It's no secret that roles for women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) are at a rate too low for comfort. We're getting better, with awareness of leadership roles for women being brought to light by tech companies all over the world. One company that takes aims to take the gold medal above all others is NASA.
NASA strives and succeeds in continuing to employ women leaders in critical roles to drive growth and impact change across the globe. The person that runs the department for developing rockets? A woman. The biggest, baddest scientist at NASA? A woman. The chief technology officer? You guessed it - she's a woman. Unfortunately, none of these women are this woman.
JLo is fierce nonetheless, making her own waves outside of the world of entertainment, proving to be a thriving entrepreneur with many new ventures on the horizon. The Jennifer Lopez at NASA (same name, different woman) seems to have the same fierce mojo, as her latest initiative is empowering women (and men!) to work directly with NASA. Jennifer heads up NASA's Datanaut Corps team, which aims to provide NASA's plethora of data to the world in hopes of seeking new (female) talent for innovative and strategic ways to use that data and drive new initiatives.
Here's an example in case you're wondering why data is so dang important: If you happened to see the coverage of the awesome pictures of Pluto from the NASA and Johns Hopkins New Horizons mission, you saw astounding images of Pluto and its five moons. NASA has an open data policy that provides all of these amazing discoveries to the world, widening their coverage of like-minded (and new-minded) individuals to analyze and innovate.
What's truly significant about Jennifer's open-data Datanaut Corps initiative is that she has recognized two key things:
1. In order to take space exploration and airline innovation to the next stage, NASA needs to collaborate with a more diverse set of minds. That means if you aren't a coder, you can still provide immensely significant value to NASA's goals and data growth.
2. The only way to find these new minds for innovation is to stimulate them. Not everyone thinks, works or succeeds in the same way. Not all of us find fulfillment the same way. Jennifer realizes that new talent will thrive when they're working in an environment that empowers and rewards them.
According to this Fast Company article, one way they are doing this is by building "virtual problem-solving activities, such as online data treasure hunts, mini-data challenges, and next-generation community engagements including data dinner clubs and pop-up challenges where communities can gather for a few hours to discuss and analyze an issue or challenge."
By first researching and understanding the wants, concerns and goals of the communities they're targeting, Datanaut Corps is able to mold these problem-solving activities on an extremely personal level.
If your brain isn't mush by now, you can check out more about the Datanaut Corps program on NASA's website. Ask yourself, how can you contribute to changing the world - and rub elbows with at least one Jennifer Lopez in our universe?