International Day of Women and Girls in Science: An Interview with JoAnna Milam

This year marks the ninth anniversary of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Numat celebrates this global movement, recognizing the achievements and contributions of women and girls in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

In honor of International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we spoke with JoAnna Milam, Lead Chemist at Numat. JoAnna talks about what motivated her to seek a career in science, her highlights and challenges to date, and shares some advice for women and girls thinking about a career in science.

Who or what motivated you to pursue a career in science?

JoAnna Milam: As a child, I aspired to become a “super scientist,” like those portrayed in literature, television, and films, due to their intellect and relatability. While I can now recognize the inaccuracies in those portrayals, my admiration for science persists. Scientists are still the coolest.

What’s been your biggest challenge?

JoAnna Milam: The most significant challenge I have faced has been navigating and overcoming gender-based biases within the academic and professional realms. Despite my expertise and accomplishments, breaking through stereotypes and ensuring equal recognition for my contributions has been an ongoing struggle, highlighting the persistent need for increased inclusivity and gender equality in the scientific community.

Do you have any tips or advice for women and girls embarking on a career in science?

JoAnna Milam: Science resembles a fine wine, evolving gradually over time as you continually adapt, learn, and refine your knowledge and skills. Be patient with yourself, but at the same time, maintain a persistent drive to progress forward. Find someone who can provide guidance regarding the ‘system,’ such as applying for scholarships, navigating the next steps in your journey, and addressing challenging systemic social issues within the science community.

What are your career highlights?

JoAnna Milam: The highlights of my career are simply the journey itself. I take pride in every achievement, whether completing my education or remembering daily tasks like picking up dry cleaning. What truly motivates me isn’t my career trajectory but rather the positive impact I can make on the lives of those around me and how I can contribute to helping others.