Women’s History Month
Several people have sent me a photo of NASA’s Women’s History Month Celebration recently, expressing dismay at the images NASA and the White House chose to represent women inspiring the next generation to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and to launch the new Women@NASA website. They object to the skimpy outfits, to the emphasis on cheerleading, and they wonder how this happened. I don’t know. But I do know one thing:
Women at NASA *do* come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and ages.
Women at NASA are tall, short, blonde, brunette, gray, and sometimes even bald. They work in high heels and they work in wheelchairs. They are gorgeous and plain; skinny and not; black, white, Asian, and Hispanic; fresh out of school, mid-career, and at retirement age. They have babies, children, aging parents, and/or lives of adventure. They travel all over the world to speak and they launch missions to comets, to Mercury, and to the Moon. They defy stereotypes and they ignore naysayers. They are the past, the present, and the future of the agency, along with their male colleagues.
Women at and funded by NASA are strong and inspiring. They design instruments; observe galaxies; study the sun, the planets and their moons; and publish work in every issue of every science journal out there today, and their contributions deserve recognition along with their male colleagues, especially during a time designated Women’s History Month, at an event co-sponsored by the White House Council on Women and Girls. Inspiring the nation’s children to pursue STEM careers is essential — and women in space science do it every day, by their good work and by the time that they dedicate to inspire others through programs and projects such as the ones already sponsored by and funded through NASA.
As just one example, two years ago, NASA funded a supplementary outreach project to document the careers of 10-20 women in planetary science who had contributed significantly to planetary science missions. That project turned into the 51 Women in Planetary Science resource on this web site, an archive of feature articles on amazing scientists, educators, and leaders in planetary missions. These women inspire me, and the project continues past its funding dates. We now seek to distribute the list widely for use in e-mentoring current students and early career scientists, and for inspiring students in future generations.
When I think of Women at NASA, I don’t think of professional cheerleaders. I think of role models, and I think of the women who joined me at breakfast earlier this month at LPSC, early in the morning, to discuss, encourage, and celebrate Women in Planetary Science. These women: (credit: Heather Dalton, LPI)
What do you think?