I was in high school in 1983 when Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. I was one of those lucky girls growing up whose parents told me “I could be anything I wanted to be.” The limitations or challenges of being a “girl” was not a big topic in our home. But, by the time I got to high school, it was becoming more obvious to me that there were obvious roles most women in my circles were fulfilling. I was thirsty for examples of women breaking through… and showing that “being anything” was really possible. Sally Ride was smart, educated, and was willing to take risks. She was breaking through, and my friends and I were watching.
“I did not come to NASA to make history. It is important that people don’t think I was picked for this mission because I am a woman and it is time for NASA to send one”~Sally Ride
This week, we celebrate her life and mourn her passing.
I have recently been part of some formal and informal conversations on women in leadership. One of the key debates.. is it better to show up as a “woman leader” or just be a “leader,” working to blend in as much as possible. Both approaches have merit and advance the cause. And, it’s not always our choice. With such a small minority in the very top levels of organizations, it is hard to keep the conversation completely gender neutral. Marissa Mayer faces the exciting and daunting task of turning around Yahoo; while happening to be pregnant (what an awesome time). There are points in our lives where being a woman can’t help from being part of the conversation.
We are still facing firsts.
Dr. Ride chose first to show up by blending in… and then by giving back through teaching and advocacy for girls in science and math.
Whether or not we talk about our role as women as leaders in our corporations and organizations, or we just lead, we are setting powerful examples in our doing. Your daughters and my sons are watching what is possible. They are watching how we roll with this power. They are watching what we invest in the next generation.
Thank you Sally. Your journey continues. We are on it.
Whether gender is an overt issue or not, a woman who blazes a trail will be noticed and remembered. In my days of working on a telescope that flew two shuttle missions, I met many astronauts, and worked directly with a few. However, I still tell people with a touch of pride about the time I ran into Sally Ride when she was coming out of a shuttle trainer in her bare feet. Larry