Women's History Month Shout Out: Beate Sirota Gordon

“[She was] the woman who in February 1946 wrote the women’s clause of Japan’s new draft constitution, the impresario who for almost 40 years brought thoughtful, dazzling and original Japanese and Asian performing arts to American audiences”
– Nassrine Azimi 

Beate Sirota Gordon in Japan in 1946. Image retrieved from the Asia Society, courtesy of the Gordon family
Beate Sirota Gordon in Japan in 1946

Beate Sirota Gordon (1923-2012) was a long-unsung heroine of Japanese women’s rights, having written them into Japan’s post-World War II Constitution. First at the Japan Society and then the Asia Society, she worked tirelessly to introduce North American audiences to authentic and traditional artists from across Asia.

Beate (pronounced bay-AH-tay) was born in Vienna to Leo Sirota, the renowned Ukranian concert pianist, and the former Augustine Horenstein on 25 October 1923. The family moved to Tokyo when Beate was 5, where her father taught at the Imperial Academy of Music and she absorbed both Japanese language and culture. In 1939, just before she turned 16, Beate left for Mills College in Oakland, Calif. while her parents remained in Japan. 

In December 1941, the attack on Pearl Harbor made it impossible for Beate to contact her parents, leaving her alone with no financial support. While still a student at Mills, Beate put her foreign language skills (she was fluent in English, Japanese, German, French, Spanish, and Russian) to use, monitoring radio broadcasts from Tokyo for a United States government listening post in San Francisco. At that time, she was one of 100 Caucasians in the entire United States who were fluent in Japanese. She graduated from Mills College in 1943 and became a naturalized US citizen in 1945.  

When WWII ended, she still did not know whether her parents were alive or dead. Beate joined General MacArthur’s staff as an interpreter, and arrived in a devastated Tokyo on Christmas Eve, 1945. She found her parents malnourished but safe, having been interned in the countryside.

Beate was the only female assigned to MacArthur’s top-secret constitutional committee, charged with drafting Japan’s post-war constitution in just 7 days, a task which the Japanese government had failed to accomplish twice. As “the only woman in the room”, she was tasked with composing the section on women’s rights. She produced what became Article 24 of the Constitution of Japan

“Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis. With regard to choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters pertaining to marriage and the family, laws shall be enacted from the standpoint of individual dignity and the essential equality of the sexes.”

Growing up she saw how women were treated in Japan; they were usually married to men they did not know, could inherit nothing, and could even be bought and sold like chattel. Beate understood the importance of having women’s rights recognized in the Constitution itself, and fought to preserve Article 24 in spite of protests from the Japanese negotiators. The 25-year oath of secrecy imposed upon the committee members kept her contributions to women’s rights unknown for decades.

Following her return to the United States, Beate worked to introduce North American audiences to traditional arts and performances from across Asia, first at the Japan Society and later the Asia Society. She traveled the continent scouring for talent, bringing Vietnamese water puppets, Javanese dancers, Korean pansori singers, and many others to stages throughout the United States and Canada. 

Women in History Shout Out

“I like to think of my work as creating a private conversation with each person, no matter how public each work is and no matter how many people are present.” – Maya Lin

(1959- ) Maya Lin was an undergraduate archaeology student at Yale University when in 1981 she entered a contest for a Vietnam war memorial design.  She was selected as the winner, amid protests from a small but vocal group over the minimalistic, non-grandeur remembrance.  Her design became two walls of polished black granite set below grade on which the names of more than 58,000 Americans were carved and arranged chronologically, according to the year of death or disappearance.  Today, the Vietnam War memorial garners over 10,000 visitors daily and is often remarked for its powerful, abstract effect. She has balanced artistry, with a focus in landscapes, and architecture throughout her career, including a feature at the Pace Gallery in New York City.  She has long been attracted to social issues and addressed them in her memorials, such as the Civil Rights Memorial in Alabama and the Women’s Table at Yale University.  She was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama, and she continues to work today in her field of art and architecture.

Women small business executives support NASA’s missions

Women not only have strong leadership roles within NASA, but women also lead some of NASA’s strategic partner organizations and businesses. As a new NASA employee, I have been so impressed by the women who are leading in my workplace as well as the women I meet when traveling to the NASA Centers.

Last week, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden visited Kegman Inc., a woman-owned, veteran-owned small business in Melbourne, Florida. Kegman’s CEO Susan Glasgow started the company in 1999, and along with her team, has led its growth.

In 2011, Kegman earned a contract with NASA to provide operations and maintenance for the Doppler Radar Wind Profiler. The profiler was utilized just this past week to establish safe conditions for launch of the $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover.

Basically, Susan’s company monitored the wind around the Curiosity rover to make sure conditions were right for take-off.

Bolden praised Susan and Kegman during a tour of the company before the successful Curiosity rover launch.

“Curiosity’s mission is to get Mars to give up its secrets. But we can’t get to Mars without companies like Kegman who contribute technology, innovation, component parts and know-how to the project,” Bolden said.

Thanks to Susan and her team for giving us a glimpse into the work they do and for helping get the Curiosity rover on its way to Mars.

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.

Congratulations to the YouTube Spacelab Winners

It is a global challenge to be innovative.  To be smart.  To be cutting edge. 


The reward?  A rarity among Ph.D. and M.D. scientists even.  Fly your experiment to the International Space Station.  This is no zero-g plane (an amazing opportunity in and of itself).  This is the real deal.  And then it’s beamed live onto YouTube.  Could this get any cooler?


It was so cool that even the NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver had to call the American winners and offer her thoughts.  


“I want to congratulate the winners of the YouTube Space Lab contest for their outstanding proposals. I am especially proud of the two winners from the United States, Dorothy Chen and Sara Ma, and look forward to seeing the results of their experiments after they are flown and conducted on the International Space Station during Expedition 32 and 33 this summer. Earlier today, I had a chance to speak with Dorothy and Sara to thank them for their hard work, and salute them on behalf of NASA.  As a national laboratory, our goal is to open up the space station to new paths for the exploration, discovery and economic development of space. Educating and inspiring the next generation of space explorers and scientists are among the most important things NASA can do, and these students are getting the opportunity of a lifetime. A contest like this taps into the passion of so many people who get involved, from the just over 2,000 students who submitted proposals to everyone who voted for them, and we want to encourage that passion and engagement.”


Now if that’s not a dream come true, I can hardly imagine what is!  Congratulations to Dorothy and Sara as well as Amr Mohamed for dreaming big.


For information about the contest and to see the proposals from the 60 finalists, visit YouTube Spacelab.

The White House: Women and the Economy

We are pleased to be able to bring you the latest news when it pertains to women.  Today, the White House released a report on the Administration’s committment towards women and furthering our reach in the economy.  Read the report below.  It’s very interesting! 


Office of the Press Secretary

White House Releases Report on Women and the Economy

Today, at the White House Forum on Women and the Economy, the President will discuss the importance of restoring the economic security for the middle class and creating an economy that’s built to last for America’s women. The President believes we must build an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone pays their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. As part of today’s Forum the White House released a new report entitled Keeping America’s Women Moving Forward, The Key to an Economy Built to Last, which examines the ways in which the Administration has worked to ensure women’s economic security through all stages of life – from young women furthering their education and beginning their careers, to working women who create jobs and provide for their families, to seniors in retirement or getting ready for retirement. View the report HERE.

“As a father, one of the highlights of my day is asking my daughters about theirs. Their hopes and their futures are what drive me every day I step into the Oval Office,” said President Obama. “Every decision I make is all about making sure they and all our daughters and all our sons grow up in a country that gives them the chance to be anything they set their minds to; a country where more doors are open to them than were ever open to us.”

Today, more than ever, women are essential breadwinners in most American families. Yet women in our economy and our work force still aren’t getting a fair shake, earning just 77 cents on every dollar paid to men. Women now make up nearly 50% of our workforce, are a growing number of breadwinners in their families, and are the majority of students in our colleges and graduate schools. The President believes that expanding economic opportunities for women and ending discriminatory practices is critical to building an economy that restores security for middle class families, where hard work and responsibility are rewarded, and everyone who wants one can find a good job.

Highlights from the Keeping America’s Women Moving Forward report include an overview of how Administration policies impact women at every stage of their lives:

Yong Women Obtaining Higher Education and Beginning their Careers

Ø Of the additional 3.4 million students who have received Pell grants since the President took office, approximately 2.3 million are women.

Ø 9.4 million students and families have benefitted from the American Opportunity Tax Credit to help pay for college.

Ø 1.1 million women between the ages of 19 and 25 who would have been uninsured currently receive health coverage under a parent’s health insurance plan or through an individually purchased health insurance plan.

Ø Women and girls across America are benefiting from efforts to promote Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, (STEM) degrees and careers because women who hold STEM degrees and jobs earn 30% more, on average, than women in non-STEM jobs.

Working Women Providing for their Families and Contributing to Economic Growth

Ø More than 16,000 Small Business Administration Loans totaling more than $4.5 billion were granted to women-owned small businesses.

Ø $62.5 million in monetary relief has been obtained for victims of sex-based wage discrimination by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission since January 2010.

Ø The Payroll tax cut provided an average of $1,000 of tax relief for nearly 75 million women.

Ø An estimated 4.9 million women were kept out of poverty in 2010 because of expansions in refundable tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.

Ø An estimated 20.4 million women are benefiting from expanded access to preventive services such as mammograms, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and prenatal care at no additional cost.

Senior Women in Retirement and Preparing for Retirement

Ø 24.7 million women enrolled in Medicare received preventive services at no additional cost in 2011, including an annual wellness visit, a personalized prevention plan, mammograms, and bone mass measurement for women at risk of osteoporosis.

Ø More than 2 million women enrolled in Medicare who hit the donut hole saved $1.2 billion in 2011 due to improvements in prescription drug coverage.

Ø More than $13.6 billion in payments of $250 each were provided to seniors and veterans as part of the Recovery Act, a substantial percentage of which went to women.

Ø President Obama has committed to protecting Social Security for an estimated 30 million women beneficiaries.

The White House Women and the Economy Forum will address a wide range of Administration accomplishments while focusing on how critical women are to the nation’s economic success. Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls Valerie Jarrett will deliver opening remarks and introduce a panel, moderated by Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC’s Morning Joe with Senior Administration Officials, private sector and academic leaders participating. Following the opening panel, the President will deliver remarks to an audience of entrepreneurs, academics, stakeholders, business leaders. Following the President’s remarks, Senior Administration Officials including Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Attorney General Eric Holder, as well as the Director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Munoz, Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls Tina Tchen and Katharine Abraham, Member of the Council of Economic Advisors, will lead a series of breakout sessions on a range of topics including: Women at Work, Education, Health, Women’s Entrepreneurship, and Violence Against Women and Girls.

View more about the White House Council on Women and Girls HERE.


Let's See What Girls Really Think!

During our Women’s History Month event recently, I had the opportunity to meet and present with Dr. Kamla Modi of the Girl Scout Research Institute. As I spoke with and listened to Dr. Modi, I was amazed at her poise and ability to capture an audience.  Her leadership skills were palpable, and I knew we would form a robust partnership towards the same goal-encouraging young girls to enter science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. 

So, I thought this would be a great way to showcase the lastest research from the Girl Scouts.  Here are some of their findings and a link to the report.  I hope you all read it because as I said at the conference, I fully believe to tackle the nation’s problems and push the boundaries of science and technology, we should tap into the market of young brains deeper than we do today and include the many young girls out there who may otherwise not pursue STEM careers.  And we believe Women@NASA’s first outreach program called NASA G.I.R.L.S. targets these findings so very well!  Dr. Modi is an example of what young girls can do when they put their minds to it-remember, anything is possible.  Never let anyone tell you otherwise!

Generation STEM: What Girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math:

-A majority of today’s girls have a clear interest in STEM

-They don’t prioritize STEM fields when thinking about their future careers

-74 percent of teen girls are interested in STEM subjects

-82 percent see themselves as “smart enough to have a career in STEM.”

-Yet, few girls consider it their number-one career option with only 13 percent saying it’s their first choice

Read the full report here.

The Girl Scouts of the USA have incorporated science, technology, engineering, and mathematics as part of its hands-on, informal learning activities, but the findings in this recent report reinforce the importance of the Girl Scouts’ STEM initiatives. In October 2011, the Girl Scouts formed a new partnership with AT&T to advance underserved high-school girls in science and engineering through a $1 million AT&T Aspire contribution. The initiative, IMAGINE: Your STEM Future, aims to reach 6,000 young women this year and introduce them to the vast array of career options in STEM fields. The IMAGINE curriculum is designed to help high school girls imagine a future in a STEM career by experiencing science through interactive activities and visual experiments led by AT&T employees.

Generation STEM notes that the creative and hands-on aspects of STEM hold the most appeal. STEM-interested girls take an active, inquisitive approach to engaging in science, technology, engineering, and math: a high percentage like to solve problems (85%), build things and put things together (67%), do hands-on science projects (83%), and ask questions about how things work and find ways to answer these questions (80%).

“While we know that the majority of girls prefer a hands-on approach in STEM fields, we also know that girls are motivated to make the world a better place and to help people,” says Kamla Modi, PhD, research and outreach analyst, Girl Scout Research Institute. “Girls may not understand how STEM careers help people, or how their STEM interests can further their goals of helping people. Girl Scouts of the USA is committed to engaging girls in STEM activities and encouraging them to pursue STEM interests both in and outside the classroom, [in part] through program partnerships.”

Addressing another critical Generation STEM finding—just 46 percent of girls know a woman in a STEM career—Girl Scouts and the New York Academy of Sciences have partnered together to design and implement a STEM mentoring program for Girl Scouts, modeled after the academy’s current afterschool STEM mentoring program. The new curriculum will be adapted and scaled across more than 100 Girl Scout councils throughout the country. The program trains young women scientists to serve as role models and to bring high-quality, hands-on, informal science education opportunities to middle-school-age Girl Scouts.

To learn more about the current STEM initiatives underway in the Girl Scouts, visit here. To learn more about the findings of the Girl Scout Research Institute, read the full Generation STEM report.