By: Aarzoo Aggarwal
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War, Women, STEM?
Ironically, the very thing that separates and divides nations and people is the very thing that has caused spikes and the continual growth of women in STEM - war. Known for its short and long-term devastating yet watershed impact in the foundations of society, war inevitably shifts societal values. One of the most notable of these shifts being that of the role of women during these time periods. In the years preceding World War 2, a nuclear family was the tradition with the man being the “breadwinner” and the woman’s role primarily being to look after the needs of those in her family - to cook, clean, and take care of children. As tensions between countries surfaced and broke out between the axis and allied power, the role of women drastically shifted from being homemakers to factory workers. With war comes the necessity for advanced scientific development and manpower, and women were at the focal point of this throughout the years of World War 2. From playing a definitive role in the Manhattan Project and altering the course of history to bring some of the first computer programmers for the US Navy, the allied victory of World War 2 was greatly due to vital women in STEM. Due to the labor shortages in Tennessee, a group of recent high school graduates, who would later become known as the “Calutron Girls” were the backbone of the course of World War 2. They played one of the most difficult roles of operating calutrons and electromagnetic separation to isolate enriched uranium for the creation of the first atomic bomb. The “Calutron Girls” proved to be more efficient and adept at achieving better rates for production than trained professional physicists, and inevitably changed the course of World War 2. The “Calutron Girls” are simply one example of the innumerable contributions of women in STEM during watershed years of war. War is a revolution of all fronts - it’s gruesome, unforgiving, and atrocious on many fronts, but as “necessity is the mother of innovation” it has been a primary cause for the surges of women in STEM and shifts in the traditional roles of men and women.