Acknowledging the contributions of women to the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is a crucial part of the Aparito story.
Aparito was founded by Dr Elin Haf Davies, a visionary nurse turned PhD doctor who wanted to change the patient experience of clinical trials and was frustrated by existing solutions.
But the tech industry isn’t renowned for its diversity.
Elin Haf went on to build a team that champions inclusivity and diversity. And the result speak for themselves.
There is always more to be done but we are proud of our commitment to furthering equal representation of women in STEM, and not just because greater female representation at senior levels within businesses makes those businesses more profitable and more socially responsible, but because it’s the right thing to do to create a more equitable society.
Five women who paved the way in STEM
Aparito stands on the shoulders of giants when it comes to innovating in STEM and so we celebrate five women whose contributions to the world made our work possible.
1. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson
The first English female doctor; Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836 – 1917) was an astounding and resilient woman whose plight and determination enabled other women to also achieve greatness.
Having been inspired by successful women such as Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor in the US, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson opted to contradict the submissive life she was expected to lead and become a doctor. Denied entry to any medical school, she was forced to study nursing alongside male peers whose objections led to her dismissal.
After Elizabeth qualified as a doctor through the Society of Apothecaries, they immediately implemented a ban on female entrants. The sexism and adversity Elizabeth faced only fuelled her strength and resolve.
Having taught herself French in order to study at the University of Paris, Elizabeth finally earned her medical degree. However, this was still not enough to allow her onto the British Medical Register, so she established the New Hospital for Women, which was to become the London School of Medicine for Women.
Her vocal campaign efforts eventually paid off and in 1876 female entry into the profession of medicine was legalised.
Even once she had retired from medicine, Dr Anderson was still grinding down the patriarchy, becoming the first female mayor in England. She was influential in the suffragette movement and inspired her daughter, alongside many other intrepid women, to follow in her esteemed footsteps and strive toward gender equality.
2. Betsi Cadwaladr
Betsi Cadwaladr (1789 – 1860) was one of 16 children from Bala in North Wales. When Betsi grew up she became a traveller of note. She travelled around the world extensively in an age when most working-class men hardly ever moved outside the area they were born. Betsi was not officially a nurse but her various jobs involved her in nursing duties and she was convinced of the need for cleanliness as an aid to recovery from disease and illness.
In 1854, the Crimean War broke out and a total lack of care for the wounded and dying soldiers became evident. Betsi applied to join Florence Nightingale’s group of nurses to go out to help, when she arrived she demanded to be sent to the front, Nightingale thought that Betsi was argumentative and wanted nothing more to do with her.
Betsi lived and worked just behind the front line where she cared for wounded and injured soldiers. She nursed for up to 20 hours a day and usually slept on the floor with seven other nurses by which time she was over 70 years of age.
When Nightingale visited the battlefront and saw what amazing work Betsi had done, she changed her mind about a woman whom she had only previously considered as being irritating. She begged Betsi to stay on, but Betsi knew she had reached her limit by then and returned home.
Her heroic efforts in the field of healthcare were not acknowledged during her lifetime, however, she did gain some degree of recognition in 2009 when the Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board was created to include the six local health boards along the North Wales coast.
3. Ada Lovelace
Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) was unquestionably one of the most important women in science history. She was born in 1815, the daughter to Lord Byron and Lady Byron. Lady Byron believed that if she could tame Ada’s imagination, this would prevent Ada from going down the line of imaginative self-indulgence that Byron himself had.
She set out to use mathematics as the method of taming Ada’s imagination, figuring that if she could arrange for Ada to be educated in mathematics. When Ada was only 17 years old, and on the evening of 5 June 1833, she met a man who would become arguably her most important friend.
His name was Charles Babbage. He was 24 years older than her, and she quickly became fascinated, after talking to him, with his plans for building a calculating machine called a ‘Difference Engine’. The purpose of this, although Babbage never managed to complete it, was to calculate mathematical tables automatically without error.
Babbage eventually abandoned the Difference Engine in favour of the Analytical Engine: the world’s first digital computer, with a store, a processor, a memory, a sub-routing function and all the other essential features of a modern digital computer.
It is Lovelace’s work on the Analytical Engine that has led to her being known as the first computer programmer.
4. Katherine Johnson
Katherine Johnson (1918 – 2020) was a mathematician who worked on NASA’s early space missions and was portrayed by Taraji P Henson in the film ‘Hidden Figures‘.
She was one of the “computers” who solved equations by hand during NASA’s early years and those of its precursor organisation, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. Johnson and other black women initially worked in a racially segregated computing unit in Hampton, Virginia, that was not officially dissolved until NACA became NASA in 1958. Signs had dictated which toilets the women could use.
She focused on planes and other research at first. But her work at NASA’s Langley Research Centre eventually shifted to Project Mercury, the nation’s first human space programme.
She and her co-workers had been relatively unsung heroes of America’s ‘Space Race But in 2015, President Barack Obama awarded Johnson (then 97 years old) the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honour.
5. Barbara McClintock
We live in an age where we have mapped the human genome and developed tools such as CRISPR, but all of this was possible thanks to the dedication and lifelong study into genetics by Barbara McClintock (1902 –1992) She spent her entire career analysing maize, and in the 1930s developed a staining technique that allowed her to identify, examine and describe its individual chromosomes.
Armed with her research, she was able to determine the existence of jumping genes, which are sequences of DNA that move between the genome. Jumping genes were considered junk DNA by much of the scientific community at the time. Still, McClintock pressed on and suggested they might in fact determine which of the genes in cells are switched on – vital in creating differences between cell types.
It was not until 1983, when she was awarded The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, that the scientific community began to recognise not only just how important these jumping genes are, but how much of the genome they make up – some estimates suggest they make up 40 per cent of the human genome.
McClintock also was the first to suggest the idea of epigenetics, where genes alter their activity in response to external factors, some 40 years before it was formally studied.