For as long as humans have pursued scientific knowledge, the field has been glaringly dominated by men. According to Census data, as recently as 1970, women represented just 7 percent of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) workforce. Today, that number is closer to 24 percent\u2014still a major underrepresentation considering that women make up 47 percent of the total workforce and over half of Americans working with a college degree.\n\tAdvertisement - Continue Reading Below\n\t\n\nThe impact of this underrepresentation is wide-reaching, from re-enforcing the gender wage-gap (currently women make about 84 cents on the dollar compared to men) to weakened potential for innovation to the outright benefits of social equality. Despite the hurdles women face when pursuing careers in science, there\u2019s a new generation of professionals that refuse to take no for an answer. They\u2019ve risen through the ranks to the top of their fields, and gained a lot of wisdom along the way. Here, three leading female scientists talk about what it\u2019s like to be a woman in the field in 2018.The Arctic ResearcherGrowing up and all throughout university, Professor Julienne Stroeve, PhD was set on space. She aspired to be an astronaut and started her academic career by earning a bachelors and masters in Aerospace Engineering. She was on track for a life in space exploration, until she took a class in the geography department.\u201cI knew that it was unlikely I would become an astronaut, given that I'm prone to motion sickness," she says. "The professor was active doing fieldwork in the polar regions, so I decided that if I couldn't travel to outer space, I would travel to the ends of the Earth."Stroeve is now a professor at University College London, and a senior scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Her work involves monitoring changes in the Arctic through satellite data, measuring how quickly sea ice is disappearing (and why), and investigating what the impacts are for the surrounding areas and the planet. The stakes, as one would imagine, are quite high.\n\tAdvertisement - Continue Reading Below\n\t\n\n\u201cEverything in our physical environment is interconnected,\u201d Stroeve says. The polar regions are normally covered by snow and ice, which help to keep our planet relatively cool. One of the effects of climate change is a decrease in the mass of ice sheets in polar regions. As polar ice caps disappear, the rate at which the entire planet warms increases. \u201cThis will have worldwide consequences, both in terms of raising global sea levels and also changing all of our weather patterns that govern our water and food supplies,\u201d she explains. \u201cNot to mention all the species that depend on the snow and ice for their existence.\u201d\n\tAdvertisement - Continue Reading Below\n\t\n\nNo two days are alike for Stroeve, who splits her time between poring over computer data, presenting findings at conferences or to policymakers, writing papers, and of course, heading out to the field to collect observations. When she first started traveling to the Arctic for research, she was one of the only female scientists in the field. \u201cThere was opposition to having women come along to polar regions for field work, and often times you\u2019re the only woman in a meeting,\u201d Stroeve says. \u201c not always easy to do field work when women are not normally considered as part of the team.\u201dToday\u2019s political climate in the U.S. has brought out even more challenges for Stroeve\u2019s area of study. In addition to being under-represented and under-paid, the validity of her work on climate change is fundamentally doubted in ways that it isn\u2019t in Europe or other developed countries.\u201cI find it ironic that industries, such as the oil and gas companies, have consulted me to provide them estimates for when the regions they want to do resource extraction will become ice-free, yet so much of U.S. public deny that climate change is even happening,\u201d she adds. Stroeve remarks that women\u2019s roles in STEM are slowly increasing, though the wages and leadership positions are still markedly disparate between men and women. With an eye on the future, she believes approaching climate change will take a multidisciplinary approach and greater innovation than ever before. They key to achieving it? More diversity in STEM positions.The People\u2019s AstronomerLos Angeles is known for stars that grace the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but astronomer Dr. Laura Danly, PhD is turning the city\u2019s attention toward the heavens. As curator of Griffith Observatory, Danly develops exhibits, planetarium shows, and public programs about astronomy. All of this work builds on her previous career as a researcher in astronomy, where she proposed new experiments and telescopic observations. From an early age, Danly was driven by a curiosity about the natural world. \u201cI believe all of us, at some level or another, want to understand how we fit into this universe. How did we get here in the first place? What is the meaning of my little slice of time in the context of the whole history of the cosmos? These can be philosophical questions, but they\u2019re informed by science,\u201d Danly explains. \n\tAdvertisement - Continue Reading Below\n\t\n\nAside from the philosophical ramifications of her work, Danly suggests that astronomy offers practical applications for humans surviving in the natural world. \u201cThe more we learn about the forces at work in the universe, the more we can work in harmony with them to help insure our survival,\u201d she says. \u201cWe understand, more or less, what happened on Venus and Mars; why one is a boiling hothouse and the other is a barren, freezing desert. We must apply what we know and what science tells us to our own world if we want to survive.\u201dIn rising to her current position, Danly experienced a veritable laundry list of gender-based challenges including harassment, glass ceilings, getting mansplained about things in which she is an expert, and \u201cbeing seen as pushy for actions that would be considered great leadership from a man.\u201dWhen she entered astronomy, there were no female professors in her university, and just 10 percent of the community was female. That made finding a mentor especially difficult. \u201cI had to forge my own path and stay true to it,\u201d Danly says.By not encouraging a diverse population in the field, Danly argues that there\u2019s a vast potential of talented would-be scientists that\u2019s cut out\u2014meaning we\u2019re all worse off when some of the best minds are left out. Without representation in the science community, it creates a hostile environment for the mentoring and professional development of historically underrepresented groups and further propels the problem of diversity in STEM.\n\tAdvertisement - Continue Reading Below\n\t\n\n\u201cRole models and mentors are critical for young scientists or would-be scientists, and without diversity, the implicit message is that if you are not a while, straight male, you need not apply,\u201d she says.The Entrepreneurial Advocate Dr. Sophia Yen, MD, MPH was originally drawn to medicine because of her mutual love of people and science. When she was presenting to a group of fellow doctors, she came across a statistic that would lead her on a new path: startup founder. She discovered that one of the main reasons women don\u2019t take their birth control is because they don\u2019t have the medication on hand.\u201cMy friend and I saw the opportunity to disrupt the slow monolithic mail order pharmacy experience. We would make it easy, on your phone, and delightful,\u201d she explains. Not long after this realization, Yen and her friend launched Pandia Health, where they create a seamless experience for accessing birth control.\u201cWe bring birth control to women wherever you have internet and a mailbox,\u201d she says. \u201cWe provide an online doctor\u2019s visit to get you the prescription, if you need it. We deliver prescription birth control (the pill, patch, or ring) by USPS, so that women can skip the trip to the pharmacy each month and avoid \u2018pill anxiety\u2019\u2014the fear of running out of your birth control.\u201dYen is driven by a passion for preventing unwanted pregnancies and empowering women. She hopes her work with Pandia Health can help de-stigmatize birth control and also aid in giving women control over their periods. \u201cAny woman having a period is choosing to do so. We have the technology to turn off your periods safely,\u201d Yen says, adding that periods are the top cause of missing work for women under the age of 25. Access to birth control remains a political issue in the US. Under the Affordable Care Act, birth control was completely covered for anyone with insurance, Yen explains, but the current administration may reverse that. Should the policy change (and access points for birth control be reduced), she says women may have to pay for the medication, which comes to around $240 per year.\u201cUnfortunately, as the administration shuts down brick-and-mortar family planning clinics, our service will be needed more than ever,\u201d Yen says.