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– October 6th, 2016 –
Rockets for everyone…
This season’s range is about dreams, and at Little Green Radicals we girls to dream without limits – you can be pilots, doctors, engineers, astrophysicists or astronauts, and this season we to encourage girls to explore their possibilites. By creating a rocket to the stars dress, we hope to see far more girls growing up and reaching for the stars.
As this week is World Space Week, and we have a very special guest blogger, Vinita Marwaha Madill, who has worked at the European Space Agency and NASA, as well as being an Operations Engineer for the International Space Station at the German Aerospace Centre. Her website Rocket Women is a platform for her advocacy for women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and we ask her to talk to us about her journey to the stars…
Space has always intrigued me. I remember being an enthralled six-year-old when I learned that the first British astronaut, chemist Helen Sharman flew to the Mir space station in the early 90s. She was, although I didn’t know it yet, a role model to me. She showed me at a young age that my dreams were possible. I’m lucky to have had adults, both parents and great teachers, around me at that age who cultivated that interest and encouraged me to study space. My parents helped me greatly, taking me to the National Space Centre in Leicester, UK on the weekends to experience rockets and spacesuits firsthand, thankfully let me spend hours reading about space.
I’m also fortunate to have realized my passion at a young age and told my physics teacher in Year 7 that I wanted to work in NASA’s Mission Control. Throughout my education this drive was supported and 12 years later led me to fulfilling my dream, working on International Space Station (ISS) operations at the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), Germany’s answer to NASA’s Mission Control, before moving to my current role at the European Space Agency. My advice to those considering their career path is that it’s possible to achieve your goal, whether it’s to work in the space industry or otherwise. It takes hard work and dedication, but it’s absolutely worth it.
To encourage more women into engineering you also also need to inspire them when they’re young. Girls at the age of 11 decide to leave STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), when they’re in an education system where the choice of subjects at school severely limits their options for working in other fields later. Girls need to be allowed to be creative and inquisitive from a young age, rather than being told to play with toys that are seen by many as more appropriate for young girls is key. At 8, I was learning to programme the VCR and encouraged to read voraciously about science. The key is to initially spark an interest in STEM and then to allow that to grow over years, overcoming gender bias, especially in the early years and secondary school.
I think that allowing girls access to women in STEM is key. With movies and media portraying mainly male scientists, meeting one female scientist can change the life of a young girl as many don’t realize that a career in STEM is an option. Their future options can be influenced by a decision they make at a very young age. Positive female role models are essential to provide women with examples to look up to when they’re making the most critical decisions in their educations or career.
Watching Helen Sharman’s Soyuz launch on BBC News at a young age, and knowing that there had been a British female astronaut, helped me push through any negativity around my chosen career path when I was younger. I knew that I wanted to be an astronaut, or at least work in human spaceflight. And eventually I did, currently working at the European Space Agency (ESA). But I wouldn’t have had that impetus and drive if I hadn’t known that someone had come before me. There had been a female British astronaut and maybe there could be again. It was possible. Through featuring advice and stories of women in STEM, I want Rocket Women to give other girls and women that same realization. That they can have a career in STEM and achieve their dreams. There are also an increasing number of companies helping parents to encourage girls when younger and avoid toys and clothing that are infused with gender stereotypes. Most importantly they’re showing them that rockets aren’t just for boys, they’re for girls too!
During my career I’ve met some amazing people , especially other positive female role models. I think you need those role models out there, tangible and visible, like Helen Sharman for me, to be able to inspire the next generation of young girls to become astronauts, or be whatever they want to be. I started Rocket Women to give these women a voice and a platform to spread their advice. I’m interviewing women around the world in STEM, particularly in space, and posting the interviews on Rocket Women, along with advice to encourage girls to be involved in STEM.
As Sally Ride, the first American woman in space said, “You can’t be what you can’t see.”