This Women's History Month, women at NASA look to inspire future generations

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Posted at 6:59 PM, Mar 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-20 18:59:24-04

HAMPTON, Va. - During this Women's History Month, News 3 is highlighting women who are breaking glass ceilings in science here in Hampton Roads.

Women in leadership at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton say their careers may be challenging at times, but they've been worthwhile.

Jennifer Inman, a project manager with NASA, leads a team that ensures that NASA crews are safe during flights.

"Our team puts high-speed and high-resolution sensors on aircraft that fly near where the spacecraft is coming back and collect data during the flight," Inman said. "We're doing our best to get data to make sure each flight is safer than the next."

Inman has been with NASA for 21 years. She told us she knew she wanted to pursue a career in science ever since she was younger.

"I remember the first time somebody said, 'Oh wow, you’re really good at math and science. Usually that’s a boy thing.' I laughed out loud, because in my small world experience, I remember saying that was rude," she said.

As a woman in leadership, she’s had to balance it all.

"I didn’t really feel the loneliness of being a woman in a male-dominated field until I started having kids," she said. "I remember looking to my male colleagues. They either didn’t have kids or they had a spouse who stayed home with the kids, so I found myself surprised that the path was not paved with concrete and handrails and street signs."

She says her career has been gratifying.

"It’s been by and large an incredibly supportive place," she said, adding, "But it has been lonelier than I’ve expected it to be."

Lori Ozoroski, also a NASA project manager, leads a team tasked with finding a faster way to travel — supersonic air travel.

"You could not fly over land because of this loud sonic boom that it creates. We’re building and designing the NASA quiet supersonic demonstration, the X-59," Ozoroski said.

She says women have progressed significantly in leadership roles in the last three decades.

"When I started here 30 years ago, I don’t recall ever having women in management or supervisory roles at the time," she said. "This center now has so many amazing women in leadership and supervisory roles."

Zena Cardman, a NASA astronaut and Williamsburg native, says she owes it to others who have helped her in her career.

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"I feel really lucky that I have found mentors and role models who are women who have really helped me find my way in my career," she said. "Now I really hope I can pass that along to the next generation."

Women we spoke to at NASA told us their careers are rewarding, especially as they look to inspire the next generation.

Click here for more Women's History Month coverage.