“In 1935, the first group of female human computers were hired. Before electronic computers, all mathematical equations and computations would be done by hand by people, often known as human computers. With the advent of World War II, many male employees at NACA left to fight overseas. More and more women were needed to fill their roles, and soon African American women were hired to help with the shortfall.” (Howat). In 1964 Jeanette Scissum joined Nasa’s team in Marshall Space Flight Center as the first African-American woman. She was a mathematician who co-wrote a computer program and benefitted NASA and helped to “predict where the Apollo lunar module should land, and publishing a report that proposed new techniques to improve the forecasting of a sunspot cycle, spots on the outer shell of the sun that temporarily appear darker than the surrounding areas”(artsandculture.google.) Kathyrn Peddrew graduated in 1943, she tried to apply at another company but could not get in because they did not accept women positions. She then later got accepted at NASA, but still had to work in a segregated work area because she was black. Mary Jackson became the first female black engineer to work at NASA, she worked towards improving the aerodynamics in airplanes. She then went on to “achieving the most senior title within the engineering department, she took a demotion in order to work in the Equal Opportunity Specialist field, to make changes, support and highlight women and other minorities in the field”(artsandculture.google.) Or in more recent news Katie Bouman was the woman behind discovering the algorithm of the black hole photo. The list of women in NASA goes on and on for numerous reasons. However “the percentage of women who work in NASA today is 37%” said by NASA associate administrator Lori Garver, who also wants to expand on women working in NASA. The core of women joining NASA and getting into the STEM program is important for women to recognize and contribute to. According to Moira Forbes the key elements to achieve this traveling to schools in a women STEM program to encourage young women to join STEM, and three main points to success is to Bust the math myth, spark curiosity, and recognize the role of role modeling (Forbes).
The “math myth” is a myth that depicts women or females to be naturally non-talented at math, and naturally better at subjects like English. This myth discourages young women that they cannot be in any mathematical majors because they simply aren’t good at the subject. There are many examples and studies to prove that myth wrong such as this article, where it states “A study of how both men and women perceive each other’s mathematical ability finds that an unconscious bias against women could be skewing hiring decisions, widening the gender gap in mathematical professions like engineering.
The inspiration for the experiment was a 2008 study published in Science that analyzed the results of a standardized test of math and verbal abilities taken by 15-year-olds around the world. The results challenged the pernicious stereotype that females are biologically inferior at mathematics. Although the female test-takers lagged behind males on the math portion of the test, the size of the gap closely tracked the degree of gender inequality in their countries, shrinking to nearly zero in emancipated countries like Sweden and Norway. That suggests that cultural biases rather than biology may be the better explanation for the math gender gap.” (Bohannon). Or as Albert Einstein once said “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” This myth also includes that you have to be good at math in the first place to initially be a part of STEM, which is required by NASA. STEM, however, isn’t just math based. STEM stands for “science, technology, engineering and math” which only embodies one-fourth of the math input, so why is it a common mistake to think that STEM is only math associated. To be in NASA doesn’t just mean computer science, there is a wide number of jobs that vary even outside of STEM itself.
A factor that contributes to the math myth but also reconciles on its own would be that being an astronaut or part of science, or NASA as a whole is a “man’s job” or not feminine. Or something as simple as it doesn’t interest females, just like stereotypical sayings like “women like English, not math”, which was obviously wrong. Going into schools and talking to everyone, making sure both girls and boys are inclusive about learning about NASA careers and employment, can spark curiosity into girls, and make them interested in the subject and ultimately a career choice. This is a very promising way because women are often told in society what they should be interested in, but by only offering information and sparking curiosity into them, it helps contribute to having NASA careers as an option. While also holding important information that tells them the increase in women and how far they’ve come in NASA to motivate their curiosity “Women have been an integral part of NACA/NASA operations since 1922. They have played important roles such as mathematician, computer, astronaut, engineer, and supervisors. They have made lasting impacts and helped land a man on the moon. As of 2012, women made up one-third of all employees including 30% of supervisors and 20% of engineers. As of 2017, 37% of new hires are female and 50% of the newest class of astronauts were women. While these numbers may sound small, this is a significant increase in female employees at NASA compared to the last few decades.” (Howat) Showing the numbers and improvement over the years can make spark questioning and researching, valuing, or become more invested in the outcome.
Showing and proving role models for women is important because throughout history the hierarchy for social classes indicate that women were at the very bottom of the system. Which didn’t just happen in one society, but almost all of them. And in this day and era, when seeing a role model to young girls and then comparing it to previous areas of time, we are astonished, because women never got to experience it. The way to approach this matter would be to recognize that “The lack of visible female role models continues to be a major problem. In my opinion, though, the real problem is that the women working within STEM are hiding in plain sight. One way to overcome this would be to spotlight examples of actual women succeeding in STEM which could inspire young women by giving them real-world examples to model themselves after. It’s important to highlight that it’s not necessary to be a multimillionaire corporate celebrity to have an impact in STEM.”- (Emily Muggleton). If we introduce the hundreds of females who’ve worked at NASA and how committed and wonderful they are at their job, and how they’ve accidentally comabtted against men to achieve what they’ve achieved, other young women may start seeing themselves in their shoes and want to be such just like. There was a study conducted to see how influenced a classroom was when a strong female role-model was talking to the class on economics. They found that “The effect of strong female role models was even stronger among high-performing female students who had a grade point average of 3.7 or higher. For them, researchers saw a 26 percentage point increase in enrollment in the next-level economics class. Having career women speak in front of the class had no effect on male students. This suggests a lot of things: Perhaps it may mean that male students already enjoy enough role models in economics, or that male students don’t see women as role models.”(IKEM) and it concluded and confirmed the idea that “female students are more likely to enroll in an upper-level economics class if they have encountered successful women role models in that field.” (IKEM). But names won’t do it alone, you would need to explain and examine the roles those women took in a male-dominated atmosphere and how they achieved what they achieved. Such as how they contributed to the aspects of science, math, engineering, astronauts, and many, many more career choices.
Overall, women are in high demand for STEM roles, and the more contribution towards encouraging young women to chose that path, the more they can contribute to the world. STEM is dominated by men, scientifically speaking women and men tend to think differently. So speaking from that point of view, we would get perspectives from a whole other eye, as women can expand and breech what they never could’ve in the past, now there is nothing holding them back. So, it’s important as a society to recognize that women were put in educating organizations for centuries, and over the years they’ve done wonders for demonstrating the ability to teach. With that same mindset, if we put women into STEM and NASA imagine the kind of wonders they would do for those organizations.
Ikem, Chinelo Nkechi. “The Importance of Female Role Models in the Classroom.” Pacific Standard, 30 Jan. 2018, psmag.com/education/the-importance-of-female-role-models-in-the-classroom.
“15 Game-Changing Women of NASA – Google Arts & Culture.” Google, Google, artsandculture.google.com/theme/PAKin–N4pTOJg.
Forbes, Moira. “How To Inspire More Young Women To Enter STEM In 2018.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 5 Jan. 2018, http://www.forbes.com/sites/moiraforbes/2018/01/04/how-to-inspire-more-young-women-to-enter-stem-in-2018/#37e7336c1cd7.
Moskowitz, Clara. “NASA Needs More Women, Top Official Says.” Space.com, Space Created with Sketch. Space, 30 July 2013, http://www.space.com/22175-nasa-needs-women-sally-ride.html.
“The Women of NASA.” National Women’s History Museum, http://www.womenshistory.org/exhibits/women-nasa.
BohannonMar, John, et al. “Both Genders Think Women Are Bad at Basic Math.” Science, 10 Dec. 2017, http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2014/03/both-genders-think-women-are-bad-basic-math.