Inventors Marian Croak, an engineer, and the late ophthalmologist Dr. Patricia Bath are once again shattering the glass ceiling. CBS News reports the two women have been announced as the first Black women inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, joining the likes of famed pioneers like Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison.
Croak is being recognized for leading the creation of Voice Over Internet Protocols (VoIP)— the technology that revolutionized digital telecommunications, making remote work easier. It’s also used in digital conferencing and SMS messaging. The engineer owns over 200 patents, 125 of which pertain to VoIP.
“It’s humbling, and a great experience,” Croak shared in an interview with Google where she now works as the vice president of engineering at the company. “At the time I never thought the work that I was doing was that significant and that it would lead to this, but I’m so I’m very grateful for the recognition.”
She began her career working with AT&T, formerly called Bell Labs, in 1982 after she graduated from Princeton and the University of Southern California. After the internet started becoming integral to regular households and daily life in the ’90s, Croak said she became inspired to innovate by thinking of its possibilities.
“I have always been motivated by the desire to change the world, and to do that I try to change the world that I’m currently in,” Croak told Google. “What I mean by that is I work on problems that I am aware of, and that I can tackle within the world that surrounds me.”
Bath is being inducted posthumously for her creation of the Laserphaco probe, a tool that helps doctors surgically remove cataracts. According to CNN, she has a history of firsts in her historic career. She was the first Black woman doctor to receive a patent as well as the first female faculty member of the UCLA ophthalmology department.
“My mother’s invention is as significant to the laser cataract surgery industry as Bell’s telephone is to the telecommunications industry and Edison’s light bulb is to the electric lighting industry,” her daughter Dr. Eraka Bath, associate professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA, told Cision PR Newswire in February of this year.
“Being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame would be an amazing honor,” she said.
The news, however, is particularly “bittersweet” for the founder of Black Women in Science and Engineering (BWISE), Erika Jefferson. She tells CNN the fact that the National Inventors Hall of Fame went so long without any Black women being inducted highlights the overall lack of representation for women of color in the STEM fields.
“There are thousands of Patricia Baths and Marian Croaks that have blazed trails but have not been ‘discovered’ yet,” Jefferson said. “It’s not enough to see these two phenomenal women get this award. There have to be advocacy systems in place to ensure they get the recognition and support that they deserve.”