The World's Population and Women

One of the best books I have ever read is Muhammad Yunus’ Banker to the Poor.  In this book, Yunus managed to make me think twice when bargaining during my around the world travels earlier this year.  As I traipsed through Kathmandu, Nepal or Siem Reap, Cambodia, Yunus’ words reverberated through my brain, and I just knew that some of these shops had to have been started by someone who once never dreamed she could be a shop owner.

You see-this book describes his economic theory and how he practiced what he preached, creating one of the most successful banks (based on repay rate) in the world called Grameen Bank.  Oh but wait-it’s not your typical bank.  It’s not a bank where you or I would go for a car loan or the best rate on a mortgage.  No ma’am.  It is the kind of bank that believes in the poor.  Not college student poor. The real poor.  The ones whose livelihood depends on so little that if one doesn’t fulfill his or her duties, someone dies.  A child dies. A sister dies.  A parent dies.  Yunus takes you through his quest to find the poorest (a feat seemingly easy but proven difficult…finding the truly poor was a task in and of itself) and then begging them for their trust.  All so he could make their lives and the economy of Bangladesh better.  All so he could teach them how to not only survive but improve life. 

Here’s the best part.  Yunus proved to himself by experience and cultural knoweldge (he is Bengali and served as a professor of Economics there after completing his Ph.D. at Vanderbilt) that targeting women is the most successful way to implement his theory of microlending.  The Grameen Bank lends very small amounts of money ($27 for example) in the eyes of a Westerner, but in these developing countries the money amounts to the very number necessary to build a business.  An entire business!  A means to flourish and get ahead.  And women, he found, were selfess.  He observed that women would do anything to ensure the survival of their children.  Morever, albeit scared for their lives, women were willing to risk everything to have the chance at a better life.  Not only for themselves but also for their children.  All the while, the self satisfaction that comes with a better life further fuels them to want more.  To work for more.  To obtain more. 

It was no easy feat considering that women in many parts of these countries are not to speak to men other than relatives and husbands.  Let alone, earn money herself?  Well, that’s a sure fire way to upset your husband.  It’s foreign to many people in the Western world, but there still exist places where women don’t have the rights we are given by simply being born.  It’s always difficult for me to see this when I go back to my parents’ village in India.  It’s no comparison to what he describes, but certainly there are times when I am not allowed to stand with the men or must follow behind them.  There are times when my Gujarati (the spoken language) is corrected because the verb tenses I use when referring to my husband are “disrespectful”.  I take it all in stride because I believe in the saying “When in Rome…”.  However, my own travels remind me that these areas of the world do exist.  And Yunus fought the fight and I’d say he won.  The Grameen Bank has a whopping 98% return rate, and the theory has been implemented in numerous countries, including some segments in the USA.  For his work, he was rewarded a well deserved Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. 

And why am I telling you about this book that is clearly not breaking news any more?  Because this article by Ted Turner, which was written earlier this week, reminded me of the book. It’s about how women are the key to slowing down our rampant population growth.  The book and the article are not even directly related, but somehow my brain tied the two together.  My guess is before reading this book, I would have completely misinterpreted Mr. Turner’s point.  I would have huffed and puffed to my husband about how insane one must be to blame women for the world’s population issues.  When in fact, Mr. Turner isn’t blaming anyone. Now, I read it with a totally different perspective.  Sure, conception requires men too.  No one can argue against that.  But, Yunus proved that educating women in parts of Bangladesh was key to his theory of improving life.  So, maybe-just maybe-Mr. Turner is onto something with this one. 

Mommy Salaries

Oooh…I couldn’t wait to post about this article.  It’s not hot off the e-press, but I just found it and am elated with joy to hear your thoughts.  I will keep mine to a minimum and neutral as I am focused on your opinions.

In this article, we learn about a prominent South African businesswoman’s notion that a stay-at-home mom should receive a paycheck equivalent to 10% of her husband’s salary.  The article doesn’t specify from where the money would come.  So, I leave it to you. 

Do you agree with Ms. Wendy Luhabe and if so, how would you structure such a program?  If not, why?  Please.  Indulge in a venue in which to share your thoughts.

“A mommy salary, as a way of giving value to the work of bringing up children, so that it’s not a resentful choice that women have to make.”

-W. Luhabe

NASA Launches New Website, Encourages Girls to Pursue Education and Careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics


Women@NASA is expanding!  And we are very excited about the future.  One of the biggest aims of the site is to inspire young girls.  And, the NASA FIRST fellows created this incredibly cool and tech-savvy project that does just that.  We are proud to be a part of it! For more information, read on.


NASA has launched the new website aimed at inspiring middle school girls to explore education and careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.


The site features four short films and one overview film that explore the careers and backgrounds of early career women who work for NASA in each of the STEM areas.


A list of community organizations and NASA affiliated outreach programs with STEM emphasis will be available to interested girls visiting the website.


The site will also features four Twitter© feeds where visiting girls can interact with and submit questions to the young women featured in the STEM films.


“We have an opportunity to reach out to the next generation and inspire today’s girls to pursue science and technology careers,” said Rebecca Keiser, the agency’s associate director for agency-level policy integration and representative to the White House Council on Women and Girls.  “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 key to our future.”


To learn more and discover your own inspiration, visit: 

Women in History Shout Out

Dear Women@NASA Loyal Readers:

As I am sure you have noticed, it’s been a while since we have written.  Numerous excuses aside, I am eager to keep this blog going.  So, I hope you check back as often as you have in the past!  Today, I had a vision for this blog.  I decided why must we only honor women in history during one month out of the year?  Why not showcase their work and respect them year round?  And that’s exactly what I am going to do!  I shall call it our “Women in History Shout Out” and post at least one every week.  It’s meant to be short and informative.  A quote, a one to two liner about her, and a picture.  Hope you enjoy!



“I have frequently been questioned, especially by women, of how I could reconcile family life with a scientific career. Well, it has not been easy.” 

-Marie Curie

Marie Curie (1867 – 1934) was a physicist and chemist who made major discoveries in the field of radioactivity. She was the first person to win two Nobel Prizes and the University of Paris’ first female professor.

Women in History Shout Out

“I felt somehow for many years that George Washington and Alexander Hamilton just left me out by mistake. But through the process of amendment, interpretation, and court decision, I have finally been included in We, the people.”

-Barbara Jordan

(1936 – 1996) American lawyer, politician and teacher. She served in the Texas Senate (1967–1973) and in the U.S. House of Representatives (1973-1979).

Women in History Shout Out

“All adventures, especially into new territory, are scary.” – Sally Ride

(1951- ) Former astronaut and first American woman in space.  Dr. Sally Ride was selected as an astronaut candidate in 1978 and flew for the first time in 1983.  After retiring from the astronaut corp, Dr. Ride joined the University of Califorinia at San Diego as a professor and started her own organization called Sally Ride Science to encourage young girls to enter science, math, technology, and engineering fields.

Our Quest to Find Cancer's Cholesterol

“I am alive by the grace of God and biomedical research.”, said Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro as she addressed an audience of 50 or so of the brightest young minds who strive towards finding The Cure and the experience of many doctors who have taken such strides to decreasing cancer-linked mortality rates.  She is a survivor of my greatest fear and next month marks her 26th year of remission.  Congratulations, Congresswoman DeLauer. 

Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to be invited to the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) seminar marking last year’s 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon’s declaration of the War on Cancer with the signing of the National Cancer Act of 1971.  As a scientist, I know first hand how difficult it is to find such a cure to something so vicious.  So ever changing.  So dependent on the person who is afflicted.  Smarter than any Apple product.  As a human, I am baffled how we have turned HIV from inevitable death to chronic illness in less time than the length of this raging war.  Yet, the numbers speak for themselves in representing significant strides towards a cure.  The oncological advances have made it possible for 12 million Americans to be living today, after fighting and winning their own battles.  From 1990-2007, the death rate due to cancer decreased by 22% for men and 14% for women, some 900,000 fewer deaths.  Childhood cancer survival rate went from 50% in 1975 to 80% today.  These numbers are real.  These numbers are due to the money we put into research.  The scary part is that as we cut spending in government, we are also having to cut dollars towards scientific research.  The domino effect of budget cuts could have catastrophic repercussions on the significant life-saving trends we have worked so diligently towards.   My hope is that Congress listens to the AACR and the members who supported this seminar in protecting dollars that go towards finding a cure.  Or that they heard Dr. Ros Meyer’s story and got those good-feeling goose bumps like I did.  Like when she talked about her stage 4 metastatic melanoma.  56 years old and 3 children.  A small pea-sized bump below her ear.  No other signs that anything was wrong.  Certainly not that the small bump paled in comparison to the ravenous cancer spreading across her body.  In 2005, there were no FDA-approved treatments that had success in her state.  So she decided to enter an NIH-funded clinical trial that was using what was termed “adoptive immunotherapy”, which took immune fighting white cells that were working in her body, cloned them, and then put them back into her.  In 2005, the method failed but she was lucky enough to be one of the 4% who survived via the FDA-approved method.  Then 2008.  Dozens of tumors came back.  The NIH trial was continuuing and the efforts the research had made in refining the method proved useful for Dr. Meyer.  It worked and by March of 2009, all but one tumor was gone.  That last morsel was removed via surgery and today, she is fighting cancer so we don’t have to go through that.  Through the pain.  The not-knowing.  The fear.  Fear of sleeping for not waking up.  Fear of not meeting grandchildren.  Fear of the end.  We must fund research.  We must advance.  And we must believe.

“Luck should not be a determination of whether you live or die.”-Congresswoman DeLauer

One of the panel members, Dr. Geoffrey Wahl, made an analogy that instantly made sense to me.  He said that we need to find the cholesterol of cancer.  What did he mean?  Well, the incidence of myocardial infarctions decreased significantly since cardiologists started using cholesterol as a marker for heart disease.  It became a measurement for risk, a successful target for drugs, and a preventative recipe for good health.  Cholesterol represents the big three for disease: prevention, detection, and treatment.  I will eagerly track cancer research in hopes they find their own cholesterol.

From successful completion of the Human Genome sequencing to applying such technology to sequencing tumors, cancer research has taken big moon steps towards finding the cure.  We must continue to fund this research for our children.  Our parents.  Sisters and brothers.  Friends and loved ones.  We must find the cure in honor of those who survived.  And in memory of those who didn’t.

First Female Four Star General in the Air Force

I am not even sure what to do with myself.  I can’t believe how many things are in the news that I am positive you will want to know.  For my third post in one day, I must tell you about this story:  The President of the United States has nominated Air Force Lt. Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger for a promotion to a four star general.  The first four starred female general in the Air Force.  Way to go, Lt. Gen Wolfenbarger.

Now I don’t know too much about the military, but I am fairly certain my excitement is appropriate for this news.

Although, I guess I am also fairly surprised this hasn’t already happened…  This is often my reaction to the many news stories I see about the “first female to…”.  I somehow manage to remind myself that now is better than never.  And to stop wondering why it took this long.

May Janice Voss Rest in Peace

I used to hang out at Janice’s house as a co-op.  She was an active astronaut at that time and one of my closest friends was renting a room from her.  You can, thus, only imagine the shock with which I took the news of her passing Tuesday overnight, losing her battle to cancer at the young age of 55. 

That’s two people we have lost to cancer this week, just mere days after I posted about funding cancer research.  I doubt I need to be more clear. 

Here’s to fighting the fight.  May you rest in peace, Janice.  You will be missed.