Women have broken through to Professional Baseball

We’re part of the League Now!

Baseball season is over, but women have made a mark on the MLB. Justine Siegal, was hired by Oakland Athletics to be a “guest instructor” with their Instructional League Team.  That means, she is the first woman employed as a coach by an Major League Baseball Team.

As Betsy DeVos tries to dismantle Title IX, women continue to break through the glass ceiling in many ways. “We’re thrilled that Justine will be joining us for Instructional League,” A’s assistant general manager David Forst said (via the team’s Web site). “She brings with her a wealth of knowledge and expertise from years of playing, coaching, and teaching the game, and all of our young players stand to benefit greatly from her time in camp.”

Ms. Siegal has a long history in the game. In 2009 she became the first woman to coach a men’s professional team when she served as first base coach for the Brockton Rox, an independent ball club. In 2011 she was the first woman to throw batting practice in the major leagues with the Cleveland Indian’s spring training camp.  “As a rookie coach, I expect to hit a lot of fungos, throw a lot of batting practice and help out wherever they want me to help,” Siegal told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Siegal does more than just coach baseball, she is the founder and head coach of “Baseball for All,” a nonprofit organization that strives to expand opportunities in the sport, particularly for girls.  Siegal has a Ph.D in sport and exercise psychology, as she told the San Francisco Chronicle, “ I do like talking about life skills – I like to help people achieve their life goals.” She translates these skills both on the baseball field and off the field.

Siegal will be with the A’s Instructional League from October 4 - 17.  She follows in the footsteps of other women coaches who have broken through.  In 2014, the San Antonio Spurs made Becky Hammon the first full-time female coach in any major U.S. pro sport. She led the team’s summer-league squad to the Las Vegas tournament title this year. Jan Welter became the first woman to coach NFL players with the Arizona Cardinals earlier this year. 

The Future remains clearly, female.

 

Justine Siegal photo.jpg

Women in Science Remain Hidden Figures

Are women always to remain Hidden Figures? 

The title of the fantastic movie, “Hidden Figures,” is a metaphor for women in many careers, but especially science.  Unfortunately, the issue remains relevant, women are hidden and unknown while making huge strides in the fields from engineering, space, math, gaming, movie production, writing and much, much, more. 

The movie depicts the stories of the 3 female African-American women mathematicians at NASA during the space race of the late 1950’s early 1960’s.  The three women, Kathryn G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson were products of all black schools in segregated West Virginia and Virginia.  All three attended Black colleges to further their studies.  Though they were schooled in segregated schools, these women, and many other African American women mathematicians, helped launch John Glenn and other astronauts into space.

For all monumental efforts, it takes many people, from many different backgrounds. In other words, diversity is what gets the job done! Below are the three women depicted in the movies and a small excerpt from their NASA biographies. 

Katherine Johnson

When asked to name her greatest contribution to space exploration, Katherine Johnson talks about the calculations that helped synch Project Apollo’s Lunar Lander with the moon-orbiting Command and Service Module. She also worked on the Space Shuttle and the Earth Resources Satellite, and authored or coauthored 26 research reports. She retired in 1986, after thirty-three years at Langley. “I loved going to work every single day,” she says. In 2015, at age 97, Katherine Johnson added another extraordinary achievement to her long list: President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor.

Dorothy Vaughn

Dorothy Vaughan was assigned to the segregated "West Area Computing" unit, an all-black group of female mathematicians, who were originally required to use separate dining and bathroom facilities. Over time, both individually and as a group, the West Computers distinguished themselves with contributions to virtually every area of research at Langley.

The group's original section heads (first Margery Hannah, then Blanche Sponsler) were white. In 1949, Dorothy Vaughan was promoted to lead the group, making her the NACA's first black supervisor, and one of the NACA's few female supervisors. The Section Head title gave Dorothy rare Laboratory-wide visibility, and she collaborated with other well-known (white) computers like Vera Huckel and Sara Bullock on projects such as compiling a handbook for algebraic methods for calculating machines. Vaughan was a steadfast advocate for the women of West Computing, and even intervened on behalf of white computers in other groups who deserved promotions or pay raises. Engineers valued her recommendations as to the best "girls" for a particular project, and for challenging assignments they often requested that she personally handle the work.

Mary Jackson

Mary Jackson began her engineering career in an era in which female engineers of any background were a rarity; in the 1950s, she very well may have been the only black female aeronautical engineer in the field. For nearly two decades she enjoyed a productive engineering career, authoring or co-authoring a dozen or so research reports, most focused on the behavior of the boundary layer of air around airplanes. As the years progressed, the promotions slowed, and she became frustrated at her inability to break into management-level grades. In 1979, seeing that the glass ceiling was the rule rather than the exception for the center’s female professionals, she made a final, dramatic career change, leaving engineering and taking a demotion to fill the open position of Langley’s Federal Women’s Program Manager. There, she worked hard to impact the hiring and promotion of the next generation of all of NASA’s female mathematicians, engineers and scientists.

Mary retired from Langley in 1985. Among her many honors were an Apollo Group Achievement Award, and being named Langley’s Volunteer of the Year in 1976. She served as the chair of one of the center’s annual United Way campaigns, was a Girl Scout troop leader for more than three decades, and a member of the National Technical Association (the oldest African American technical organization in the United States).  She and her husband Levi had an open-door policy for young Langley recruits trying to gain their footing in a new town and a new career. A 1976 Langley Researcher profile might have done the best job capturing Mary Jackson’s spirit and character, calling her a “gentlelady, wife and mother, humanitarian and scientist.” For Mary Jackson, science and service went hand in hand.

hidden figures

Geena Davis - A League of her Own

The movie is now a classic.  The car was a 1966 Ford Thunderbird, the scenery was the American Southwest. Geena Davis – was she Thelma or Louise?  She was Thelma in the now classic movie from 1991 “Thelma and Louise.” This female road buddy movie was a break through when it premiered.  Written by a woman and directed by Ridley Scott, the movie won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Callie Khouri. This movie launched the career of Geena Davis into the stratosphere.

As her career was on the rise, Geena Davis took on another starring role. Participation in this movie would become pivotal. The Academy Award winning actress Geena Davis starred in “A League of Their Own.” The movie premiered in the summer of 1992, directed by Penny Marshall with an almost all female cast that included Davis, Lori Petty, Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell.  The movie was based on the true story of an all-women baseball league that was started during World War II. Tom Hanks played their reluctant coach. One of the more famous scenes (and one I quoted often when my son was in Little League), let the women know that, “There’s no crying in baseball!” Davis played the role of the catcher and de facto captain of the team.

 

When reporters approached Ms. Davis about a “League of their Own” more than 25 years ago, they asked if she thought it was a feminist movie. They thought she would answer no, but she answered “yes!” “Feminist means believing in equal rights and opportunities, and this is about women playing baseball. So it’s about women can play too.” It was a feminist statement through and through.

 

The movie was pivotal for Ms. Davis on multiple levels.  It made her comfortable on being and saying she was a feminist. It alerted her to the lack of role models, acting opportunities and behind the camera breaks for women, and also a lack of female athletes that women and girls could relate to. 

 

Ms. Davis said that she has many girls and women tell her that they took up playing sports because of “A League of their Own.” On a personal level, Ms. Davis had never played sports before, but as she began to train for the movie, was told that she had uptapped athletic ability. It was this role that lit Geena’s Hollywood feminist voice, pushed her to train in archery and found a research institute.  

 

Davis founded The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media in 2004. The lack of girls and women on television programming is incredibly influential on children, acting as a hidden bias.  The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media is the only research-based organization working within the media and entertainment industry to engage, educate, and influence content creators and audiences about the importance of eliminating unconditional bias, highlighting gender balance, challenging stereotypes, creating role models and scripting a wide variety of strong female characters in entertainment and media that targets and influences children ages 11 and under.

 

Her institute continues to push for gender balance and equality in children’s programming.  Why does it matter? According to the Institute’s website: Children are engaging with media up to 7 hours a day, and consuming massive amounts of unconscious bias in the programming. Media can greatly influence children’s social and cultural behaviors and beliefs. Negative stereotypes they see in media can create life-long imprints which can affect their attitudes toward male and female roles in our society as well as career occupations and self-esteem. Davis and the institute want to eliminate that hidden bias, and allow boys and girls to see that there is a place for everyone at the table, no matter if that table is science, sports or space exploration.

 

As far as athletics, Davis shared recently with the Los Angeles Times, “Learning to play a sport really changed my life. I became a trustee of the Women’s Sports Foundation for 10 years, I had a website encouraging girls to know their rights through Title IX, and then eventually I took up archery because of that, and at 41 became a semifinalist at the Olympic trials three years later. So it had a very big and lasting impact on my life.”

 

Ms. Davis is a busy actress, most recently featured in the TV series, “The Exorcist” and was recently seen on the USA movie, “Marjorie Prime.”  She is a wonderful role model to actresses, women and athletes everywhere. 

There's room for women to lead in Space!

We love smart, accomplished women.  There are so many of them in the world.  Here’s one that has been hiding in plain sight!

The 20-year voyage of the Cassini spacecraft will soon come to a crashing end on the planet Saturn.  But a woman, here on earth, has been following it’s travels since 1990.  It seems that there is plenty of room for women leadership in space.  Her name is Dr. Carolyn Porco.

The Cassini aircraft follows the extraterrestrial travels of the Voyager and the Mars Rover.  It was launched on October 15, 1997 from Cape Canaveral Florida and its primary mission was to explore Saturn and its system of rings and moons. The Cassini spacecraft is currently orbiting within the rings of Saturn, and will begin its last, final, cosmic dive. It is scheduled to crash into Saturn and be incinerated approximately September 15 of this year. This is the first human artifact to land this far out in space. On earth, Dr. Carolyn Porco has been wishing the Cassini spacecraft adieu. Dr. Porco has been the longtime leader of the Cassini’s Imaging Science team.  Her team has been in charge of all the images the Cassini has been taking on its long, strange trip through our solar system.

Dr. Carolyn Porco joined the Cassini mission as the leader of the Imaging Science Team in November of 1990. She is also the Director of the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations (CICLOPS the center of operations where Cassini images are processed for release to the public.)

Dr. Porco was raised in the Bronx, in a family with four brothers, her father an immigrant from Italy. When she was 13, she saw Saturn through a neighbor’s telescope, foreshadowing her choice of career, and her long attachment to the planet. She was a graduate student at the California Institute of Technology, and worked on analyzing data on two Voyager space crafts that toured the planets of Jupiter and Neptune from 1978 to 1989.

Her love of science, space and her sense of humor has made her one of the most engaging space scientists in the public realm. She has been a regular CNN guest analyst and consultant on astronomy. Dr. Porco also has an engaging TED Talk entitled “This is Saturn,” and a shorter one on one of Saturn’s moons, “Could a Saturn moon harbor life?”

She claims to have spent two years as a chanting Buddhist, and went on a two-week pilgrimage to Japan, where she was a majorette in a Buddhist Marching Band, wearing hot pants, “Now THOSE were the days!” she had responded in an email message to the New York Times. 

Dr. Porco is a respected scientist and an engaging speaker. If you get a chance, check out her TED Talks linked on this blog.  As we get more information on the outer planets and our universe, we will need more Dr. Porco’s to help with the international collaborative programs, like Cassini, to learn, process, investigate and disseminate what is out there.

As Cassini continues to send remarkable images back to earth, it is slowly, yet grandly coming to the end of its legendary mission. Dr. Porco called the international collaborative mission, “just glorious,” an example of what humans working together can do.

 Saturn as seen through Cassini. 

Saturn as seen through Cassini. 

Serena Williams - All Around Champion

At the writing of this article, Serena Williams, the World’s Best Athlete (in any sport! Period), is expecting her first child with fiancé Alexis Ohanian, the founder of Reddit.  Just a few weeks ago, Serena, 35, won her 23rd Grand Slam title at the Australian open in January (2017).  Her total of 23 Grand Slam singles titles marks the record for the most Major wins by a tennis player.  At the time of her win, she was close to being 8 weeks pregnant. 

Being a superstar world champion athlete is not the only thing Serena does well.  She loves fashion, and has created her own fashion line, Signature Statement Collection, seen exclusively on the Home Shopping Network.  Her fashion line parallels her mission, “I want women to know that it’s okay to love and embrace who you are… to be unapologetically bold and beautiful in anything you’re wearing,” she says on her website, serenawilliams.com.

Williams cares about community and family.  She has two philanthropic nonprofits she has created.  The Serena Williams Fund pursues equity through education and assisting victims of senseless violence.  Serena and the Serena Williams Fund recently partnered with Helping Hands Jamaica to help build from the ground up the Salt March Primary School for local youth.

Serena, along with her professional tennis playing sister, Venus, started The Williams Sisters Fund in 2016.  Their first accomplishment was opening a resource center in Compton in honor of their late sister, Yetunde Price. Yetunde was murdered in gangland violence in September of 2003. The Yetunde Price Resource Community Center is for residents who have been affected by violence. 

Serena has been basking in the glow of her engagement, the win of her 23rd Grand Slam title, and expecting her new baby.  Illie Nastase, Tennis champion of the 1970’s and the Romanian Tennis Captain, made racist comments about Serena’s pregnancy. (We have too much decency to print comments here). Serena responded with class on Instagram: “I have said it once and I’ll say it again, this world has come so far but yet we have so much further to go. Yes, we have broken down so many barriers — however there are a plethora more to go. This or anything else will not stop me from pouring love, light and positivity into everything that I do. I will continue to take a lead and stand up for what’s right.”

She quoted part of Maya Angelou’s poem Still I Rise, “Does my sassiness upset you? Why are you beset with gloom? You may shoot me with your words… you may try to kill me with your hatefulness, but still like air, I rise.”

Serena will miss the rest of 2017 on the tennis circuit as she awaits the arrival of her new baby in the fall.  However, she plans on returning to her number one seeded position in 2018. 

We can’t wait to see what this talented, powerful young woman has in store for us in the coming years as she continues to put love, light and positivity into everything she does.

Serena Williams