Sally Ride Science’s 2021 Women in Leadership conversation brings together trailblazers from different fields for a wide-ranging conversation on the status of women and the triumphs and setbacks they have experienced in recent turbulent times.
The virtual discussion, which honors the legacy of America’s first woman in space and celebrates the 20thanniversary of Sally Ride Science, premiered May 20 on UCTV. Watch the video here.
Panelists are Brittney Cooper, feminist scholar at Rutgers University and social justice advocate; Maria Hinojosa, a journalist with acclaimed programs on NPR and PBS; and Kathy Sullivan, the first American woman to walk in space and first woman to dive to the deepest part of the ocean. Journalist and Sally Ride biographer Lynn Sherr serves as moderator.
Here are 10 highlights of a conversation that is by turns surprising, inspiring, poignant and funny:
Brittney Cooper, on what women bring to leadership roles:
I have always understood women to be leaders, to be creative, to be committed, to be problem-solvers, to be diplomats and to be fierce advocates for the well-being of entire communities …. I trust that things are better when women are at the table, and quite frankly, if there are no women at your table, I’m not coming.
Maria Hinojosa, on female leadership in media:
The company that I created (Futuro Media Group), it’s run by women, it’s majority women, and as a result we create an atmosphere that actually produces excellence because of (women’s) emotional intelligence.”
Kathy Sullivan, contrasting traditional male and female leadership styles:
By and large, our society reveres one particular style of leadership—it’s the macho warrior style of leadership.… (You can) come at it in a different way, in a style and a manner that is more commonly female, of supportive, appreciative inquiry, of valuing all voices, of letting everyone complete their sentences.
Cooper, on the advice she gives her students:
I am known to be a cheerleader for my students. They come to me for pep talks in which I say to them, ‘You are excellent. You can do it. I know the white boy across the room seems like he knows more than you, but he doesn’t. He’s performing. You’ve got it. You’re good enough.’
Hinojosa, on rhetoric about immigration:
Essentially, if you are Latino or Latina in the United States of America, you are feeling particularly attacked…. Now we all have to respond and to tear down an image that has been built up through propaganda and a media that is not representative … it’s like, ‘No, wait, aren’t you all gang members who are at the border trying to get in?’ And now we have to deconstruct that.
Cooper, on using anger as a superpower:
I don’t believe the lie that angry women are untrustworthy. I believe those are the chicks that change the world, and I’m trying to be one of them.
Sullivan, on the saying “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it”:
If that were really, really true, no human being would ever have done something for the first time. I don’t want to plant in our young girls the idea that, ‘If there are not enough Black women doing something for you to see, then, sweetheart, I guess you just can’t do that.’ Sweetheart, you go be the one that breaks that door down first.
Cooper, on the meaning of Kamala Harris’s election as vice president:
Black women were brought to this country as property, and now a Black woman is elected to national federal office … That matters, absolutely.
Sullivan, on what would happen if women were in charge of science:
If women ran universities and labs, it would be absolutely possible for any woman in her 20s or 30s to both start building a successful family and continue building a top-notch career. It would be woven into the fabric that these things are both possible and happen at the same time.
Hinojosa, on the need for new perspectives in media:
I actually want women of color to run America’s news media. I want us to be the ones where the buck stops. One, because we’re excellent journalists … But two, because I think it’s time for this country to see the world through a different perspective. And I think it would change everything.
About Women in Leadership
Tam O’Shaughnessy, Sally Ride’s life partner and cofounder of Sally Ride Science, conceived of the first Women in Leadership event in 2018 to celebrate the release of a US Postal Service Forever stamp in Ride’s honor. The stamp dedication and panel discussion took place at UC San Diego, which became the home of Sally Ride Science in 2015. Panelists were tennis legend Billie Jean King, pioneering astronaut Ellen Ochoa and former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Sherr was moderator.
The success of that evening inspired UC San Diego to make Women in Leadership an annual tradition. The 2019 panel brought together Girl Scouts CEO Sylvia Acevedo, former first daughter Chelsea Clinton and astrophysicist Jedidah Isler, with Sherr returning as moderator. In 2020, the event was canceled due to the pandemic.