It is not unusual for a mentor to encourage a young person dreaming of a career to shoot for the stars. In astronaut Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger's case, however, she means it quite literally.
The astronaut who rocketed to space in the 2010 space shuttle mission to the International Space Station and dove underwater for 24 hours for an undersea mission aboard the Aquarius underwater laboratory will speak for TechConnect West Virginia's first "Women in Technology: A Formula for Success" conference taking place Oct. 18-19 at Oglebay Resort and Conference Center.
"I think now we are realizing that women have as many capabilities as men. We don't have set roles anymore," Metcalf-Lindenburger said. "It isn't like space exploration in the '50s and '60s, which was a very traditional America. As we've grown into the 21st century, we are seeing that there are no set roles. Women need to learn about technology because it wasn't as female-dominated then and now there are opportunities for both men and women."
Metcalf-Lindenburger will be speaking to conference attendees about her experiences training for space flight in 2010 and what NASA is planning for the future of the International Space Station. She touched on how technology's spread to the general population has given more individuals, especially women and young people, the opportunity to explore the field.
"We were reflecting on Google's 14th birthday a couple days ago and how things have completely changed in the past 10 years or so," Metcalf-Lindenburger said. "I Skype with my daughter now - I never thought something like that would be possible. We are putting technology in young people's hands now. The way we are making things available to the population is incredible."
The two-day Women in Technology conference is designed to encourage and support women involved in all aspects of technology, including science and engineering education and research, the private sector, business development, governmental agencies and entrepreneurship. Participants will be treated to panel discussions and breakout sessions, opportunities for networking and inspirational women speakers.
"Astronaut Metcalf-Lindenburger has a fascinating and inspirational story to tell," Anne Barth, executive director of TechConnect West Virginia, said. "To say we're excited to have her as a our keynote speaker is an understatement."
Barth said the under-representation of women in technology fields sparked the idea to hold a conference that would "support and nurture" women in technology.
"Women only make up 19 percent of graduates in computer science, and women only make up 10 percent of all technology start-ups. This potential pool of untapped talent will really help to grow and diversify the nation's economy," she noted.
Metcalf-Lindenburger emphasized the importance of women coming together to "share their own unique experiences and learn from each other."
"I hope the women who attend the conference see how technology is being used off this planet and where we are exploring into the future. I hope they make connections with the women around them and find a support network as a way to fuel technology," she said. "The advice I always give is to always look ahead by setting your goals high. If you have goals to achieve then be prepared to put the work behind it, listen to mentors, do the research. There are so many ways to achieve our goals, I think it's important to set them high and then achieve them."
Metcalf-Lindenburger lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and young daughter.
To register online go to techconnectwv.wildapricot.org.