Women in Science: Then and NowJanuary 18, 2011
This is the second post in a two-part series.
Aspiring astronomers everywhere can add another role model to their list, although they might be surprised at her age.
Ten-year-old Kathryn Gray discovered a supernova just last week, becoming the youngest person to find a stellar explosion. Even more impressive, she picked out the new supernova on her first try.
Newspapers and broadcast media were quick to cover Kathryn’s find, and rightfully so. The girl deserves more than an allowance raise for her successful attempt at amateur astronomy. Other stories of young aspiring astronomers indicate that if Kathryn continues to reach for the stars — literally — she will find success.
AAUW member Nancy Roman went from being the unofficial president of her childhood constellation club to the first woman executive at NASA, not to mention the first chief of astronomy in the Office of Space Science at the agency. (Read her full story here.) But her introductions to astronomy also began as a child dreaming of the stars.
“[My mother] was definitely not a scientist, but she used to take me out at night and show me the constellations and the northern lights,” recalls Roman, whose father was a scientist. “She also showed me the birds and the plants and the trees, but the stars stuck.”
The difference between Roman’s story and Kathryn’s possible future are no doubt different. While Roman fought outright opposition to her career choice, Kathryn will have an easier road, one without teachers’ and classmates’ obvious disapproval. But, as AAUW’s research on women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics shows, women and girls continue to lag behind in the hard sciences, held up by stereotypes and chilly workplace climates.
As long as women face this kind of treatment, we need to keep our eyes firmly fixed on the prize — advancing and encouraging women and girls to not only follow their role models, but become them.
Join us, won’t you?
[ part 1 ] [ part 2 ]