Girls aren't good at math. I heard this from an early age from my adoptive father, who was a math teacher. I totally bought into this stereotype at a young age. Even though I kinda liked science and my adoptive mother told me I could be anything I wanted to be, I didn't fit my picture of what a scientist looked like. At the time, I didn't fit anyone's picture of what a scientist looked like.
I remember watching the first moon landing as a kid, I thought it was super cool. I couldn't begin to imagine at the time what it took to get there. And how they did it using computer processing power that is less than what we have in our cell phones today. I remember thinking how cool it would be to do that. But girls didn't do sciency or mathy stuff. Ok, on Star Trek (which I loved then and still do today) maybe, but not in real life.
Sally Ride was not the first woman in space. But she was the first one that got my attention. When she took her first shuttle ride I was dating the so-to-be-father of my kids. In fact, I had my first child almost exactly 9 months later, although there is no connection there. Just a coincidence. I watched the launch and remember how cool I thought it all was. A woman, on the space shuttle, who went to Stanford and had degrees and a doctorate in Physics. (In my alternative dream life I went to Sandford, but thats a different blog post). She took another trip on the space shuttle in October, 1984. In the time between her first and second trips, I had my first daughter and we watched the launch together. Her 3rd trip in 1986 was cancelled due to the Challenger accident. By this time my daughter, now a toddler, had a space shuttle riding toy that she liked to scoot around the living room on. Sally never returned to space, but there were other women, many other women, who followed in her footsteps.
After leaving NASA she went onto teach, eventually In 2001, starting her own company to create educational programs and products designed to inspire girls and young women to pursue their interests in science and math.
Sally Ride inspires me because she knew girls could be good at math and she wanted them to know it to. She devoted her life to helping girls excel in STEM. My daughter, now an adult, has a daughter of her own, my granddaughter. My granddaughter may or may not be interested in STEM, but I do know that no one is going to tell her that she can't do it because she is a girl.
Thank you Sally, for your inspiration.