Three Asian-American women in STEM that made American History

Updated: May 29

And the Biases Asian-American women must fight in addition to the work they do


Did you know that May is Asian-American Heritage Month? As an Asian-American woman in leadership and a tech entrepreneur, it's important to tell the world about us; I thought I would showcase some of the incredible Asian-American women engineers who have made significant accomplishments throughout history in honor of this important month. Caveat: I got fired up.



Unfortunately, there are not many of them I could find. But we should pause in my surprise that there aren't really aren't, and instead, there is information on barriers that have prevented Asian women from succeeding in engineering. Check out this screenshot of my Google results. In this blog post, I will discuss the accomplishments of women I did find and how they have helped to impact the world. I hope this list ranks high. Is there anyone there who is good at researching and publishing? We need you, stat! Or maybe just a better SEO marketer?!?! Please share the post to refer anyone you know.


Over 12 Million Asian-American Women entered STEM careers in the United States. Statistically, there should have been at least 12 really bright shining stars that generations should celebrate. Let's be literal; it's a million to one odds. We don't know even about these women, let alone celebrate them. Why? Systematic biases of the West where people only used to publish about white men.


Maybe my reaction is just another punch in the guts and 12 more points for bias. Everything right now really gets drowned out by the impending decision to throw out Roe vs. Wade. So for one paragraph only: Pregnancy is still a risky event where 22% of women need hospitalization. Forcing any woman to carry a birth to term is endangering her life while making her pay for her astronomical healthcare-related bills, potentially putting everyone in the family in poverty. It's cruel. I thought when we abolished slavery; we made people human. Regardless of the law, women are more than just vessels to carry children. We are expected to live and work as fully productive human beings in the US. For the economy to grow, female labor participation IS REQUIRED. This fact means women are someone to be valued, rather than treated as just a piece of property that processes a birth. I'm sickened by the hypocrisy and saddened for the women who get hurt and die until WE CAN STOP IT AGAIN.


SOME of American History's Asian American women in STEM


Asian-American women engineers HAVE made significant accomplishments and continue to inspire other Asian-Americans to enter the field of engineering. Future innovation relies on it as it has been shown that teams with at least one woman perform better. So here are only some of the women we can celebrate. There are many more, but I'm also the. CEO, a marketing technology startup called VIEWN. Please see the above referral request.


Kalpana Chawla

One such woman is Kalpana Chawla, who became the first South Asian-American woman astronaut when she went on a mission aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003. Her life was one marked by an endless list of accomplishments. She had multiple pilot licenses and degrees from Punjab Engineering College and University in India and UT-Austin. With this extraordinary skill set, she's helped humanity greatly over the years with important research contributions to space exploration technology, among other things.


Dr. Tsai-Fan Yu

This year, the one doctor that has impacted my life is Tsai-Fan Yu, MD, a physician who made considerable progress in gout research. She and Alexander B. Gutman, MD, established a link between gout and elevated levels of uric acids in the body. They found that a probenecid drug could remove excess uric acid by triggering its excretion through the urine. This discovery made gout treatable for the first time. Another co-discovery was the now-famous medicine, colchicine, which can prevent gout outbreaks.


Dr. Yu also found that the medicine allopurinol successfully combats gout and kidney stones. She continued to write hundreds of articles in scientific journals throughout her career. Her other achievements included her membership on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Advisory Board on Metabolic Diseases, the Distinguished Career Achievement Award, and the Master Award from the American Association of Rheumatology.


I also want to include women that were alive. One remarkable person worth noting in civil engineering is:


Tessa Lau


If you're looking for a fresh perspective on how robots can improve our lives, look no further than Dr. Tessa Lau! She is an experienced entrepreneur with expertise in AI and machine learning who currently serves as CEO at Dusty Robotics--a company that designs robot-powered tools to assist the construction workforce. Before her work there, she was CTO/cofounder of Savioke. She orchestrated 75+ delivery robots into hotels & high rises; previously, research scientist Willow garage designed simple interfaces people could use their personal robots.


If you're looking for a fresh perspective on how robots can improve our lives, look no further than Dr. Tessa Lau! She is an experienced entrepreneur with expertise in AI and machine learning who currently serves as CEO at Dusty Robotics--a company that designs robot-powered tools to assist the construction workforce. Before her work there, she was CTO/cofounder of Savioke. She orchestrated 75+ delivery robots into hotels & high rises; previously, research scientist Willow garage designed simple interfaces people could use their personal robots.


I found a quote she provided that resonates with me so much as I pondered whether or not to quit my job and dive in as an entrepreneur.


"There aren't very many women in the construction industry, even fewer Asian American women, and almost none at the CEO level. Like many with my traditional background, I was raised to not take any risks and to play it safe. People say that starting a company is a very risky thing to do. But I believe that whether or not the company makes it, I am acquiring such incredible experience that companies will be fighting to hire me afterward. I've been able to reframe the situation and eliminate the risk just by redefining the outcome. Plus, I'm just having so much fun!"


These Asian-American women have made many significant works as consultants for various engineering firms' contributions to engineering and continue to inspire other Asian Americans to pursue careers in this field.


Fight Bias Each time


It would be amazing to see someone like me achieve the way I would like to. Unfortunately, the statistics are real, and only a fraction of the 20% of Asian women who enter a STEM will stick with it in their careers. Micro-aggressions and sidelining make leaving too easy. Let's state which biases I'm talking about clearly. Asian-American women are often seen as meek, submissive, and not assertive. In other words, they are not "typically" American. If Asian women don't look or act the part, they are less likely to succeed. This bias is something men are very complicit in sustaining this VERY career-limiting bias. Men give preference to the ones they preserve to be submissive so that they can take all the credit. What kind of leadership still is that?


Misogyny in information technology and engineering, especially as cultures with deeper misogynistic roots compete for life-changing working visas in the United States. Women who speak up get penalized, and HR has never had any policies or software tools that can recognize this strong cancer in their culture and change it. Instead, HR innovation has been asleep and perpetuates the problem by doing nothing.


Asian women are not only competing with white men for jobs, but they are also competing with Asian men, who often have an advantage not because of their cultural understanding of American business practices, as some analysts incorrectly assume, but rather because it's a male privilege that they believe they need to protect. Why can't analysts call it a privilege quotient? Asian women are also less likely to be seen as "leaders" and more likely to be given supporting roles rather than decision-making ones. Good leadership turns a people's resolve into multipliers, NOT dividers. Beware of the manager that wants loyal minions; the emphasis needs to be on the work instead of just the individual power. Success is rarely the work of one person.


Don't even get me started on the fake meritocracy that "objective consultants" created to have a scale man could tip to their advantage. I see it. Most women in STEM that I have met see it for what it is, but we don't have the collective bargaining power to have an impact systematically.


Bias sickens our country.


The lack of Asian-American women, and a woman of color for that matter, in leadership positions is not just a problem for women. It's a problem for the country. According to a Center for American Progress study, if Asian-American women were proportionately represented in STEM fields, then the United States would have an additional one million workers in these fields. That is one million more scientists, engineers, and innovators working to solve some of our most pressing challenges.


Even though there is only a handful, Asian-American women can inspire other Asian Americans to enter the field of engineering by showing them hard work is worth it. Asian women were legally barred from immigrating because of the stigma of prostitution as late as the 1940s. And this stigma has carried over the years. So the opportunities to have accumulated generational wealth that you need in venture capital and private equity to invest forward into society are much less than in older American cultures that have been here for two centuries. I'm not accounting for family offices, which many wealthy Asians prefer, as they work as private equity or are just private.


Asian-American women have had to fight harder, and they have done so with only some success. It's hard always to be fighting. Asian-Americans are now the fastest-growing racial group in the United States, and Asian-American women are leading the way. It's too bad the opportunities are just limited to the bottom salary positions. I call the gap in pay the lingering "slavery" in the economy.


Asian-American women have made significant accomplishments and continue to inspire other Asian Americans to enter the field of engineering- not just their parents (another bias). When our country faces many challenges, we need all the scientists, engineers, and innovators we can get. Let's celebrate Asian American Heritage Month by honoring these Asian American women and encouraging more to make important contributions not only in the United States but also around the world. And let's raise awareness about Asian-American women engineers' successes and help break down the barriers that prevent them from succeeding in this field.