Women and Technology Leadership

March is Women’s History Month.  As NASA aspires to encourage the interest of young women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, I reflected on Sydney, a young girl that I am tutoring in 6th grade mathematics.

As we began our mentor protégé relationship, I was mortified when her mother told me that her teacher told her that she would be better suited for creative arts  or language arts – something like English, creative writing, or art.  There is certainly nothing wrong with that, but to make that pronouncement took away any motivation that this young, bright creative mathematician-in-the-making might have had.  A Pi Plate

No doubt the instructor saw her right-brain thinking and assumed that there was no place for her in the so-called left-brain world of mathematics and engineering.  Someone should have told him how the Fibonacci Numbers show us the convergence of beauty so majestically in the wild rose; or perhaps the vibrancy of the eigenvalues of the 440 megahertz sound of the musician’s perfect concert A; or maybe the relevancy of the constant pi in this circle we call life. 

Sadly, Sydney’s teacher, in an unspoken way, reinforced to her the notion that society will not reward women with objective logical thinking nor will it reward men with empathic creative intuition.  The diversity of style and approach is something that we desperately need — the empathic creative intuition in the scientific and technical fields; and the logical thinking and technology genius in the creative arts. 

Corporate America also needs this same kind of diversity in thinking and style.  In their book, Swim with the Dolphins, Glaser and Smalley talk about the changing culture in corporate America brought about by stiff global completion and other economic conditions.  This new environment requires a leadership that is less top-down and has more compassion for employee concerns.  The more successful leaders are gifted motivators and communicators.  They are also very intuitive and tuned into employee needs.  They aren’t soft; they are strong and tough yet gentle and caring. 

Maybe society will soon be ready for the Sydneys of the world to reach their dreams and enter the world of Mathematics.  Or maybe society will be ready for my empathic intuitive male associates to finally reach their dreams. 

I heard a song that touched my soul this morning on the radio.  Bridge Over Troubled Water.  The second verse in particular inspired this blog.

Sail on silver girl,
Sail on by.
Your time has come to shine.
All your dreams are on their way.

I think Sydney’s time has come to shine.  Rebecca Shambaugh in her book, It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor, says:

“Whatever your goals, whatever your dreams, now is the time to reach for them.  Women are poised to take on new roles like never before.  Major changes and shifts in the business world and, indeed, society as a whole, are requiring a new balance of knowledge, leadership, and perspective.”

I think this might also apply to my empathic intuitive male associates also.  I hope their dreams are on their way.

Linda Cureton, CIO, NASA

6 thoughts on “Women and Technology Leadership”

  1. Women are an improved version of men. Certainly. Real men only ask, “What do you want my lady?” This is female leadership in the world. And there is no greater proof of the achievements of women than it is responsible for the generation of new lives. A lot of responsibility! Only the woman who is intelligent, strong, confident and loving (closer to the divine) to accomplish this. God made no mistake. Discrimination against women is a brutality against nature.

    My congratulations to all women who give evidence of the truth of his superiority with grace, warmth and beauty.

  2. You may never know the influence you have on the life of another person. Your story of Sydney reminds me of my personal experience 25 years ago – when my High School guidance counselor advised me to take typing instead of computer science.

    I made a flip comment along the lines of “I won’t need to type – I’ll have a secretary to do that.” I admit that I type daily – and haven’t applied what I learned in the basic programming course. However, the seeds my parents planted at an early age (the power of education, confidence that I was capable of whatever I set my mind to) have made all the difference in my life’s journey.

  3. ok first of all i didnt read this its just the only way to get ahold of anyone on this site i have questions.. first of all i know cameras back when when earth “went” to the moon were not as good as they are today and also i know that the moons surfaces temeratures are way to extreme for and man or camera for that time period could even think about going to the moon i want proof and im sure so would the rest of our public. no body in the us believs this its absolutly rediculous to even think someone went to place that is heated by the SUN!!!!!

  4. Very nice Blog. Even my daughter has better skills technically. I wish her to be an engineer like me.

  5. I feel bad when I read about teachers being faulted for underestimating the skills and talents of girls. It was probably true of teachers and guidance counselors fifty years ago when I was in high school, but I don’t see that happening today. We eduactors have long since developed a sensitivity to the issue. I’d like to suggest that we stop stereotyping teachers just like we’d like everyone to evaluate girls based on their real merits and not on what we think their gender stands for. mm

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