The Stars are the Limit

In January NASA introduced its newest class of astronauts. The class of eight astronauts is impressive, each with incredible skills and educational achievements. Having been selected from over 6,100 applicants, these astronauts are the best of the best. But what is so extraordinary is that this class made history for being comprised of four women and four men—the first class with gender parity in the history of space exploration.

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/half-nasa-newest-astronaut-class-wmeon-180957850/?no-ist

This is fantastic news for everyone eager to encourage girls to enter STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Astronauts have always been some of the most visible STEM professionals, so having an equal number of women and men reach the elite rank of astronaut is a strong signal that women are just as talented as men in the sciences.

As we discussed earlier in the “Designing against Stereotypes” blog, stereotypes, such as the belief that girls are not as good in math and science as boys, create a large barrier to attaining gender parity throughout STEM fields. So having visible role models breaking down these gender barriers is crucial to dismantling such a devastating stereotype and changing the future for women in science and technology.

Here’s to the STEM ladies

The four female astronauts is just part of an increasing movement of highlighting women in STEM fields. Again, NASA is showing that it is on the forefront of welcoming women into STEM careers with a beautiful video documenting the life of their engineer, Denisse Arranda.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8hMkTEU0YY Hearing her journey from a young student who was told she couldn’t become an engineer because she didn’t know how “a car works” to a successful NASA mechanical engineer is an inspiration. I am sure it will encourage other girls, who also have yet to learn how cars work, to enter engineering and change the world with their technical solutions.

Even the Russian space program, which is well known for its sexism, just presented 6 female cosmonauts who entered a mock-spacecraft in preparation for an all-female 2029 space mission. Media greeted the cosmonauts with some of the most sexist questions, yet with grace, these women showed they are serious and talented professionals to be respected in the field.http://www.theverge.com/2015/11/1/9648718/russian-space-agency-women-cosmonauts-moon-mission-sexism

However my favorite recent example of STEM women stepping to the forefront is the viral twitter handle #ILookLikeAnEngineer. http://time.com/3985124/ilooklikeanengineer-sexism-gender-engineer-social-media/ This twitter movement was started by OneLogin software engineer, Isis Anchalee, after she received sexist comments in response to a recruiting poster on which she appeared. Browsing through the tweets, it is clear that engineers cover the broadest range of diversity. That is the message we need to send girls who want to enter STEM fields—anyone who is driven and interested has a place in the world of science and technology.

- whitney hopkins

yvonne linstem, education, girls