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Black women to be inducted into National Inventors Hall of Fame for first time ever

Marian Croak, a vice president at Google, and the late Dr. Patricia Bath, a laser scientist, will be the first two Black women to join the prestigious group.

Black women to be inducted into National Inventors Hall of Fame for first time ever
Image Source: New America / Flickr

For the first time since the National Inventors Hall of Fame was founded in 1973, Black women will join the next class of inductees. Marian Croak, a vice president at Google, and the late Dr. Patricia Bath, a laser scientist, will be the first two Black women to join the prestigious group. They will be inducted alongside the inventors of the sports bra, ibuprofen, and the Super Soaker toy. As of 2020, 610 inventors have been inducted, but they have been mostly White men. Croak and Bath's induction ushers in a new era of encouraging Black women to join the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, CNN reports.



 

"She was always anchored in the community, always giving back, always trying to push the envelope," said Dr. Bath's daughter, Dr. Eraka Bath, of her late mother. "I'd say the obfuscation of her achievement is part of a larger narrative." Prior to her death in 2019, Dr. Bath was nominated to the National Inventors Hall of Fame approximately 11 times. According to her daughter, however, she may have been nominated several more times than that. She said her mother would often discuss the intersectional barriers she faced as a Black woman in STEM, particularly in her field of ophthalmology. Misogynoir was at the root of her experiences—from her residency days in Manhattan all the way to her tenure at UCLA, where she was appointed to its honorary medical staff following her retirement. Therefore, seeing Dr. Bath finally gain national recognition "is a win for girls" interested in science and engineering, her daughter reaffirmed.



 

This is particularly true as she was a pioneer of "community ophthalmology," a type of eye care that prioritizes underserved patients. Dr. Bath supported Black patients and fellow physicians throughout her life, convincing her professors at Columbia University to perform free eye surgeries in Harlem when she took note of the poor quality of eye care Black patients were receiving. Now, as vice chair for UCLA Psychiatry's Office of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, her daughter continues her legacy by helping women and people of color advance their careers.



 

Meanwhile, Croak is breaking barriers for Black women in STEM. She holds over 200 patents and presently leads Google's Research Center for Responsible AI and Human-Centered Technology. Today, the reason many of us are able to hold video calls with our loved ones is because of technology she pioneered while employed as an engineer at AT&T in the 1990s: VoIP. Speaking with Google earlier this month about her induction, she said it was a "humbling" achievement, adding that she was proud to be one of the first two Black women inductees. Croak stated, "I find that it inspires people when they see someone who looks like themselves on some dimension, and I'm proud to offer that type of representation."



 

Throughout the year, the National Inventors Hall of Fame campaigns to provide children and women of color in STEM opportunities and encourage invention. Despite this, only 48 of its 610 inductees are women, and only 30 of them are Black. There are even fewer Asian and Latino inventors (19 and five, respectively). Nonetheless, the group is committed to diversifying its class of inductees. "We recognize we need more diversity among our inductees," said Rini Paiva, executive vice president for selection and recognition at the National Inventors Hall of Fame. "But we are committed to taking steps to ensure we consistently honor Black inventors."



 

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