This week marked one year of India’s famous, frugal, successful Mars Orbiter Mission.
Aptly enough women in design, science, business, politics, art all caught my eye this week.
Allowing for the usual hyperbole and USA-centricity of TechCrunch’s reportage, here are 30 women, who have revolutionised male-dominated industries.
Unbeknownst to the world, Ursula Burns joined Xerox as a summer intern in 1980 and would later become the most powerful woman in the company. In a period of just a few short years since she became CEO in 2009, Burns drove Xerox to transform from a global document company to a massive enterprise with a diverse set of services and clients. Though she remains busy with her current position, Ursula is a board director of the Ford Foundation, American Express and Exxon Mobil Corporation and is a leader in various non-profit organizations.
It would be remiss of me to highlight the USA-centricity of such lists, and then omit to mention Elmira Bayrasli’s forthcoming book. Adversity creates entrepreneurs and in places we cannot stretch our imagination to.
The Daraprim (pyrimethamine) story this week was a chance to dig into the real story, of Gertrude B. Elion who developed it. She was a Nobel prize winner whose work led to the development of retrovirals as we know them now. Here is a partial list of what we owe her for:
6-mercaptopurine (Purinethol), the first treatment for leukemia and used in organ transplantation.
Azathioprine (Imuran), the first immuno-suppressive agent, used for organ transplants.
Allopurinol (Zyloprim), for gout.
Pyrimethamine (Daraprim), for malaria.
Trimethoprim (Septra), for meningitis, septicemia, and bacterial infections of the urinary and respiratory tracts.
Acyclovir (Zovirax), for viral herpes.
Nelarabine for cancer treatment.
Here is what she did after her “official” retirement:
During 1967 she occupied the position of the head of the company’s Department of Experimental Therapy and officially retired in 1983. Despite her retirement, Elion continued working almost full-time at the lab, and oversaw the adaptation of azidothymidine (AZT), which became the first drug used for treatment of AIDS
And anytime you feel “old”, stop and think of the amazing Barbara Knickerbocker-Beskind! At 91, she is an active and busy inventor and designer.
I tried to retire five times – as an OT, as a private practitioner, as an author – but it never works. I went back to school to become an artist in 1997 and that has been helpful in drawing my inventions.
In 2013, I saw David Kelley – the founder of the design firm IDEO – on the TV programme 60 minutes. When I realised he accepted, and really respected, people from a varied background, I thought, “I have a unique kind of life experience and designing skills – I could be of value to their firm.” I was 89.
Bonus: you will have to read these answers yourself. Some brilliant lessons in history! What are some things where the first person to do them was a woman?