Archive for Career Dreams

2 Young Women Make History at West Point

Elizabeth BetterbedI was thrilled to hear the news last week that for the first time in the history of West Point, the top two honors in the graduating class went to women! Elizabeth Betterbed and Alexandra Rosenberg were named the overall cadet and class valedictorian of the prestigious U.S. Military Academy, respectively.

President Obama was on-hand to congratulate the women as he gave the graduation address last Saturday:

“This underscores a fact that I’ve seen in the faces of our troops from Baghdad to Bagram – in the 21st century, our women in uniform play an indispensable role in our national defense. And time and again, they have proven themselves to be role models for our daughters and our sons – as students and as soldiers and as leaders in the United States armed forces.”

Though the Academy was first open to students in 1802, women were only admitted for the first time in 1976, when 119 females started as freshman. Today, women make up about 15% of cadets starting the four-year program.

Congratulations to Elizabeth and Alexandra on their incredible achievement!

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Are you interested in learning more about a career in the military? Check out my interview with Coast Guard Lt. Leanne Lusk in my book In Their Shoes. Leanne talks about what she loves about the job, describes her personal career journey, and walks readers through a “typical” day in her world (there’s actually nothing typical about it).

When I interviewed Leanne for the book, I asked her what it was like being a woman in the military since so many perceive it as a male-dominated career path. Here’s what she had to say:

“Out of all the armed services, the Coast Guard has the highest percentage of women. And I love busting stereotypes about what women can and can’t do. I’m not someone that people would look at and think I’m a federal law enforcement officer…I really like breaking out of that mold. I know that I can get dropped in a country anywhere in the world and survive…I know how to take care of myself.”

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Women Break Through Another Career Barrier

Navy womenI’m constantly surprised by the fact that there are still things out there that women “can’t” or aren’t allowed to do. Like this year in the Winter Olympics – did you know that women were prohibited from competing in the ski jump? While the reasons for this event ban are unclear, one member of the International Olympic Committee said he didn’t think women should ski jump because the sport “seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view.” Huh?

So this morning when fellow YA author Tanya Lee Stone brought to my attention that the Navy had lifted its ban on women working on submarines, I was surprised, mostly because I didn’t realize there had been a ban in the first place.

According to an article in the Huffington Post, the Navy deemed that women’s “service on submarines would cost too much,” and that “close quarters aboard subs would make coed service difficult to manage.”

The Navy plans to start by assigning three female officers to different crews of guided-missile attack submarines and ballistic missile submarines. These are larger subs, and won’t require modification, allowing the Navy to move faster to include women. Because of additional training required though, it will still be more than a year until women will begin serving on board.

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Director Kathryn Bigelow Makes History

Kathryn BigelowCongratulations to film director Kathryn Bigelow, who made history last night by being the first woman ever to win an Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director! Though three other women have been nominated for best director in the past (Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation, Jane Campion for The Piano, and Lina Wertmuller for Seven Beauties), this is the first time a woman has won the award. Kathryn Bigelow won for her film The Hurt Locker, which also won the Best Picture award.

When presenter Barbra Streisand opened the envelope to reveal the winner, she said “The time has come.” And I couldn’t agree more! The film industry has historically been a tough one for women to break in, let alone make such a powerful mark.

According to the Celluloid Ceiling Report from Women in Film:

  • 21% of the top 250 domestic grossing films released in 2007 employed no women directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, or editors. (None of these films failed to employ a man in at least one of these roles.)
  • Women accounted for 6% of directors of the top 250 domestic grossing films released in 2007, a decline of 1% since 2006.
  • A historical comparison of women’s employment on the top 250 films in 2007 and 1998 reveals that the percentage of women in all behind-the-scenes roles (directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors and cinematagraphers) has declined.

Hopefully, Kathryn’s historic win will open more doors to women filmmakers. As she said in her acceptance speech, “There’s no other way to describe it…it’s the moment of a lifetime.”

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Do you have an interest in a career in film? Here are some resources worth checking out:

To read a firsthand account of life as a screenwriter and director in Hollywood, check out my interview with Susannah Grant (wrote Erin Brokovich and Ever After and directed Catch and Release) in my book In Their Shoes: Extraordinary Women Describe Their Amazing Careers!

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Women Fly!

Women FlyIf you live in Washington state and have an interest in a career in aviation or aerospace, you’ll want to attend the Women Fly! 2010 event at the Museum of Flight this Friday, March 5. This day-long event invites girls to participate in a day of motivational and career-oriented activities including exploration sessions, mentoring time, networking lunch, and a panel discussion featuring professional women working in a variety of flight-related careers. This year’s panelists includes women pilots from almost every continent. Their experiences include flights in the Australian outback, Alaskan wilderness, Antarctic slopes, African plains and the urban landscapes of Europe, Japan, South Africa and the United States.

The event costs $10 to attend, but scholarships are available. To register, fill out the online form here.

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Contest for Budding Girl Entrepreneurs

If you have an interest in entrepreneurship, you may want to throw your hat in the ring to be considered for a Girls Going Places Entrepreneurship Award. Sponsored by the Guardian Life Insurance Company, the award program is designed to reward enterprising and community-minded girls ages 12 to 18.

To apply, you’ll have to fill out a form, submit a 250-word essay, and have an adult write a recommendation endorsing you as a young entrepreneur. Winners will have demonstrated entrepreneurship, taking the first steps towards financial freedom, and making a difference in their schools and communities.

What’s in it for you? The prizes are no small thing: the Guardian is offering a $10,000 reward for first place, $5,000 for second, $3,000 for third, and $1,000 for twelve finalists. Deadline for submissions is February 26, 2010.

For more info, complete contest rules, and profiles of previous winners, visit the Girls Going Places website. Good luck!

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Learn about Science Careers on GirlTalk Radio

GirlTalk RadioI just stumbled upon a great website called GirlTalk Radio, a mentoring initiative that encourage girls to explore science, math, engineering and technology in their own words.

On GirlTalk Radio, girls ages 11-16 interview successful women working in science, engineering and technology for the locally broadcast radio program. I love this idea, not just because I’m a big fan of giving girls real, honest info on career possibilities, but because the girls themselves are driving the whole program.

In these candid, interesting interviews, the girls dig deep to find out what these career women actually do. In the first two season, GirlTalk teen hosts have interviewed many cool women, including:

  • Nina Kang, Google Maps software engineer
  • Tanya Martinez, renewable energy entrepreneur
  • Vera Donnenberg, UPMC stem cell researcher
  • Tonya Groover, founder, Technology Leadership Institute
  • Dr. Bernadine Dias, professor of robotics at Carnegie Mellon University
  • Erin Copeland, a restoration ecologist with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

Though GirlTalk is based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, you can listen to all the interviews on the GirlTalk website.

And if you want to find out more about math, science, and technology careers, check out my book , in which I interview a marine biologist, software engineer, urban planner, accountant, and forensic scientist.

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New Moon Girls Accepting Editorial Board Applications

One of the things I love about New Moon Girls, the fantastic ad-free magazine for girls ages 8-12, is that it doesn’t just talk the talk when it comes to their mission of helping girls discover and honor their true selves, engage in meaningful pursuits and dialogue, and express their voices in ways that matter…it walks the walk.

Case in point, New Moon Girls has a Girls Editorial Board (GEB) made up of girls ages 8-13, who do things like participate in chats, interact with & help girls on the website, brainstorm ideas for both the website and the magazine, make videos for the website, find interesting girl-created content on the website that could be good for online featuring and for the magazine, edit articles and occasionally write articles.

Sound interesting? Then you might want to apply to be a member of the new GEB currently being recruited by the mag. You can find out more and download an application here. But hurry…deadline for applications is Sunday, January 3, 2010! Good luck!

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Women Break New Ground in Iraq

Iraqi Female Police OfficersThe New York Times ran an interesting article this week about a group of women making history in Iraq. On Monday, 50 women became the first-ever female graduates of Iraq’s police-officer training academy. In a country where women continue to face a steep uphill battle when it comes to achieving equal rights, this accomplishment has the potential to have a big impact.

Women have previously been able to serve doing things like directing traffic, but this is the first time women have been allowed to participate in training academy. These fifty impressive women are now full-fledged police officers who’ll be working investigations and in forensics.

Congratulations to these women for pursuing their dreams and setting an example for more women to follow. And it looks like they’ve already begun…the next group of trainees includes 100 women!

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Women Break Ground with Nobel Prizes

Nobel Prize

Each year, the Nobel Prize is awarded to people who’ve made outstanding contributions in areas like chemistry, physics, medicine, literature, economics, and peace.You’ve probably heard a lot about the Nobel Prize in the past week, especially after President Barack Obama surprised many people around the world by being awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.

But President Obama isn’t the only Nobel Laureate making news. In fact, five other winners are getting a lot of attention, in part because they’re women. And that’s the largest number of women to win the prize in a single year. Here’s a look at the women who won:

  • Ada E. Yonath – Chemistry – “For studies of the structure and function of the ribosomes”
  • Elizabeth Blackburn & Carol Greider – Medicine – “For the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase”
  • Herta Muller – Literature – “Who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed”
  • Elinor Ostrom – Economics – “For her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons”

The other night I heard a story on NPR about Elinor Ostrom, who won the Nobel Prize for Economics, and some of the story focused on the fact that she is the first woman to ever win the prize for economics. The next night, the same news show on NPR mentioned that they received a lot of emails from listeners complaining that the original news story should have spent less time focusing on the fact that she was a woman, and more time focusing on her actual accomplishments in the field.

I can understand where these listeners are coming from. In an ideal world, a woman winning a major international award for economics wouldn’t be seen as unusual at all. But this isn’t an ideal world. This is a world where men dominate in careers in math, science, technology and engineering, in part because there aren’t many role models for young women to look up to.

Says prize winner Carol Greider in an interview for the New York Times about women in the field of science: “There’s still a slight cultural bias for men to help men…It’s not that they are biased against women or want to hurt them. They just don’t think of them. And they often feel more comfortable promoting their male colleagues.”

I say, let’s celebrate Elinor Ostrow’s accomplishment and that of all the women who won prizes this year as loud as we can! For they all made a major contribution in paving the way for girls and young women to pursue their future dreams and know that they really can come true.

What do you think? Should the gender of the winners be considered part of the news story? For more on this topic, go over to Jezebel.

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Ever Considered a Virtual Internship?

I just read an article in the Wall Street Journal that talks about the newest trend in internships: doing them virtually. Which basically means, you can gain valuable internship experience while never actually leaving your couch. This holds true especially for internships in the fields of communications and marketing and web-based technology, in which much work is done online, especially when it comes to tasks like researching, blogging, and supporting social media campaigns.

The pros? Well, interning virtually means that no longer are potential interns limited by geographical constraints. I mean, not everyone has an aunt in upstate New York who let’s them crash in their spare room for the summer (thanks Aunt Babs!) With virtual internships, you might find yourself interning for a company that’s across the country. Another benefit is that many virtual workers have the flexibility to do their work on their own schedule, which allows even people working full-time to explore other work opportunities by doing an internship off-hours.

Of course, virtual internships do have their downsides, such as not getting to soak in the energy of an office or have valuable face-time with people who could potentially help you get a job once you’re out of college. When I was in college I interned at NBC News in New York because I dreamed of being a hot-shot news producer someday like my fictional idol “Jane” from the movie Broadcast News. Being on the news floor, just a few hundred feet from then-news anchor Tom Brokaw, was incredibly exciting. While the tasks I actually did were forgettable (something about communicating with station affiliates about the news satellite feed), I learned a lot about the culture and vibe of a newsroom, and got to observe people doing much more interesting jobs than I was, therefore expanding my view of what was possible in the field of news. My internship didn’t turn into a job opportunity, mostly because my supervisor retired before I graduated from college and thus my contact was gone. But I know that in many fields, such as magazine and book publishing, there’s almost an expectation that internships will ultimately result in an entry-level job offer down the road.

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Interested in exploring internship opportunities? The site Urban Interns promotes internship opportunities for small businesses in urban areas.

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