was a risk, her attempt to make something happen without having all the information was a huge risk. But the risk gave us the reward and as women in IT and Science we have to risk it all if we’re going to make the next giant step for (wo)man kind.