Women have long played major roles in scientific discovery and exploration. From Maria Mitchell, the first female astronomer in the U.S., to astronauts Sally Ride, Mae Jemison, and Eileen Collins, each of whom accomplished firsts in space; women have made some of humankind's greatest discoveries. Although women have not always been recognized for their frequently path-breaking work, they've been astronauts, scientists, engineers, program managers, writers, spacecraft designers, and educators. It was a woman, Eileen Galloway, who drafted NASA's founding document, the Space Act.
NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson present
Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett with commemorative pins from NASA missions
On Wednesday, I was privileged to coordinate an event at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., showcasing the achievements of these women, where we unveiled the Women@NASA website. It has 32 video interviews with NASA women of diverse backgrounds who represent different aspects of the agency's work. They discuss their accomplishments and offer encouragement to women and girls considering technical careers so they can become the trailblazers of tomorrow. The site also provides information about NASA internships and career opportunities. It's an inspirational site, and more than one person has admitted to getting a little emotional as they watch these women candidly discuss their struggles and achievements.
During this event on Wednesday, White House Senior Advisor and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls Valerie Jarrett joined NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson and spoke to almost 200 young women from the Washington area. They talked about the importance of science and technology education for girls, and how we must make it possible for young women to enter any career field they choose. You don't have to be an astronaut to make big contributions to the amazing exploration opportunities that NASA is developing for our nation to win the future.
We have an obligation to reach out to the next generation and inspire today's girls to pursue science and technology careers. Expanding opportunities in these fields will give our country perspectives and expertise that will help us out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the world. It's a great time to be in the space field. The numbers of women pursuing these careers are growing, but we can and will do better. It's key to our future.
Rebecca Keiser is the NASA Representative to the White House Council on Women and Girls