“At Ladies Learning Code, we’re committed to closing the gender gap in technology by teaching women through beginner friendly programs that provide practical tech skills and arguably something even more important — confidence.
Whether it’s building something you wish existed, tackling a big project successfully, overcoming a personal obstacle or learning a new skill you never thought you could (like coding) – we believe the confidence you gain from trying new things and problem solving is a critical component of ensuring women thrive.”
Vinita Marwaha Madill Representing Rocket Women – Discussing Her Biggest Challenge
“One of the biggest challenges was early on in my education where I didn’t have access to the information to know how to achieve my goals in the space industry and also the lack of role models that I saw working in STEM. It’s a large contributor to why girls decide to leave STEM by the age of 11.
As Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, said, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” My passion, and the goal of my website Rocket Women, is to try and reverse this trend by inspiring girls globally to consider a career in STEM.
During my career I’ve met some amazing people — especially other positive female role models. I think you need those role models out there, tangible and visible, to be able to inspire the next generation of young girls to become astronauts, or be whatever they want to be.
I started Rocket Women to give these women a voice and a platform to spread their advice. I’m interviewing women around the world in STEM, particularly in space, and posting the interviews on Rocket Women, along with advice to encourage girls to be involved in STEM.” – Vinita Marwaha Madill, Rocket Women
Read the original post here which also features advice from trailblazing women in STEM globally.
Katherine Johnson, Sally Ride, Margaret Hamilton, Nancy Grace Roman, Mae Jeminson. These five names of women at NASA, although unfamiliar to the public at present, will hopefully soon be immortalised and their trailblazing stories used to inspire the next generation. A fantastic LEGO “Women Of NASA” set featuring the two astronauts, Sally Ride and Mae Jeminson – the first American woman in space and the first African-American woman in space, and three scientists is ready to be voted for on the Lego Ideas website. If the set receives 10,000 supporters it will be one step closer to becoming a commercial set available in stores!
“Women have played critical roles throughout the history of the U.S. space program, a.k.a. NASA or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Yet in many cases, their contributions are unknown or under-appreciated — especially as women have historically struggled to gain acceptance in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
This proposed set celebrates five notable NASA pioneers and provides an educational building experience to help young ones and adults alike learn about the history of women in STEM.”
Read more about the Lego “Women of NASA” set here.
UPDATE: Lego has announced that the “Women of NASA” set is set to become a reality! The set featuring ‘Hidden Figures’ Katherine Johnson, Margaret Hamilton, Nancy Grace Roman alongside NASA astronauts Sally Ride and Mae Jeminson, has been approved to production and will be coming to a store near you soon! I’m excited for the conversations this set will bring, from the parents teaching their children about the stories of these inspirational women as they build the set to how the set will help to show that a career in space is for everyone.
A stunning new animated video highlightsSally Ride‘s interview with icon Gloria Steinem in 1983, mere months after Sally became the first American Woman in Space. Her flight invigorated the imagination of thousands of young girls, showing them that it was possible to be an astronaut, or in Sally Ride’s own words and one of my favourite quotes, “If you can’t see, you can’t be.”
But although NASA were looking to the future, some were still lagging behind. Prior to her flight, rather than focusing on her technical acumen and performance, the press asked Sally whether she cried when there were malfunctions in the shuttle simulator, about the bathroom facilities or what kind of make up she was bringing up with her.
“I wish that there had been another woman on my flight, I wish that two of us had gone up together. I think it would’ve been a lot easier” – Sally Ride, First American Woman In Space
A recording of the interview was found by PBS Digital Studios in the archives of Smith College, who transformed the interview into an animated video (above) for its “Blank on Blank” series, posted this week.
“I wish that there had been another woman on my flight,” Ride says in the video “I think it would have been a lot easier.” She also overcame early education barriers, “I took all the science classes that I could in junior high school and into high school.”
“I went to a girls’ school that really didn’t have a strong science programme at all when I was there. At the time it was a classic school for girls, with a good tennis team and a good English teacher. Essentially no math[s] past eleventh grade, no physics and no chemistry.”
NASA has come a long way since Sally Ride’s flight in 1983, with four female astronauts chosen out of the eight candidates in the recent NASA Astronaut Class. Their selection in 2013 means that women now represent 26% of NASA’s astronaut corps, thirty years after the flight of America’s first woman in space.
Although a greater number of women now than ever have the opportunity to become an astronaut and fly, implicit (and explicit) gender bias still remains, notably seen in the questions asked of the crew pre-flight.Six accomplished Russian women underwent an 8-day analogue mission to the Moon last year. Prior to their mission they were asked by the press how they would cope without men, shampoo or makeup for the next week.
This is similar to the line of questioning faced by cosmonaut Yelena Serova, Russia’s 4th female cosmonaut and the female cosmonaut on the International Space Station (ISS). Yelena, an engineer with significant experience, was asked prior to her mission in 2014howshe would style her hair in the microgravity conditions on the ISS and how she would continue to bond with her daughter during her 6-month mission. Remarks about Yelena’s mission by the the editor of Russian magazine Space News including, “We are doing this flight for Russia’s image. She will manage it, but the next woman won’t fly out soon,” do little to inspire hope in the numbers of Russian women in space increasing in the near future.
However, by being honest about these viewpoints, both historical and recent, and exposing the gender bias that still remains globally, there is hope for change.
Watch the interview above or read it here:
Sally Ride (SR): I wish that there had been another woman on my flight, I wish that two of us had gone up together.
Gloria Steinem (GS): It’s tough to be the first but you’ve done it with incredible grace. You also have the only job in the world that everybody understands.
SR: [Laughs] My father I think was so grateful when I became an astronaut because he couldn’t understand astrophysicist. He couldn’t relate to that at all. But astronaut was something that he felt he could [relate to].
GS: And you could see people all over the world connecting with what you were doing.
SR: Roughly half of the people in the world would love to be astronauts, would give anything to trade places with you. The other half just can’t understand why in the world you would do anything that stupid.
GS: If you don’t have 20:20 vision can you become an astronaut candidate or is it disabling?
SR: I think it used to be. Now as long as it’s correctable to 20:20 it’s ok. So you’d probably qualify!
SR: I didn’t have any dreams of being an astronaut at all. And I don’t understand that, because as soon as the opportunity was open to me, I jumped at it. I instantly realised that it was what I really wanted to do. I took all the science classes that I could in junior high school and into high school. I went to a girls’ school that really didn’t have a strong science programme at all when I was there. At the time it was a classic school for girls, with a good tennis team and a good English teacher. Essentially no math[s] past eleventh grade, no physics and no chemistry.
GS: I’m curious about the reception that you got inside NASA. What kind of thing happened to you?
SR: Really, the only bad moments in our training happened with the press. The press was an added pressure on the flight for me and whereas NASA appeared to be very enlightened about flying astronaut, the press didn’t appear to be. The things that they were concerned with, were not the same things that I was concerned with.
GS: For instance the bathroom facilities. How often did you get asked that?
SR: Just about every interview I got asked that. Everybody wanted to know what kind of make up I was taking up. They didn’t care about how well prepared I was to operate the arm, or deploy communications satellites.
GS: Did NASA try to prepare you for the press or pressure?
SR: Unfortunately no they don’t. In my case they took a graduate student in physics, who spent her life in the basement of a physics department with oscilloscopes and suddenly put me in front of the press.
GS: What do you suppose are the dumbest kinds of questions that you’ve been asked to date?
SR: Without a doubt, I think the worst question I have got was whether I cried when we got malfunctions in the simulator.
GS: That surpassed the one about whether you were going to wear a bra or not. Did somebody really ask you that?
SR: No, the press I think decided that was a good question for someone to have asked me and for me to have answered. But I never got asked that.
GS: But they made you up a good response. Something about in a state of weightlessness it doesn’t matter.
SR: Yeah I was never asked that question.
GS: What about your feelings during the launch? Was there any time that the enormity of what was going on came over you?
SR: The moment of the launch, when the engines actually ignited and the solid rockets, that everyone on the crew was for a few seconds just overcome with what was about to happen to us. But a year of training is a long time, a year of sitting in simulators and being told exactly what’s going to happen, and you hear the sounds and feel the vibrations. It prepares you very well and it worked. We were able to overcome being overcome and do the things we were supposed to do.
GS: Just watching there at the launch, there were people with tears streaming down their faces. People I never would’ve expected and I guess they were all very moved by the human audacity of it.
SR: I think that when you see the long trail of flame and to imagine that there are really people inside that. That’s really something. Inside of course you don’t see the long trail of flame, and what you feel is more of an exhilaration.
GS: Well there are lots of people who are looking up there and feeling proud. Not just of you but of people on the ground.
SR: Thank you.
GS: What do you think it might be like in 2001 in fact? What’s possible for us?
SR: Well 2001 is a long ways in the future to speculate on. But probably the next step after the space shuttle is a space station. I would forsee a station as not just something that’s orbiting the Earth and used for experimentation but would also be used as a launching platform back to the Moon or to Mars. I’m sure that both of those are inevitable. We’ll go back to the Moon and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before we go to Mars.
GS: Do you have any speculation about how long it might be before there are such a thing as ‘peopled’ space colonies?
SR: I’d guess that by the year 2000 there will be. I’d think that we’ll have a space station up by the end of this decade.
GS: On which it’ll be possible to live for long periods of time?
The latest NASA astronaut class to be chosen had the highest percentage of female astronauts selected at 50%. This taking place in 2013, the year celebrating the 50th anniversary of the First Woman In Space, Valentina Tereshkova (& the 30th Anniversary of the First American Woman in Space, Sally Ride). Four out of the new eight astronauts are female with a breadth of experience among them, with women now representing 26% of NASA’s astronaut corps. It’s really wonderful to see these women being recently featured in mainstream media, especially Glamour Magazine, a media outlet that’s followed by millions of women around the globe (1.17M followers on Twitter!).
Glamour does a fantastic job of interviewing the most recently selected female NASA Astronauts, experts in a variety of scientific fields. Namely, Christina Hammock Koch, former NOAA station chief in American Samoa, Nicole Aunapu Mann, US Marine and F18 fighter pilot, Dr.Jessica Meir PhD, former Assistant Professor of Anesthesia at Harvard Medical School and Anne C. McClain, US Army and OH-58 Helicopter Pilot. (Dr.Jessica Meir PhD is also a graduate of my alma mater, International Space University (ISU) (MSS00), making me proud to be an ISU alumna myself!) The article also featured quotes from the inspirational Dr.Dava Newman, Deputy Administrator of NASA.
Fearless Women: NASA Astronauts From The 2013 Class. The Class With The Highest Proportion Of Women At 50% [Photo credit: Glamour magazine/Bjorn Iooss]
Governments around the world—in China, Europe, and Russia—have plans in the works to at least land robots on Mars, while in the U.S., private companies like SpaceX are partnering with NASA on a human mission and plotting their own commercial trips. And unlike the 1960s race to the moon, this time women are playing pivotal roles—building rockets, designing space suits, and controlling the remote rovers that are already sending momentous insights back from Mars.
This emphasises an important point, women are contributing to missions on an increasing basis, compared to the days of the Apollo programme. In fact the New Horizons mission team, which last year provided the world with the closest encounter of Pluto and it’s moon Charon, is 25% female, making it the NASA mission with the highest number of female staffers, including engineers and scientists.
The newest four female members of NASA’s astronaut corps also describe how they felt the moment they realised they were chosen in 2013 and how they were inspired to apply.
Anne McClain: There were more than 6,100 other applicants for our class of eight, and I’d made my peace with not getting in. I still remember getting the call that I’d been selected. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t talk. I started crying. I grew up in Spokane, Washington, and I can’t recall ever not wanting to be an astronaut. I learned a lot [serving 15 months] in Iraq, flying attack helicopters at the front of the front lines. I joined the Army out of a deep sense of duty, but wanting to be an astronaut feels more like my destiny. With so much conflict in the world, space exploration can be a beacon of hope. No one cares about race or religion or nationality in space travel. We’re all just part of Team Human.
Jessica Meir, Ph.D.: I had a fantastic view of the stars from the teeny town in Maine where I grew up. Maybe that’s why I wanted to be an astronaut from such a young age. I’ve always been drawn to remote places—and extreme challenges. While doing research on emperor penguins for my Ph.D. in marine biology, I lived and worked in Antarctica, where I also went scuba diving under several feet of ice.
Christina Hammock Koch: My bedroom wall in Jacksonville, North Carolina, was covered in posters of the space shuttle alongside ones of New Kids on the Block. I had always set my sights on working with NASA, but I didn’t want to get there by checking the usual boxes, like learning to fly and scuba dive. I wanted to get there because I was passionate about science and the next frontier. When the opportunity to spend a year at the South Pole came up, I took it. There I was in charge of more than 10,000 gallons of liquid helium to keep the telescopes supercool. Our motto was “When the South Pole isn’t cold enough, call us.”
Nicole Aunapu Mann: I’m probably one of the few astronauts who didn’t know that’s what I wanted to do as a kid. “Astronaut” seemed like a far-fetched dream. I’m from Penngrove, California, and it wasn’t until my first tour in Iraq flying fighter jets with the Marine Corps that I realized one day I might actually be a good candidate. Going into space will be the absolute coolest thing in the world.
Glamour’s feature also discusses the logistics of relationships in space whilst on a multi-year interplanetary mission and the intricacies of astronaut training. From the feeling of being weightless in a zero-g plane, practicing a spacewalk underwater and even to learning to be a dentist.
NASA recently opened a call for the next generation of NASA astronauts, closing mid-February. If you’re a US citizen and would like your chance to explore the Moon or even Mars, apply now! Women currently represent 26% of NASA’s astronaut corps, let’s work to bring that up to 50%.
“If women can be railroad workers in Russia, why can’t they fly in space?” – Valentina Tereshkova
52 years ago on this day, Valentina Tereshkova launched on her Vostok 6 mission and became the first woman in space, breaking the ultimate glass ceiling. Valentina was partly selected for the Soviet Space Program for her exceptional parachuting ability, having conducted 126 jumps, at a time when cosmonauts were required to parachute from their capsules mere seconds before they impacted the ground. This is unlike the current Soyuz capsules, which parachute into the desert steppes of Kazakhstan, firing retro rockets to land safely. As Valentina parachuted from her capsule during her Vostok 6 landing, wind gusts unfortunately caused her face to hit the inside of her helmet and gave her a bloody nose and a bruise under one eye. Valentina’s mission and achievement inspired generations of women to study STEM, however it was 20 years later in 1983 before Sally Ride would go on to become the first American woman in space. The percentage of female astronauts represented in NASA’s astronaut corps has steadily increased since then, now reaching 26%. NASA’s recent astronaut class contained the highest percentage of female astronauts ever selected by the agency, with women selected as four out of the new eight astronauts. Although not quite yet equal, the number of tangible female role models in space is increasing, inspired by Valentina’s story and the others that parachuted to Earth before them.
One of Today’s Google Doodles Celebrating Sally Ride, the First American Woman In Space
Today’s Google doodles celebrate what would’ve been the 64th birthday of Sally Ride, the first American woman in space. Throughout her career at NASA Sally informed major space policy decisions by being a presidential panel member of the 2009 Review of United States Human Spaceflight Plans Committee. This was an independent review of US Human Spaceflight Policy and resulted in fundamental changes made to the US space program. Sally Ride was a strong supporter of women’s education in science and engineering, co-founding Sally Ride Science, a science education company that creates entertaining science programs for 4-8th grade students, specifically focusing on girls and minority students.
Sally devoted her life to science and inspiring others to explore the wonders of STEM. Said in her own words, “Everywhere I go I meet girls and boys who want to be astronauts and explore space, or they love the ocean and want to be oceanographers, or they love animals and want to be zoologists, or they love designing things and want to be engineers. I want to see those same stars in their eyes in 10 years and know they are on their way!”
“Maybe her Doodle will motivate some girl or boy somewhere in the world to become a scientist and adventurer just like Sally.” – Tam O’Shaughnessy—life partner of astronaut Sally Ride, and co-founder & CEO of Sally Ride Science.
With the unfortunate passing of Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, recently, it’s poignant to reflect upon how utterly significant her achievement really was. On her launch into space on Space Shuttle Challenger in 1983, she was preceeded by two Russian women, Valentina Tereshkova (1963) and Svetlana Savitskaya (1982), however still marking a significant turning point for governmental and societal opinion. Sally was also the only person to serve on both the Space Shuttle Challenger and Columbia Accident Investigation Boards. She also informed major space policy decisions by being a presidential panel member of the 2009 Review of United States Human Spaceflight Plans Committee. This was an independent review of US Human Spaceflight Policy and resulted in fundamental changes made to the US space program. Sally Ride has also been a supporter of women’s education in science and engineering, co-founding Sally Ride Science, a science education company that creates entertaining science programs for 4-8th grade students, specifically focussing on girls.
The story of Sally Ride’s journey to space is the culmination of a decades long struggle at NASA to allow female astronauts, clearly depicted in this article in The Atlantic. Spanning 20 years, from Valentina Tereshkova’s flight in 1963 to Sally Ride’s in 1982. It’s a shame to see how little awareness society has of these women’s achievements. In particular those such as in this case, relating to women in STEM fields, where they’ve had to overcome such adversity in order to even be considered for a particular position.