Perseverance Toward 50/50

Image credit NASA JPL Caltech

This International Women’s Day, the new frontier is out of this world

When NASA’S Mars rover Perseverance successfully landed on the Red Planet, exuberance burst out at NASA headquarters — much as it does each time our nation successfully completes our latest space adventure.

These successes are wonderfully illustrated in photos captured at the moment of each mission triumph. No matter the year or the mission, the smiles are the same. The pride is the same. The teamwork is the same.

Today, however, there is a noticeable difference.

Looking at launch control

If you look at photos from the moon landing in 1968, the launch control center is filled with men in white shirts and skinny black ties. Some had cigars. Almost all waved small U.S. flags.

When Perseverance landed, the small flags were still there — but now the shirts were less starched, no buttons, and a soft blue. There were no cigars, but there was a diversity in the makeup of the triumphant space center crew. It looks almost 50/50 — it is not — but clearly underscores that we’re moving swiftly toward the goal of #5050x2028: roughly half women and half men in elected offices nationwide by 2028. When 100% of America is represented by 100% of our country’s human resources, we are better equipped, together, to take giant steps for humankind.

Paying off

Perseverance is paying off. Women’s History Month reminds us of the key roles women are playing in mission success teams at NASA and other technology, engineering, and math (STEM) areas long off limits for much of our population.

Diana Trujillo is a flight director on the Perseverance mission. She said in an interview with CBS News that playing a leadership role in the historic mission to find life on Mars was decades in the making for her. Her dreams of reaching space and wanting to understand the universe began when she was a youngster in Cali, Colombia. Trujillo decided to go to the United States as a 17-year-old as her parents were divorcing, arriving with only $300 and not speaking any English. She worked housekeeping jobs to pay for her studies and later joined NASA in 2007.

Persevering together

According to the Student Research Foundation, Hispanics are only 8% of the STEM workforce — of which Hispanic women comprise just 2%. Trujillo said in the interview that she believes the way to break the glass ceiling is to have more role models. That influenced her decision to host NASA’s first-ever Spanish-language broadcast for the planetary landing. The show was called “Juntos perseveramos,” or “Together, we persevere.” It garnered more than 2.5 million views on YouTube.

“The more hers there are, the more engineers and scientists that are Latin are out there, the more chances we have for those kids to have la chispa, where they say, ‘I want to be that,” she said in the interview.

Of course, outer space has no ceilings, glass or otherwise. We embrace that for earth as well. Together, we persevere. Together, we all go to new frontiers.

©2021 Women’s Campaign Fund


Tags: Women’s Campaign Fund




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