In our generation, time dedicated to work will amount to about 100,000 hours, hours that make up about 48 years of work. These hours define our lives and often translate into more than an income. During that time we are ‘at work’ we find out about ourselves: what we value, who we want to work with and who we don’t. It can be a time of creativity or a time to look at the clock and count down the minutes till we can leave work. Ask yourself, are you mostly tolerating work, or finding purpose in it? Can you find in your work an opportunity, to discover more about yourself or your capabilities or do you see it as an abyss from which you can draw out nothing but a paycheck? Which is it for you? What value will you have found in your 100,000 hours?
A recent Conference Board business research association survey on employee satisfaction shows that nearly one-half of American workers enjoy their jobs, an 11-year high. Which means that, for every worker you meet today who likes her job, the next one is likely to dislike theirs. How can we raise the ‘like’ quotient in our job satisfaction? I propose that the ‘like factor’ starts at an early age; it starts with inspiring children that even the sky is not the limit and to have the courage to follow their star. It starts with how they play.
Many of you might know that Lego® just issued a new set of mini-figurines entitled Lego’s “Women of NASA.” These figures are a break-through on so many levels. When I was a little girl, Lego certainly had no women astronauts, in fact aside from a Russian cosmonaut, America would not boast of a woman in space until 1983. Growing up, most girls saw baby dolls, while young boys built forts with their Lincoln Logs and later castles built with Lego bricks. I wanted to play with Lincoln Logs, race Hot Wheels, and fly Apollo rocket models, but it wasn’t acceptable then; it just wasn’t done—by girls. I often wonder if the toys we played with shaped who we would become.
While I did get my rocket ships for my room, I ultimately pursued a more traditional life with a home and a family when I got older. I was cooking the meals and tending to the kids. I certainly don’t regret having my beautiful family, but I didn’t pursue my passions or my dreams until my forties. What if I was playing with a Sally Ride Astronaut figure as a kid? Would those role model figurines have changed the trajectory of my work life? Would I have found the courage earlier, than later, to fill 100,000 hours with what inspired me?
In this new Lego set, which sold out on Amazon within 24 hours, there is a diverse range of pioneering women in space:
Nancy Grace Roman, an astronomer, who was one of the first female executives at NASA and known to many as the “Mother of Hubble” for her role in planning the Hubble Space Telescope.
Mae Carol Jemison, an American engineer, physician and NASA astronaut who, in 1992, was the first African American woman to travel in space when she went into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour.
Margaret Hamilton, an American computer scientist, systems engineer, and business owner. She was Director of the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, which developed on-board flight software for the Apollo space program.
Sally Ride, arguably the most famous of the figurines, was the first American woman in space.
It is my hope that these toys will end up impacting more than a fun afternoon for young children. I hope it will show young girls and boys that there are amazing opportunities in the sciences for women and they should not hesitate to pursue their passions. Additionally, with the sales of this product being so astronomical (pardon the pun); it should lay the foundation for more female figures and STEM-centered toys geared for girls in the future. If one child can see, by playing with toys like these, that a woman can go into space, then the opportunities are truly limitless. And as for those 100,000 hours, they will be time worth spent, for ourselves and our world.