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Celebrating Women in STEM This Women's History Month

Celebrating Women in STEM with various pictures from The Cancer Detectives, an image of Sally Ride and one of Rachel Carson.

Women's History Month & Women in STEM

Women’s History Month, observed annually in March, originated from the recognition that women's achievements have often been overshadowed or marginalized by the dominant narratives of male accomplishments. After International Women’s Day alone was deemed not enough to celebrate the historical accomplishments of women, the National Women’s History Project petitioned Congress to designate March of 1987 as Women’s History Month. 

Women make up about 35% of the STEM workforce, yet they have been and continue to be overshadowed by the men in STEM. For example, have you ever heard about Lydia Villa-Komaroff, the molecular and cellular biologist who discovered how bacterial cells could be used to generate insulin? What about Katherine Johnson? The U.S. would not have made it to space during the Space Race had it not been for her mathematical skills and pioneering work with computers. Johnson, who received the Presidential Award of Freedom in 2015, garnered wider attention in 2016 with the book and movie Hidden Figures. Despite women’s pivotal roles in STEM, many of their stories remain untold. 

Explore and celebrate the remarkable contributions of women in STEM through the captivating PBS specials highlighting health and medicine, space, climate science and more

Premiering in March

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The Cancer Detectives 

Discover the story of the fight against cervical cancer and the fascinating figures whose work slashed death rates from the disease by over 60%. Learn how Helen Dickens, a groundbreaking Black OB-GYN, overcame deep distrust between the Black community and medical professionals to save the lives of thousands of women.  

American Experience’s The Cancer Detective premieres Tuesday, 3/26, 9 PM on PBS NC & the PBS App

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Health Care

The underrepresentation of women in STEM fields contributes to discrimination against women in health care, particularly Black women. Limited representation restricts diverse perspectives in research and innovation, perpetuating systemic biases and exacerbating disparities in treatment and outcomes, especially for marginalized groups. Increasing the presence of diverse women in STEM is essential for promoting equitable health care practices and addressing systemic discrimination in the medical field.

Below the Belt: The Last Health Taboo 

Through the personal and inspiring stories of four patients urgently searching for answers to mysterious symptoms, Below the Belt exposes widespread problems in our healthcare system that disproportionately affect women. From societal taboos and gender bias to misinformed doctors and financial barriers, the film shines a light on how millions are effectively silenced. 

Watch Below the Belt on the PBS App only with Passport.

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How Doulas Help Black Moms Have Better Births 

Black women are three to four times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. But a Black doula can help make the birth experience better for Black moms, and a program at UNC Family Medicine is training more of them. 

Watch Sci NC on the PBS App

Watch Now | How Doulas Help Black Moms Have Better Births

Durham Nonprofits Team Up to Support Black Maternal Health 

A team of Durham nonprofits is working together to address the issue of maternal health disparities by combining their resources. The goal is to support expectant mothers in a wide array of support to keep the mothers and their babies alive and healthy. 

Watch ncIMPACT on the PBS App

Watch Now | Durham nonprofits team up to support black maternal health

Black Issues Forum Talks with Health Experts

A Black woman on the couch pregnant with a medicine ball next to her. Another black woman helps her with wiping her nose.

Black Women’s Reproductive Health

OB-GYN specialist Dr. Velma Taormina, Novant Health Executive Vice President Dr. Pam Oliver and life coach Kiesha Cousar discuss policy and practices to reduce the high incidence of maternal mortality, fibroids and infertility in Black women.

The Eye Care Perspective

Host Kenia Thompson sits down with Dr. Essence Johnson, optometrist and executive director of Black EyeCare Perspective, and Dr. Darryl Glover, optometrist and cofounder of Black EyeCare Perspective.

The SISI and the Latest on Breast Cancer

The Sisters Inspiring Sisters Incorporated’s CEO Terry W. Spicer and board vice chair B. Jacqueline Jeeter share their ongoing work to fight breast cancer. Drs. Tomi Akinyemiju and C. Nicole Swiner discuss the latest in prevention and treatment.


Trailblazer Sally Ride was the first American woman in space, and her journey opened doors for women in space science. Women, however, remain underrepresented in this field, but in North Carolina, astronauts like Christina Koch and Zena Cardman are showing women can excel in space exploration. Their achievements have encouraged more girls to pursue careers in science and space, and highlight that diversity in space science will shape a better future for exploration.

The First American Woman in Space 

Sally Ride made strides for women in STEM as the first American woman in space. She was also the first LGBTQIA+ person in space and the youngest ever to have flown in space at 32. An astronaut and physicist, Ride was part of the first class of NASA astronauts that included women, and her accomplishments paved the way for more women to become astronauts. She also dedicated her life to improving access to space education to girls and children through the EarthKAM and MoonKAM programs.  

Christina Koch, North Carolina’s Astronaut

NC native Christina Koch is a graduate of NC State and the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham. In 2019, she broke the record for NASA’s longest continuous spaceflight by a woman during a mission on the International Space Station (ISS) by spending 328 days in space. During that trip, she also completed the first all-woman spacewalk with astronaut Jessica Meir. In 2023, she was chosen to be a Mission Specialist on Artemis 2, the first NASA moon mission in over 50 years.

SCI NCA Conversation with NC Astronaut Christina Koch from the ISS

A Q&A with NC astronaut Christina Koch, from space!

Christina Koch on PBS
1 / 3 Videos
A Conversation with NC Astronaut Christina Koch from the ISS
A Conversation with NC Astronaut Christina Koch from the ISS
How these 2 astronauts took a giant leap for womankind
PBS NewsHour
How these 2 astronauts took a giant leap for womankind
SpaceX and OneWeb face off in quest for internet domination
PBS NewsHour
SpaceX and OneWeb face off in quest for internet domination



Zena Cardman, a UNC Chapel Hill alum, is the commander of NASA’s Crew-9 mission, a four-person crew that will launch to the International Space Station later this year. 

Learn more on The Daily Tarheel. >


Climate Science

Women have played pivotal roles in shaping our understanding of environmental challenges and driving solutions forward. Scientists Mária Telkes and Rachel Carson are among the notable figures who have laid the foundation for climate research and advocacy. Despite their contributions, gender disparities persist in the field. In North Carolina, however, women scientists, including one of PBS NC’s very own, are leading the charge in addressing climate change. 

The Sun Queen 

Scientist Mária Telkes dedicated her career to harnessing the power of the sun. Though undercut and thwarted by her male colleagues, she persevered to design the first successfully solar-heated house in 1948 and held more than 20 patents. 

Watch American Experience’s The Sun Queen on the PBS App

Watch Now | The Sun Queen

Rachel Carson 

The documentary Rachel Carson is an intimate portrait of the woman whose groundbreaking books revolutionized our relationship to the natural world. When Silent Spring was published in September 1962, it became an instant bestseller and sparked dramatic changes in the way government regulated pesticides. 

Watch American Experience’s Rachel Carson on the PBS App only with Passport

Watch Now | Rachel Carson
Paula Gillikin paddling on a river at the Rachel Carson Reserve, another kanoer is behind her.

Paula Gillikin at the Rachel Carson Reserve

Paula Gillikin is a natural resources manager with the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management. One of her responsibilities is the care of the Rachel Carson Reserve, which includes four islands with over 2,300 acres of land, the surrounding waters and marsh and all the flora and fauna that live and thrive there. The reserve trail is one of her favorite places to paddle.

Sci NC Highlights from Women in STEM 

Sci NC highlights the latest science stories from North Carolina and across the nation, interviews leading scientists, shares fascinating demonstrations and engages North Carolinians with all things science. 

Watch Sci NC on the PBS App.

How fire saved NC’s Pilot Mountain

Prescribed burns at NC’s Pilot Mountain helped it bounce back after a recent wildfire.

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1 / 9 Videos
How fire saved NC’s Pilot Mountain
How fire saved NC’s Pilot Mountain
Why is it bad for a river to be straight?
Why is it bad for a river to be straight?
Saving the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker
Saving the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker
Beavers Are Good Engineers. Can We Use Them?
Beavers Are Good Engineers. Can We Use Them?
Checking Out Algae from the Library?
Checking Out Algae from the Library?
Corals Spawn on Land for the First Time!
Corals Spawn on Land for the First Time!
Spring Wildflowers at the New Panther Branch Natural Area
Spring Wildflowers at the New Panther Branch Natural Area
The Race to Save the Last Ash Trees in the Southeast
The Race to Save the Last Ash Trees in the Southeast
How do crayfish survive in nasty waters?
How do crayfish survive in nasty waters?

Spotlight on PBS NC’s Michelle Lotker

Michelle Lotker is an award-winning documentary producer and science nerd rolled into one. Scientific curiosity fueled her early work as an environmental scientist, and that same curiosity carried her into the world of documentary video storytelling where she loves nerding out with people about whatever they’re nerds about. After a decade-long stint as a freelance videographer and producer, Michelle is currently working as a science producer for PBS North Carolina's science show, Sci NC, and as lead producer on the Emmy Award winning series about climate change, State of Change.

Filer image
State of Change: Seeds of Hope season key art

State of Change: Seeds of Hope

Meet the North Carolinians who are adapting to our changing climate in new and inspiring ways. From conserving land and growing food that’s tolerant of extreme conditions to using farmland to produce both crops and solar energy, these innovators are facing the challenges of climate change with perseverance and ingenuity.

Premieres Monday, April 22nd on PBS NC & the PBS App.

Spotlight on Weathered Host Maiya May

Maiya May is a meteorologist, part-time filmmaker and part-time health and wellness influencer. As host of the digital series Weathered, Maiya produces episodes about disaster preparedness in the U.S. in both urban and rural communities.

PBS asked Maiya what her favorite part about hosting the show is. Here’s what she said:

“I’m a part of a show that’s doing very meaningful work in the climate education space. There’s a huge disconnect between people and nature, and it’s one of the biggest problems that humanity will face. We must bridge this gap to continue to thrive on this planet, and climate education is key. My goal has always been to be an integral part of that effort, and Weathered allows me to do that.” 

Host of Weathered, Maiya May, stands in front of a field while a boom mic is above her and she's being filmed.
A house is on fire and two tubes are sucking up the heat. Weathered key art.


Natural disasters and extreme weather can happen without warning. And with the impacts of climate change, more Americans than ever are at risk. Weathered highlights real stories from people affected by natural disasters across the country and explains how families and communities can be prepared.

More STEM Stories Streaming Now

Picture a Scientist 

Women make up less than a quarter of STEM professionals in the United States, and numbers are even lower for women of color. But a growing group of researchers is exposing longstanding discrimination and making science more inclusive. 

Watch NOVA’s Picture a Scientist on the PBS App only with Passport.

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Coded Bias 

Coded Bias follows M.I.T. Media Lab computer scientist Joy Buolamwini, along with data scientists, mathematicians, and watchdog groups from all over the world, as they fight to expose the discrimination within facial recognition algorithms now prevalent across all spheres of daily life. 

Watch Independent Lens's Coded Bias on the PBS App only with Passport. Watch PBS North Carolina’s virtual discussion of Coded Bias with panelists Dr. Kemafor Ogan of NC State, Dr. Sarra Alqahtani of Wake Forest University and Dr. Hai “Helen” Li of Duke University. 

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SciGirls Stories: Black Women in STEM 

Meet five Black women scientists who are innovators, problem-solvers and STEM superstars honoring their racial identity and cultures. In this show, they share their strategies for overcoming challenges and finding success and joy in jobs where Black women are often underrepresented. They also inspire Black girls to pursue all kinds of interests and career paths through their individual stories. 

Watch SciGirls Stories: Black Women in STEM on the PBS App only with Passport.

Watch Now | SciGirls Stories: Black Women in STEM



SciGirls tries to get tween girls, ages 8 to 12, interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, STEM for short. Each episode follows a group of middle school girls who are eager to find answers to their questions while inspiring kids to explore the world around them and discover that science and technology are everywhere. 

Watch SciGirls on PBS KIDS and the PBS KIDS App

Watch Preview
Girls in a science classroom doing a volcano experiment.

Tips for Encouraging Girls in STEM

SciGirls believes that families are partners in helping girls to pursue STEM studies. This list contains strategies and practical tips to help you encourage your girl to be STEMsational!