Empowering Voices: Sally Ride Science Hosts the Sixth Annual Women in Leadership Event

By Nathan Young


Sally Ride Science, a nonprofit organization based at the University of California San Diego, is gearing up for its sixth annual Women in Leadership event on May 23, 2024, at the UC San Diego Price Center East Ballroom.

This event brings together a panel of women leaders to share their personal stories and visions on how women can help guide us to a better future.

This year’s panel includes Ina Garten, cookbook author, television host, and former White House budget analyst; Michelle K. Hanabusa, founder and creative director of UPRISERS® and co-founder of Hate Is A Virus; and Margot Lee Shetterly, author of the No. 1 New York Times Bestseller "Hidden Figures,” which inspired a No. 1 hit film. Award-winning author and journalist Lynn Sherr will moderate the discussion.

The event is sponsored by the Vertex IWILL Employee Resource Network (Inspiring Women in Leadership and Learning) and the UC San Diego Office of the Chancellor.

What is the Women in Leadership Event?

The Women in Leadership event originated as a celebration of the life and legacy of astronaut and UC San Diego physics professor Sally Ride, America's first woman in space. Throughout her career she was an advocate and ambassador for women in leadership, especially in fields where women have not traditionally been leaders, such as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), sports, and business.

The event was conceived in 2018 by Tam O'Shaughnessy, Ride's life partner and co-founder of Sally Ride Science, to celebrate the dedication of a U.S. Postal Service Forever stamp in Ride's honor.

The central focus of the Women in Leadership event is a candid panel discussion with inspiring women leaders from various fields. Panelists are encouraged to share their journeys, challenges, and visions, with the hopes of empowering and motivating young women and girls to aspire to leadership roles themselves.

The diversity of achievements among the panelists often reflects the diverse passions and interests of Sally Ride herself, including her roles as an athlete, physicist, space pioneer, author, business owner, and champion of diversity in science education and careers.

"Sally cared deeply about getting little girls—and little boys—into science," said Ride biographer Sherr, who will moderate the discussion for the sixth time. "She also cared about having women at the top, in leadership positions.”

Past panel participants have included tennis legend Billie Jean King; labor leader and activist Dolores Huerta; trailblazing NASA aerospace engineer Dr. Aprille J. Ericsson; and the first African American woman to serve as U.S. secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice.

"The Women in Leadership event highlights diverse women who have achieved success in a wide variety of careers,” said Karen Flammer, Ph.D., friend of Sally Ride, co-founder of Sally Ride Science, and Director of Digital Learning at UC San Diego. "Every time I go, I personally get inspired by hearing the women leaders talk very openly and authentically about the types of challenges many of us have experienced in our career paths, and then also hearing them talk about how much they enjoy what they do despite the challenges. It's very inspirational."

Attendees range from young students to seasoned professionals, all united by a common goal: to champion diversity and leadership in STEM.

“Sally Ride used to say, 'You can't be what you can't see,’” said Morgan Appel, Assistant Dean for Education and Community Outreach at UC San Diego Division of Extended Studies. “For our youngest, second- or third-graders, who come to events like Women in Leadership, they actually get to see what they can be. It creates a very holistic approach to supporting their education."

The event is open to anyone interested in learning from and being inspired by successful leaders, as well as educators, parents, and community members who want to support and encourage the next generation of women leaders.

Storytellers, Trailblazers, and Trendmakers: This Year's Featured Panel

The lineup for this year's event is impressive in terms of the quality of panelists as well as the breadth of experiences. Let's explore each in turn.

Ina Garten: From White House Budget Analyst to Culinary Icon

Ina Garten has had a remarkable career trajectory.

Today she is best known as the host of the Emmy-winning cooking show "Barefoot Contessa." Before becoming a culinary celebrity, Garten served in the federal government as a budget analyst responsible for writing nuclear energy policy papers for Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.

Since making the shift to author and television host, Garten has published 13 successful cookbooks, each reflecting her philosophy of accessible cooking coupled with elegant entertaining. Her transition from government to gourmet has not only changed her life trajectory but also inspired millions to find joy in cooking.

“Ina Garten is a close friend, so I'm really excited to get her great insights for the audience,” said Sherr. “She is smart, creative, and a self-made superstar.”

Michelle K. Hanabusa: Empowering Communities Through Fashion and Advocacy

Michelle K. Hanabusa is a serial entrepreneur, designer, and award-winning AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) community advocate. She brings a unique blend of fashion acumen and activism to the panel.

As the founder and creative director of the LA-based streetwear brand UPRISERS®, Hanabusa has used fashion as a platform for storytelling and community empowerment. The brand is known for its culturally resonant designs, challenging societal norms, and promoting inclusivity. The brand's engagement in real-time social issues, especially pertaining to the Asian American community, reframes what modern entrepreneurial leadership can look like.

"I realized the most important thing for me has become impact and impact through art,” said Hanabusa of the motivating force behind her work. “Through UPRISERS, art is how we make sure people that look like us have a voice at the table.”

Hanabusa also co-founded Hate Is A Virus, a nonprofit that works to dismantle racism and hate against Asian Americans. The California-based nonprofit has distributed over $1 million to more than 60 nonprofit organizations across the nation through its Community Action Fund.

Hanabusa's innovative approach to combining fashion, community advocacy, and entrepreneurship can serve as a powerful example for young women looking to make a difference in their communities for the future.

Margot Lee Shetterly: Changing the Narrative on Hidden Heroes

Writer, researcher, and entrepreneur Margot Lee Shetterly has played a pivotal role in redefining the historical narrative of African American women and space exploration through her bestselling book, ”Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race.”

Not only that, but the film adaptation of her book became a No. 1 hit and was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress for Octavia Spencer.

Bringing untold stories to light has been a major part of Shetterly's calling and legacy. The awareness she has brought to the role of African American women mathematicians in the Space Race has influenced academic curricula and the broader cultural dialogue about race, gender, and the contribution of minorities in science and technology.

Shetterly is also the founder of the Human Computer Project, a digital archive telling the stories of all of NASA's “Human Computers," women from all backgrounds whose work tipped the balance in favor of the United States in World War II, the Cold War, and the Space Race.

Shetterly's dedication to uncovering hidden stories and promoting diversity in STEM fields has made her an invaluable voice in ongoing conversations about representation for women and people of color in STEM and leadership roles.

Lynn Sherr: Trailblazing Journalist and Women's Rights Advocate

Lynn Sherr, the event's moderator, is an award-winning author and broadcaster with a career spanning more than 30 years at ABC News.

Sherr has covered a wide range of stories, from women's issues and social change to politics and space exploration.

She was a close personal friend of Sally Ride and author of an acclaimed biography of the trailblazing astronaut. Sherr has been the moderator of the Women in Leadership event from the beginning.

"I think the setting is special: open-ended conversation, room for laughs and interruptions," said Sherr. "The women on stage bring a new and exciting dimension to the topic."

Her background as a journalist and author, particularly on topics related to women's rights and science, makes her an ideal moderator for the event.

“I've often said that some of the best advice comes from hearing about the mistakes successful leaders have made…how they've overcome hostility, dealt with bad outcomes, kicked through glass ceilings and opened doors to make their goals happen," Sherr said.

Looking back on past events, Sherr most appreciates the moments of contemplation and introspection among the panelists.

"What I love the most has been moments of pause–when I've asked a question and you could see the panelists stopping to think, to put some thoughts together that maybe they hadn't considered before. I love that and I look forward to more."

Community Support Extends the Reach of Women in Leadership

Vertex IWILL Employee Resource Network (Inspiring Women in Leadership and Learning) has joined forces with this year's Women in Leadership Conference as an official sponsor.

Vertex is an inclusive workplace of choice, where women are empowered and supported in order to transform the lives of people with serious diseases. In partnership with allies, Vertex is collectively creating and championing an equitable environment that is responsive to the unique needs of Vertexian women around the world, assuring women can see a reflection of themselves in all areas and levels of the organization, bring forward innovation, and thrive personally and professionally.

“As a member of Vertex IWILL, I am so proud to be part of an organization that is aware and involved in supporting external events that align and enrich our mission and vision,” said Vertex Pharmacology Scientist Melissa Strong.

Through their sponsorship, Vertex IWILL is supporting San Diego Unified School District to include student representatives and chaperones to attend this year’s Women in Leadership event.

The Importance of Women in Leadership

The topic of women in leadership, especially in STEM fields, was an important one to Sally Ride.

The company she co-founded, Sally Ride Science, was dedicated to helping introduce young girls to STEM education.

“One of Sally's big passions was really wanting to make a difference by inspiring more girls and underrepresented minorities to be interested and feel that they belonged in STEM fields,” shared Flammer. “That led to starting the company, Sally Ride Science.”

Flammer shared how her personal experiences helped her see the value of starting Sally Ride Science and working to promote women in leadership.

“I'm a third-generation physicist. I’ve always loved math and was good at it,” said Flammer. “My dad told me from a very early age that I should become a physicist. I grew up hearing that from him, so in my mind it was something attainable I could pursue.”

“Then when I came to UC San Diego as an undergrad physics major, on the first day of freshman year I walked into the room and looked around… There were maybe two other girls?”

“I remember calling my dad and saying, ‘Why didn't you tell me physics wasn't for girls?’ He basically said, 'but it is for girls. What's sad is that most girls don't know that yet.'”

"I thought about that a lot when we started the company. I thought about how fortunate I was to have somebody who encouraged me in math and science and–more importantly–didn't ever tell me that I was not suited for pursuing a career in STEM.”

Hanabusa shares her own story of the challenges and possibilities of women in leadership.

“I think spaces where we can essentially be decision makers is so important,” said Hanabusa. “That could mean being a founder, making space in the corporate setting, or being in decision-making spaces within your local communities. The list goes on.”

Despite UPRISERS' success, Hanabusa shares how she encountered numerous challenges along the way, such as subtle biases, being underestimated as a young woman entrepreneur, or being overlooked in professional settings.

"When I first started the entrepreneurial journey, I received comments like, ‘Oh, wow, that's a really cute idea,’ or 'that sounds like a great hobby,'” shared Hanabusa. "There were a lot of people not taking what I was pursuing seriously. There's less of that now because I've been doing this for quite some time, but that was the initial comments that I would get."

She shares how even today, she's not always immediately seen as the leader.

"We'll be showing up at these large conventions where we have a whole experience and shopping marketplace. My team will be setting up, and my partner (boyfriend) will be there to help," she relates. "When new folks are meeting us for the first time, they often gravitate towards him, believing him to be the founder or the designer. He has to correct them. 'It's actually Michelle that runs this. I'm just the boyfriend.' So it's these little biases that we often have. We might not even consciously know we're doing it, but it comes out at certain times."

When asked about the unique perspective that women leaders can bring to the table, Hanabusa had an answer.

"From my personal experience, I think kindness goes a long way," she said. “Early on I was told that in order to succeed in this space, you have to bulldoze your way through. But that's not my personality at all. Unlearning that and showing up with empathy and kindness has been an important realization. I think it goes such a long way, and it's refreshing to have that energy in this space, even when business can get real sometimes."

When asked about the evolving landscape for women in leadership, Hanabusa acknowledged progress but stressed the need for continued advocacy and representation.

"I used to really struggle with the question of ‘how do we rise together?'” said Hanabusa. “I've come to realize that the answer is, when you start finding yourself being in positions where you have an influence, the important thing is to encourage each other. It's bringing other women and other people of color along with you."

But according to Hanabusa, it goes a step further, too.

"I still really believe in my heart that we need more women founders and decision-makers with a seat at the table. I'm hopeful, but I think we have to keep on pushing for this type of representation."

"Sometimes there's a scarcity mindset where it feels like there's only one position for a woman at this table, but I don't believe in that," she shared. "I think there's always room. We're going to be our strongest advocate for one another, so when you are in a position to be able to make that happen, just do it."

The Role of Sally Ride Science in Promoting Women's Leadership

The Women in Leadership event is just one of the many initiatives undertaken by Sally Ride Science to inspire and empower the next generation of women leaders.

The organization offers a variety of STEM + Arts (STEAM) education programs and professional development opportunities for teachers, aiming to build students' STEM literacy and encourage them to pursue careers in these rapidly growing fields.

Their vision is simple: to ignite a spark of curiosity and ambition in young minds–especially girls and underrepresented minorities–paving the way for a more inclusive and diverse future in STEM fields.

"It is designed to promote excitement and enthusiasm around STEM and STEAM for both girls and boys, with the idea of also cultivating a love of the sciences and of learning in general," shared Appel.

She's out of this world! With Ride as inspiration, Sally Ride Science @ UC San Diego presents a Women in Leadership 2024 Instagram contest from May 9-17 to generate stories about women who are aspiring and leading their communities and the world. Entrants can post a 30-second Instagram reel for the opportunity to win tickets to the Women in Leadership event on May 23 and free swag from Sally Ride Science @ UC San Diego.

Share in your reel about a woman who has inspired you and how she has made you aspire for yourself, your community, or the world. Tag @sallyridescience & @ucsdextendedstudies, using hashtags #SRSWIL2024 and #WIL2024Contest.

Entries close on May 17 at 3PM PST. The Women in Leadership 2024 planning team will select the winners and announce them on May 20 at 5 PM PST on @sallyridescience. Follow @ucsdextendedstudies instagram.com/ucsdextendedstudies/?hl=en and @sallyridescience instagram.com/sallyridescience/?hl=en on Instagram to receive updates.

Learn more about and register for the upcoming Women In Leadership event sallyridescience.ucsd.edu/women-in-leadership/ today.

Visit Sally Ride Science @ UC San Diego sallyridescience.ucsd.edu/ to learn more about all programs and events.

Posted: 5/9/2024 7:30:00 AM with 0 comments

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