You can do it, it’s exciting… it’s understanding the universe and it’s being connected to the universe and making the world a better place.
- Candy Torres, Engineer.
What are you doing to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing? Spend it with us at STEM Women, and a veteran woman engineer of the space program! In 8 hours, we’ll be talking with Candy Torres, a Puerto Rican engineer who went from being one of only 10 women in her astrophysics classes at Rutgers University, to getting a job at Princeton University to work on the Copernicus OAO-3C Satellite and later, as a software programmer for NASA.
Candy was a STEM trailblazer from an early age. She had a firm dream to join the space program, but she encountered much push-back from her family and friends in the Bronx, where she was born. Latina women were simply not meant to have a career in STEM, or so she was told, let alone dream of contributing to the space race.
At age 14, Candy joined the Civil Air Patrol and she was flying a plane before she could drive. She encountered sexism early on, however, when she learned that girl cadets were not allowed to participate in some training sessions. She tells CNN: “We were supposed to go find a businessman who was lost in the woods, but the girls were not allowed.”
This attitude continued. At university in the 1970s, her classmates were less than welcoming of women. She tells CNN: “They were definitely not happy about having women in the class… I didn’t have any kind of support system. I didn’t get to know any of the other women, and the guys basically ignored me.”
Overcoming exclusion based on her gender and ethnicity, Candy would go on to use her computer programming skills to organise files for NASA. She later went on to work at Johnson Space Centre on software for the Space Shuttle as well as the International Space Station. She worked on various other space programs over the years, such as human factors.
Candy has been featured in various high-profile publications like The Atlantic, where she noted: "People don’t realize how many thousands of us worked on these programs… I loved being part of something big, and I knew that I had worked hard to be there."
Candy has continued her work in recent years by educating the public on space history, and supporting the inclusion of minority women in space programs. She is passionate about encouraging Latino youth to pursue engineering and science. She tells Latino USA that her message to Latina and other minority women is about being passionate, curious and tenacious.
Join us as we chat to Candy about her amazing journey through various space programs, and hear her advice for young girls and women who want to follow in her footsteps. We’ll be live on Sunday 20th July 2014 at 2.30 PM Pacific/ 10.30 PM UK or Monday 7.30 AM Australian EST. Check out our Event page for more details, including a link to our YouTube video if you want to catch up later.