Women Who Inspire Us
March 31, 2023
Women have long been underrepresented in STEM,
and even today women make up only 28% of the workforce. That number is even less impressive within the space industry, where women represent just 20% of workers, 11% of astronauts, and 19% of leaders. Of the 225 spacewalks that have been taken, only 15 were by women. And, as in most arenas, the stats are even more underwhelming for women of color.
The gender gap in space has real impact and is self-perpetuating. Fewer women astronauts, for instance, limits our ability to gather data on the effects of microgravity on women’s bodies, which means space life support systems have historically been designed with male biology in mind. As a result, participating in space exploration is more difficult for women, and fighting the trend becomes an uphill battle.
One of the best illustrations of this remains the legendary story of Sally Ride and the tampons. In 1983, Sally Ride became the first female American astronaut to go to space. Having never prepped a woman for spaceflight, NASA engineers were ill-informed on how to accommodate her. Ride once shared that they initially offered her 100 tampons for a one-week trip. Classic.
But it’s not just the space industry that needs to strive for a better gender balance. As Women’s History Month comes to a close, the Privateer team wanted to honor all women who have blazed a trail and left their mark, whether in STEM, comedy, architecture, or in our everyday lives.
Read about the women who inspire us below and share yours with us here.
Marco Rossi, Satellite Design and Production Manager
Zaha Hadid (Architect)
Zaha Hadid inspires me from the way she looks at the world, and how she reimagines what is possible with current materials. I believe she has pushed the world of design forward in many ways, by challenging norms and blowing through barriers. In the world of primarily male-dominated architecture, she stood alone, leading the charge in what's possible and what can be.
Sailor, my girlfriend, inspires me because she is so supportive and kind. She gives everything she has, and pushes me to give more. She inspires me to be a better person and work towards my goals.
Shaantam Chawla, Flight Software Engineer
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Actress & Comedian)
From playing Elaine on Seinfeld, to SNL sketches, to leading the nation in Veep, she's arguably the funniest person on TV. To get there, she put in years of effort to master her craft in a way everyone should strive for — from entertainers to engineers.
Precious Listana (Close Friend from College)
In real-time, I got to see Precious mold her passion for community involvement into a unique career path as a Bay Area STEM educator. She worked on computer science engagement for the iconic Kapor Center, earned a Masters degree in education during the pandemic, and taught math and computer science to high schoolers in a disadvantaged district in Oakland, CA. Precious has inspired me to balance profit with purpose and find deeper meaning in everything I do.
Joel Walsh, Software Engineer
Dr. Anima Anandkumar (Professor at Caltech and Director of Machine Learning at NVIDIA)
Dr. Anandkumar is a pioneer in the field and continually advocates for marginalized groups in STEM.
My partner, Adrienna, is a civil rights lawyer who has helped many people and works incredibly hard.
Haileigh DeVries, Office Manager and Executive Assistant
My mother-in-law Tanya inspires me in the way that she nurtures everyone around her, dedicates herself to an array of creative projects, is extremely hard working, thoughtful, joyful and always knows how to see the bright side of things. She truly inspires me to always be the absolute best version of myself, and that every day is a good day.
Brooke Bento, Chief People Officer
Eileen Murray (Former boss & CEO of Bridgewater Associates)
Eileen has a life story that people make movies about. She grew up in the projects in New York City – one of many siblings. She graduated college and then climbed the ladder on Wall Street which was designed only for men. She took on leadership roles at major financial institutions such as Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, and then came to be the first female CEO at Bridgewater Associates, the biggest hedge fund in the world. She shattered glass ceilings. And once those ceilings became floors to her, she took others along with her. A lot of her senior management team at Bridgewater were women. We would partner with banks and other financial institutions on huge initiatives – our side of the table was predominantly female – theirs were always male. Since leaving BW she has gone on to sit on boards like HSBC and was the Chairman of the Board of FINRA (to name a couple). Through all of this, she has been generous
Priyanka Singh (Former Manager at Bridgewater Associates, now close friend)
Besides my mother, Priyanka has made the biggest impact on my life. I met her when I was 22 years old and working at Bridgewater. Priyanka was a BOSS. She was smart, articulate, and no one could out debate her. I quickly attached myself to her, following her to all meetings and watching how she would navigate every situation. She grew to care about my development deeply; she really was that person who mentioned my name in a room full of opportunities.
In a male-dominated industry, she taught me how to always have a seat at a table you belonged at without asking for permission. She fought restlessly for the business but cared deeply for the people – a balancing act that I have only ever seen achieved by one other person. She spoke her mind and owned her truth, even when it would go against those who people didn't usually disagree with. She's allergic to double standards and has confidence – not ego or arrogance.