Hi everyone. I’ve got to commend you on what a great job you’re doing, especially @flyingjenny.  You’ve all made STS grow into what it is today, and it’s absolutely amazing.

If you’ve been following me via Twitter, then you know that my Dad passed away recently.  I’m saying this because he’s the reason that I am where I am today – and he followed STS from the beginning.

Just a few months ago, before STS, I had my own blog on another website.  Without getting into details, I was “discouraged” from continuing to post on that site (don’t ask because I won’t tell), but I always sent my Dad the link and he would pass it along to other family members.  It was a way for them to keep up with what I was doing.

Once I’d started the blog, Dad would always ask – “When are you going to have a new blog! We love to read them!” 

I’m happy now that I saved those emails – him saying how neat he thought the idea was, how he was proud, etc – yet sad that he won’t ever get to see what eventually became of it.

The point of this post isn’t to focus on that, but instead to show what an impact the opinion of parents, even up into adulthood, can have on their children. (cont……)

I’m an only child, and from the very beginning my Dad has had a HUGE influence on what it is that I do today.  He never treated me any differently because I was a girl – he taught me to throw a football, handle and shoot a gun (political viewpoints aside), work a telescope, play chess, program a computer, and secretly paid for pilot’s lessons (because my Mom wouldn’t hear of it!).

I remember looking through Dad’s telescope as a kid at Halley’s Comet and thinking that it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen in (or out of!) this world.  Our favorite shows were Star Trek: The Next Generation and Jeopardy.  We’d routinely stay up until 2 or 3 am discussing the political, scientific, and philosophical meanings of each Star Trek episode – how they were relevant to life today or not, and if not then how could we change to match the ideology of Gene Roddenberry’s future?

On Jeopardy, we’d sometimes watch up to three recorded episodes in a row depending on when I would be in town visiting from college or after I landed my current job in Houston.  We’d always get excited when the categories were something to do with space or science, and congratulate each other when we got a “question”, or 2, or 3, in a row, correct.

We both loved to read and would suggest books to each other.  I regret that I was “too busy” to finish the last two that he recommended so that we never had the chance to discuss them.

On a regular basis me & Dad would exchange emails – he was always asking about my work and what it is I was currently doing.  He would end each email with “if you’re too busy to reply, I understand,” and often I was.  Or so I thought; now I wonder how busy is too busy regardless of what it is that you’re doing.

From a very young age I’ve wanted to do exactly what it is I’m doing now.  My Grandfather told me I that had to be a nurse or a teacher when I grew up because I was a girl. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – I married a teacher!  But me and my Dad would laugh at the idea of such gender-limiting foolishness and he encouraged me each step of the way.  No matter what it is I wanted to do…be it a teacher, rocket scientist, or President of the United States, he always told me and believed that I could do it all, and supported me regardless.

For whatever reason, the percentage of women in science and engineering really hasn’t changed much over the past 10 years or so in America.  China and India are graduating more and more engineers each day – I don’t understand why the US hasn’t kept up, but we’re not.  Women still make up only 20% of graduating engineers in America, the same amount as when I graduated!

I know that the reason I’m an engineer is because my Dad never told me I couldn’t be. To him, it was ridiculous to think that I had to be something different because of my gender.  I don’t think that a lot of girls, even in the “progressive” USA, get that encouragement, and that’s stupid.  He kept a picture of me in Mission Control at home and at work – and sent any new ones I would email him from various missions to every person in his address book!

So, to keep this dream alive, to think that eventually we’re going to realize Gene Roddenberry’s ideals, and to believe that we’re going to go anywhere past low Earth orbit, we’re going to have to encourage the next generation of children regardless of traditional and past beliefs.

And to parents, if you don’t think that you’re having an impact on your kids, you do.  They may not openly express it, but they’re soaking everything in – so don’t stop trying to teach them.  They may go through a period where you’re not “cool”, but they always come back…it’s just a matter of time. 🙂

Thanks for reading, ASG.