How America’s First Woman in Space Inspired Many

September 10, 2012

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. inspire (v.) [in-spahyuhr] – to encourage someone to do or feel something
Example: President Barrack Obama inspired many young African-Americans to become leaders.

2. male-dominated (adj.) [meyl dom-uh-ney-tid] – filled with or controlled by men
Example: Business and politics are often described as male-dominated professions.

3. pay off (phrasal v.) [pey awf, of] – to have good results or be successful as a result of much effort or hard work
Example: The student’s hard work paid off when he graduated at the top of his class.

4. major (v.) [mey-jer] – to study a specific course or subject
Example: Few women major in computer science.

5. stereotype (n.) [ster-ee-uh-tahyp, steer-] – something that most people believe to be true but is only partly true
Example: There is a stereotype that girls are weak and are not good at sports.

Read the text below.

Sally Ride, the first American woman to travel to outer space, passed away last July at the age of 61.  But she leaves behind an amazing legacy.

As a former astronaut and as a professor at the University of California, Ride made it her life mission to share the importance of math and science to students. She especially inspired and encouraged young middle-school girls to get into sciences and mathematics, courses that are largely male-dominated, even today.

Ride’s efforts seem to have paid off. When Ride got her Ph.D. in Physics at Stanford University in 1978, only 4% of physics degree earners were women. That number has since increased to about 20% today.

The National Science Foundation has also noted that from 1966 to 2006, the number of women studying science and engineering courses increased from 50,000 to 240,000.

Sadly, that number has fallen since 2006, as fewer women choose to enter the fields of engineering, physics, and computer sciences. Among female college students, only 3-5% choose to major in engineering. Meanwhile, only 20% of engineering graduates are women. 

Women like Sally Ride are important in the battle against stereotypes. When girls see women doing well in male-dominated professions, they start to think they too can have successful careers in those fields.

Catherine Coleman is one of such girls that Ride has inspired. Now an experienced NASA astronaut herself, Coleman says she would never have considered a field in science if she had not met Sally Ride.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         Tell me about a person whom you consider a personal hero or someone who inspires you.
·         If you could inspire young people at something, what would that be? Why do you think it is important to inspire them to do or be so?

Discussion B

·         What stereotypes exist in your country or society that you dislike or wish to break?
·         How can that stereotype be broken? In what ways can you contribute to the weakening of that stereotype?

September 10, 2012