NASA women's leadership summit hosts Pelosi, Eshoo | News | Palo Alto Online |
BREAKING NEWS:Missing couple found alive


NASA women's leadership summit hosts Pelosi, Eshoo

Despite gains, women still face inequity

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, discuss women in leadership at an event celebrating women in leadership held at NASA Ames Research Center on Aug. 26. Photo by Magali Gauthier

It was a mix of corporate executives and political heavyweights, global thought leaders and scientific stars. And by no coincidence, the hundreds squeezed in the room were almost all women.

The event held at the NASA Ames Research Park on Monday, Aug. 26, was the kickoff for a Celebration of Women Leaders. Held on Women's Equality Day, the celebration marked the first in a yearlong series of events that will eventually culminate in the centennial anniversary of American women winning the right to vote.

To date, the past century has ushered in a new era of women in enterprise, management and C-suite offices. But is this true equality?

For many, the answer is no; there are still plenty of barriers, overt or otherwise. While the gender wage gap has narrowed, it has mostly remained unchanged for the last 15 years. On average, women earn about 15% less than their male counterparts, according to a Pew Research Center study published in March.

The Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which organized the event, drew particular attention to the inequity holding back high-achieving women from recognition. Fewer than of 20% of board seats at the world's largest companies are held by women. Out of 3,000 top companies, only 39 have gender parity on their corporate boards.

On Monday, the attention in the room was focused on the star power of the headline speakers, two of the most powerful women in the Bay Area and national politics, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Anna Eshoo, who walked onstage to an exultant crowd.

"We do not yield one grain of sand in terms of areas where women should weigh in," Pelosi said. "This is not a zero sum game; once the ball gets rolling we can recognize that when women succeed, America succeeds."

In a public conversation, the two congresswomen discussed the gains and shortfalls over the years. On her first White House visit when she was first nominated as House minority leader, Pelosi recalled feeling the weight of generations of women leaders who had fought for suffrage and empowerment.

"I could hear them say, 'At last, we have a seat at the table,'" Pelosi said. "We owe them so much and we celebrate them, but we have even more responsibility to embrace the future in a way that would make them proud."

While there's yet to be a female president, the crowd gathered at NASA Ames highlighted a different aspiration. Under the space agency's revived lunar program, dubbed Artemis, a woman astronaut will someday walk on the moon. Or even Mars.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine assured the crowd that the astronaut crew for future space missions would represent all of America.

"When we go to the moon, we'll go with a diverse, highly qualified astronaut corps that includes women," he said. "Maybe, just maybe, the first person who walks on Mars will be a woman."

At the event, political differences were subdued but ever present. Bridenstine, a Trump administration appointee and former Freedom Caucus congressman, touted the new direction being taken at NASA to privatize and commercialize more aspects of the space industry. Earlier this summer, he unveiled plans for a new docking port to be added to the International Space Station that could be used for private manufacturing, research or space tourism.

"The big value to commercial partnership is if we're not owning the hardware, and instead we're buying a service, we can move much faster with a lot less regulation," he said. "Our commercial partners are critically valuable, and we're going to take advantage of them, and they're going to take advantage of us."

In a separate discussion, Pelosi blasted the persistent antagonism that pundits and politicians have toward government and regulation. Earlier this year, NASA and hundreds of other federal agencies were brought to a standstill due to a five-week shutdown, the longest in U.S. history.

"When people say they want to privatize this or that, what they're really saying is, 'I don't want any responsibility for diversity or respect for the government role,'" Pelosi said. "There has to be a recognition for the importance for governance."


Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Mark Noack writes for the Mountain View Voice, the sister publication of

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2019 at 4:40 pm

More women graduate college than men. There are more women with degrees in the workforce than men with degrees.

However, women tend to choose not to work the long hours that their male counterparts are willing to work. Women tend not to ask for bigger raises when being given annual reviews or for higher starting salaries when being interviewed. Women have a biological clock which means that any professional woman who has not started a family by the age of 35 is going to give considerable consideration to putting her potential family a priority over men of the same age and professional status. A woman tends to view her career as secondary consideration to whether or not to have children. If she does decide to have children she rarely wants to leave her children for as many hours as a man would with a babysitter, nanny, or caregiver.

Additionally, many women are also caregivers for aging parents which make them also less likely to be able to put the same amount of hours into their jobs as men.

There are many women who look on a career as not defining who they are. For some women the fact that they are working outside the home is more of a financial decision than anything else.

Many women just are not willing to be as professionally hardened as men and do not want to join in the company politics and shenanigans to make their careers a race to the top as men are willing to do.

When you take all these things into account, even though women are often ahead on the starting block, there are differences in mindset which make a big difference when it comes to how many businesses have top jobs with women at the helm.

Like this comment
Posted by Floating In My Tin Can
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 3, 2019 at 5:56 pm

[Post removed.]

6 people like this
Posted by mcp
a resident of Portola Valley
on Sep 3, 2019 at 8:38 pm

[Post removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by men work harder
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 4, 2019 at 9:58 am

> women tend to choose not to work the long hours that their male counterparts are willing to work

Haven't worked with men and women under 35, have you? All your gross generalizations, misogynistic even, are so dated.

Men these days can't pry themselves away from video games (and that other video 'stuff') that they show up at work bleary eyed and useless. They take breaks and get a quick 'hit' of gaming. They're a disaster.

> do not want to join in the company politics and shenanigans

Want to specify regarding 'shenanigans'? Please enlighten us.

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Los Altos's State of Mind opening NYC-inspired pizza shop in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 16 comments | 8,210 views

Flying: How much is enough? It's personal.
By Sherry Listgarten | 12 comments | 2,765 views

Wait, wait – we’re working on it
By Diana Diamond | 18 comments | 2,413 views

My Pet Peeves
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 7 comments | 1,874 views

Goodbye toy stores
By Cheryl Bac | 7 comments | 1,167 views


Short story writers wanted!

The 34th Annual Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest is now accepting entries for Adult, Young Adult and Teen categories. Send us your short story (2,500 words or less) and entry form by March 27, 2020. First, Second and Third Place prizes awarded in each category. Sponsored by Kepler's Books, Linden Tree Books and Bell's Books.

Contest Details