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Welcome back, Leading Ladies. I’m here again today with Matt Higa, who created the very first Top Women in aviation and aerospace list. And he’s also a self-confessed space nerd. He’s enthusiastic about all things space. And that’s what he does with his company, Pineapple Empire. And Matt and I are thrilled today to be joined by Gitika Gorthi. She is one of the women who made the list. Young woman should I say. She’s going to be our youngest guest ever. She’s 17. I’m just thrilled, thrilled to have her here. Gitika is a rising senior at Chantilly High School in Northern Virginia. She’s also an aspiring astronaut and physician who wants to do research in aerospace medicine. She’s also the founder and CEO of non-profit Ignited Thinkers, something that she founded in the eighth grade to spread science education globally. So, she actively inspires and educates students around the world and a lot of adults too. She’s interned at NASA in their gene lab, and she has a vision to create equal opportunities and break stereotypes in the space industry. Because she knows that having more diversity and creativity in space is absolutely essential for what mankind or humankind, I should say, not mankind, scrap that, humankind, needs to do next. Welcome, Gitika

Thank you so much for the kind introduction and having me in this podcast. I’m very excited to share my journey with you all.

Yeah, we’re excited to have you here. What about you Matt?

Yeah, I mean, as always, I’m excited, blessed, privileged, and honored to be here and love to be talking to Gitika and you again, Fiona. Gitika I’m super excited to talk to you because I’m just thinking about it now. And I never bothered to check if you’re the youngest on our list, but I think you might be. So that’s really exciting. And I was talking to you at the beginning here. And you’re just super impressive at such a young age. And I wish I were you when I was at that age. So, looking forward to hearing more from you.

So how does it feel to be a 17-year-old superstar?

It feels amazing to be called a 17-year-old superstar. But I know they’re still amazing people out there who are even younger than me doing great things. So, I never view age as a factor into what I’m doing. And so, I’m just glad to be, you know, honored to be put on the list, even though I’m not a legal adult yet. So, thank you, Mr. Higa. For the opportunity.

Yeah, of course. And you can call me Matt, you don’t have to, I mean, Mr. Higa is technically my dad.

That’s why we’re here to talk today about Courage. Courage knows no age limits, courage is really, really important. If we want to make a difference around the world for women, we want to change the status quo. We want to make it to Mars, all these different things. And so, I’m really curious Gitika, to learn more about Ignited Thinkers. And where do you draw the courage to do that?

 

Yeah, so I can explain a little bit of a backstory. So, I’m growing up. I live near Washington, DC. So, I always used to go to the Air and Space Museum, and I love space. But I never viewed it as like a real career because it just didn’t seem attainable. Neither of my parents are in the space industry. And so, when I got into seventh grade, I took an engineering class, and the teacher of that class started a rocketry club. And he’s like, “Gitika, why don’t you join a rocketry club?” And I was like, shocked, because I didn’t know kids could, you know, building model rockets in seventh grade? I thought that was crazy. So of course, I said yes, because I’m up for any opportunity. And I joined. And I ended up falling in love with building model rockets. I think I would spend three to four hours every day after school with him just building model rockets and flying them. And so, it was amazing. And one day, I was talking with my parents, and I was like, “isn’t this epic? I’m so glad I joined this club.” And my parents were like, “You’re so lucky to have had this opportunity.” Both my parents are immigrants, the United States. So, they were like, you know, I’m so blessed. You have an opportunity. When I was young, I didn’t even know I could go into space in middle school. And so, the inner Girl Scout and me, I’ve been a Girl Scout since kindergarten. And so those values of leadership and change have been instilled in me. And so, then like, something clicked, and I was like, “This is my moment where I can share what I love to others.” And so, I would say that’s where Ignited Thinkers really started. And I wanted to create a teacher that I’ve had for every other student out there and expose them to space. Because if I didn’t have that rocketry club, I probably would have never viewed space as an attainable career, or something that I could pursue. And so, I wanted to spread that to everyone. So, in eighth grade, that’s when I, you know, started building up Ignited Thinkers.

And remind me again, because I’m British, how old are people in eighth grade?

They’re 14

So, you were 14 when you started this? Wow. And was it scary, like holding your first session or doing your first few things?

Um, I think it was definitely nerve wracking because it was my first time. So, my first event was actually at an orphanage in India. So, I think it was kind of lucky how my first event came upon. So, an acquaintance of mine here, Dr. Shirley Scrivener, she’s an English teacher at a community college. And I was talking to her about how I’m going to start this organization and how I really want to do an event and she’s like, actually, a founder of multiple orphanages around the world two in Africa, few in India, even a few in Europe, I believe. And so, she was like, “You know, there’s an orphanage in India, there are 75 kids,” the largest home that she has, she was like, “Why don’t you go there and conduct your first event?” And that summer, I was actually going to India to visit my grandparents. The orphanage was only an hour away. So, it was kind of like fate. And I was like, “Yes, it’s a perfect first event.” And so, when I went there, and I saw only 75 kids. They never had exposure to any STEM activity before. So, seeing their faces light up when I explained model rocketry and being able to help them fly and launch their own rocket was absolutely an amazing experience. And I was nervous at first. But once I held that mic, and I was talking with them, I just was no longer nervous. And I remember at the end of the event, they were telling me “I want to become just like you when I grow up.” And I remember at that moment, I was like what I’m doing is right. And I definitely want to spread Ignited Thinkers and make it even bigger, because there’s value. And I want to be able to reach out to more students and children like that, because now they’re into model rocketry and space. And they know it’s a real career. So yeah, definitely the first event was nerve wracking in the beginning. But definitely, once I held that mic and started talking, it was all natural.

I love it. I love it, love that story. And so well spoken to, and so many opportunities and backgrounds. And I’m wondering now, since we’re on the Leading Ladies Of… Aerospace podcast we’re smashing those glass ceilings, it sounds like you had a lot of opportunities, and you had a lot of confidence instilled? Did you encounter any obstacles on your way? You know, anybody saying that you couldn’t do that, because you are a girl or, you know, anything like that?

Yeah, so definitely in the place I’ve been raised, it’s a very urban area. And so, I’ve never had that. And my parents are very supportive. So, there was never this obstacle to say that just because I’m a girl, I couldn’t do it. However, I’ve had people tell me that space wasn’t like a real career or like a place where I could get a job. I think there’s always been this misconception or like stereotype, like when I decided I wanted to go into aerospace medicine. I’ve had literally no one tell me that’s a real career. Everybody was like, “How are you going to get that job? I don’t think you can do it, I don’t think you can survive, like do something safe, do a safe job.” And I was, you know, it wasn’t because I was just a female. I think it was probably just because of the lack of knowledge of the space industry. So, I’ve had people doubt whether what I was doing was right or not, but my parents were always supportive of me. And they’re like, “You know, you can do whatever you want.” I think girl scouts have always told me that I can do anything. So those values that I’ve had ever since I was kindergarten, kind of let me become who I am. And I just kind of ignored the negative people and focused on the positive people and people who supported me. And I’ve used LinkedIn a lot. When I started Ignited Thinkers, I was able to connect with amazing space professionals, and they were always up to the plate and were like, “I want to help you, I want to support you. I have mentoring sessions.” And they’re always like pulling and making me become a better person. So, I never had those feelings where I couldn’t do something because I was a girl. But of course, there were obstacles. So, in eighth grade, when I first started stuff, like Ignited Thinkers, it was just an idea. Like, it’s so hard to go from an idea and make it something. So, I think I emailed like 30 to 40 organizations, just like emailing them like about Ignited Thinkers and how I want to collaborate with them. And I think I got like two responses. But it was a big win. Like in eighth grade, even just getting two responses was a big deal for me. And I just kind of grew from there when I would make connections. I’m a huge believer that collaboration creates better success for everyone. So, I tried to like really point that out in every email that I sent. And even getting those two organizations to respond back is how I really started to grow Ignited Thinkers. So, there was obstacles, but I always persevered and never gave up.

I love that. I love that. And I think one of the things that your responses highlight is the obstacles are less, for your generation, about being a girl. And when I think about aerospace as a whole, you know, people that are entering the workforce now still definitely face gender norms and things like that, but there is definitely, much less of “the girls should be doing this, and boys should be doing that.” And so, I think it’s going to be really interesting. As you know, we will start getting more and more people retiring from the industry over the next 10 to 20 years. I think we’re going to see a big shift in that. But I know what you mean about people saying, you know, go take a safe career. You know, when I left corporate America, everyone’s like, “Oh, why would you do that? Why would you do that? Why would you? Why would you run your own business?” And people do, like it safe. And it takes a lot of courage to turn around and say, “You know what, No, no, I don’t need to do safe because I know I am capable of. No, I know I am capable of that.” Any thoughts Matt?

Yeah, no, it’s I mean, all of that. Plus, what stuck out to me was you also mentioned support and mentorship and you know, being on LinkedIn, Gitika, and how supportive and collaborative people can be if you do reach out to them, which is something that I always try to promote on LinkedIn, or to my friends, and you know, in real life. Like, “Hey, you should get on LinkedIn.” And they’re like, “Oh, it doesn’t work. It’s just like a job board or whatever.” But you gotta make it work. There’s tons of people out there, if you’re willing to network with them, reach out, and they will support you. And you know, like your parents, it’s good to have a good support network, but then also adding in that mentorship. That’s where I’m really grateful to have Fiona as well. So, she’s got to give me a little bit of mentorship too.

Oh, thank you. Thank you. Yeah. And you mentioned LinkedIn yesterday. You know, I’ve been posting about the upcoming Leading Ladies Of… Aerospace Summit. And I’m sitting there yesterday, and I checked my inbox, and somebody has just gone to my website and signed up for $1,000 level sponsorship of my event. And I was crying, I was crying. Because I messaged this person and I’m like, “This was completely unexpected.” And he said, “You know, I’ve been watching you from afar for some time, and my team loves what you’re doing, and we want to support you.” And I’m so happy right now, like, literally so moved. So yeah, I keep joking now that LinkedIn should probably pay me because I’m always raving about how great it is. But, you know, maybe one day maybe I’ll get that thing that says like “LinkedIn expert” on the top of my profile or something, you know. They could at least give me a free upgrade to like a LinkedIn Premier account or something. Anyway, this is not about me. This is all about Gitika.

So, Gitika, you’ve spoken about Girl Scouts, but I’m really, really curious, you know. Where do you get your courage from? Or like, in those moments where you’re like, “ah”, you know? Where do you go to say, “You know, I’m going to find some courage right now, I’m going to do this.”

I think there’s two main things. First is definitely what has happened in the past. You know, I’m 17. I haven’t faced everything yet; the biggest obstacles are probably yet to come. However, from what I’ve faced over the years, there have been obstacles that have impacted me and made me kind of like, I thought, like, “Oh, this is it. Like, I’m not going to be able to move from this?” But I was able to overcome it. And I think every time I’m faced with another challenge, I’m like, “Okay, you know what, I went past this obstacle. If I can go past this one, I can go past anything.” So, I think about that courage, that I can overcome my obstacles is definitely what I always think of. I like to tell myself the other thing is definitely my family. Like my mom, she’s a house mom. So, she’s always been with me. And she always instills me to like, “What’s the worst that can go wrong?” Like, she’s always there to just tell me “What’s the worst that can happen?” And you know, I’m a basketball player. I’ve been playing basketball since third grade. And so, when I was in third grade, I joined a team. And I would stand at the corner of the court not playing basketball, I would just be in the corner, because I was afraid that I would make my team lose. And then I read this quote online, and it says, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” And I was like, it just hit somewhere. And I was like, “Wait, you’re right. If I don’t even take that first step, I’m obviously not doing anything to help my team. So, we’re obviously going to lose.” And so that made me kind of like, think it’s not only in basketball, but in real life too. So ever since then, even if I’m faced upon something, I’m like, “I’m going to give it a shot.” Because worst case, you know, if I don’t do anything, I’m going to fail anyway. So, I think that’s something that I always think back to. And that’s where I get my courage from.

And for those of you that are not on the video who are listening on iTunes. I’m grinning like a Cheshire cat right now. Let’s get together if you decide not to have a career in space, which won’t happen, and come talk to me about being a coach. I was just talking to my clients yesterday. I’m like, “You know, what’s the worst that can happen? What is the worst that could happen? You can die?” No, you know, and it’s a great, great question to ask. And then what was the first thing that you said other than what’s the worst that could happen? Oh! Keeping a list of the last obstacles you’ve overcome? Yeah. So yesterday I was with a client and you know, in their early 30s, they’ve grown this great real estate business, and real estate construction. And, you know, she’s worried about things. And I’m like, “Please create me a list of all of the bad situations, you’ve dug yourself out from with no problem at all.” You know, I said, “Even if something bad happens, you have the ability to get out of it.” And I just love hearing that somebody 17 knows that, you know, I’m just like, “Oh, this is awesome!”

Yeah, this always comes back, every time I have an obstacle, that’s always what I come back to those quotes and those obstacles I faced in the past.

I love that.

Yeah, that’s me, too. I don’t know if you caught me, but I’m remembering you know, last week when we’re talking to Christina. And I think Erica mentioned it as well, “As the whole, what is there to lose.” And that’s something I always come back to as well, when I’m about to do a lot of crazy stuff. And like, there’s nothing to lose, so why not try?

I love it. It sounds like we’re all kindred spirits here! So, tell me about one of your favorite moments with one of your mentors. And one of your favorite moments, you’re running in one of your Ignited Thinkers sessions.

Yeah, so there is, you know, my first like, only real workshop that I did in person with those kids in India. Then afterwards, when I started to do things, everything became virtual because of the pandemic. And so, I’ve been doing a lot of webinars online, but I haven’t had that connection with students, as well as the first event that I conducted. And definitely at the end of the first event, my favorite memory was when one girl came up to me, and she called me her older sister, and she was like, you know, calling me like a relative. And she’s like, “I’m so glad you took your time to do this. I absolutely love you. And I want to be like you, I didn’t even know I could do this.” So, thank you for these opportunities, and, you know, seeing how I could impact a student’s life. And you know, I could be a role model, because I think hearing from a teacher, or hearing from someone who’s maybe 20-30 years older than them is different from hearing that from someone who’s maybe one or two years older than you. I’m literally like their sister, or I’m like their best friend. And so when it comes down to that it was just amazing. That was like probably the best moment of my life of just hearing how I impacted her. And then in terms of my mentorship experiences, the best memory that I’ve probably had is talking with the people from NASA. I got into a NASA internship last month at NASA Ames center. And that’s where I live, we analyze real data that was collected from spaceflight, and analyzed Drosophila which is fruit flies’ cardiovascular system

I used to do that in college. It was amazing to hear somebody else say that!

Yeah, it was absolutely amazing. And like I didn’t know, Drosophila had so many similarities with the human heart, and like human diseases. So, it was absolutely amazing to analyze the data and come up with a research proposal. I’m kind of waiting on the results now, but they actually are going to fund the whole project to be able to go to a conference and actually conduct an experiment. So, it’s actually, you know, it’s an amazing experience and talking with people like Dr. Fogarty. She spends like one hour every month with me just talking about what her experience in space medicine is and it’s absolutely amazing that she takes her time to do that. So definitely, amazing experiences all around.

That’s great. Um, a question that I have that just came up for me. You know, we’re talking about age and what kind of advice would you have to younger people? I guess younger than you or even people your age right now that think that you’re just special and that’s the reason why you can do all this cool stuff. Is that why or I mean, obviously you are pretty gifted and special, but is that the reason? Or what advice would you have for  them?

That is 100% Not real at all. No, absolutely not. Both my parents are immigrants. I haven’t had that special advantage ever. I got into a regular Public School. And then in terms of my intellectual ability, I’m very hard working, like I’m not someone who when I read it once I just memorize it. And I have a memory that’s like the top, like a photo jet. Like what is it like just automatic memory, you know, like picture memory, they say. So, I don’t have that either, where I just read it once and I memorize it, I work really hard. Like I stay up late and wake up early to accomplish the things that I want to accomplish. And I think my work ethic is what is like everything that I’ve accomplished so far, if anything, is what I’ve achieved, so far, it’s all because I worked hard. I know that’s so cliche to say, like I worked hard. But that’s actually true. If you find something you’re really passionate about, just never let it go and keep trying. I remember when I first started, Ignited Thinkers in eighth and ninth grade was really slow, reaching out to organizations, three fourths of them, 99% of them wouldn’t even respond back to me. But that was okay. For me, I would keep trying and keep trying and never give up. And both my parents are not in the space industry. I have to stress that they don’t know anything about space. So, it’s me doing everything by myself. So, for kids who just are really passionate about something, I would say, never give up on your dreams, just because you don’t have connections in the industry, go make connections, like go on social media. I used to be like a huge, no social media user. I’m never getting Facebook, never getting Twitter, never getting anything. And then, here I am with every social media platform. What I’ve learned is that social media has to be used like a tool, not to just talk about yourself, but to connect with others. It’s easy to take it and, you know, use it in a bad way. But social media can actually help you in a positive way. So, the advice that I would give is just to never give up and believe in your dream.

That’s great advice for adults as well. I know exactly what you mean, I was what you call Salutatorian, not valedictorian, the one after, in high school. And again, you know, I would get home from school. And I would study till you know, 9:30, 10 o’clock at night because I wanted to graduate with all A’s. I just did. And that work ethic is definitely something that’s carried me through. And so, you know, I think that there’s a lot of adults that could learn from you just as much, to get together. And speaking of adults, how have some of the adults responded to Ignited Thinkers? Because it’s great that you’re influencing kids, but I’m pretty sure you are probably influencing adults as well. So, do you have any examples to share with us?

Yeah, there have been amazing people who have had amazing reactions to Ignited Thinkers. And I’ve always praised the work that’s being done and how much it could grow. I think one specific example, I would say, is the contact with Mr. Courtney Stad. He was the former White House liaison for NASA, and we met over LinkedIn. He ended up making me connect with amazing individuals like Mr. Hines. He was the former NASA Chief Technologist at the Ames Center. And so, Mr. Stad, connected me with him because he thought that he would be a good connection for Ignited Thinkers to collaborate because he actually has his own organization called a Hive Nation. And so, I’m actually going to be collaborating with their organization to spread space education. So, it’s amazing to see how such amazing individuals were already faced as champions, you know, like connecting on social media platforms like LinkedIn, and actually connecting me with other individuals. I think that’s a very positive reaction. And they’re always curious about how I started it. What’s my motive? And what’s my vision? I do want to expand Ignited Thinkers to be really big and something more impactful than it is right now. And so, I always like sharing my vision and how they are willing to support me and trust my vision. It’s just absolutely amazing.

I want to hire you to come and work for me right now.

I’m an adult, or I like to think I am, or I hope I am. And you’ve definitely inspired me today, with a lot of the things you’ve said, I mean, especially, I mean, I totally relate to everything you just said about work ethic and discipline. And I come from a background of self-study as well. So I definitely, you know, recommend to all the listeners and viewers out there that like you, everything is possible. You just got to get out there, connect with people and work hard at it.

Yeah, and the other thing is, like anything’s possible, you just might not get it as quick as you want it. And that’s okay. Because the journey matters, it’s preparing you for something. And I applied for a job once which was an airframe integration manager. And I didn’t get the job and I was devastated. And then six months later, the opening came up for a customer Business Director to Boeing. And I ended up getting that job and moving out to the US and now I’m here and so like, as I get older and have these experiences I’m like all right. I haven’t got what I wanted yet. Yet, is a really, really important word.

Yeah, it’s so important to remember that just because you don’t get one thing doesn’t mean it closes the door for everything. I know when I apply for internships. I apply to so many like any and every internship I know of. And even if I get one, I consider it a big win. And I don’t get depressed over the things I didn’t get.

I love that, I love that.

I was just gonna say the same here, I applied to Tesla three or four years ago didn’t get it three or four or five times, and then three or four years later, I have a job at Tesla now.

If you want something badly enough, and you’re willing to do the work, you will get it. And the only thing I can think of for me is I probably couldn’t be US president because I wasn’t born here. So, let’s do one thing I couldn’t be but that’s not on my list anyway, it should be but you know, it’s not. Maybe Gitika could be president.

I was actually not born in America, either. I was born in India. And then I lived in the UK for two years. And then when I was two and a half, I came to Virginia. So, I’ve been in Virginia ever since. But I was not born here, actually.

Yeah. Do you have to be born here to be president?

Yeah, you do! Even though I’m a citizen.

Maybe we can bring up our kids to be the next president and vice president. But you know what I mean? We’ll raise them. Anyway, back on topic. So, courage, you know, I imagine that with a lot of your female peers, if I look at what I read in the mainstream media and stuff like that, courage can often be something challenging for teenage girls. What do you see in terms of some of your fellow teenagers lacking courage and things that they can do to work on that a little bit?

Yeah, I feel like in high school, a lot of students worry. I mean, including myself, of course. There’s peer pressure, you want to be like part of your group. You don’t want to be the odd person out, you want to just blend in with the rest of the people. And I think changing that mindset that blending is not necessarily a good thing. You don’t want to blend in. I think it’s important to remember that you are your own person, you trying to dress up as someone else is not going to change who you are. I think standing out is actually very important. So, in high school, I mean, I used to be the type of girl who’d be like, “Oh, I don’t want to stand out.” I’m very shy, I used to be, you know, a shy person. And I think that changed over the years. But I used to be a shy person. And I realized that there’s no point trying to blend in. I think if you stand out what makes you special makes you unique. And when you are trying to talk with someone, you don’t sound like a robot, you sound like yourself. So, I think the main advice that I would give is just don’t try to blend in, it’s not actually a good thing to blend in. So that’s the advice that I would give.

I love that. I love that. And speaking of courage, hey, what about this week, Matt, with Wally Funk, making it to space?

As for as much of the Space Cadet as I am, I have a little bit more than surface level space knowledge. And so, this year is my first-year learning about her and her story in the Mercury 13. So, I’m just super happy for her to go up in that space capsule, even if it’s on Amazon, it’s one of our competitive billionaires’ rockets. Like I mentioned, I work for Tesla. So, I’ve got my own billionaire that I support. But he hasn’t gone yet. So, it was super incredible to get Wally up there, read and learn about her story. And I think that’s gonna inspire a whole lot, you know, this whole next generation, which is one of my main missions as well. So, what are your thoughts? Like? I’m sure you might be a little bit more familiar with Wally Funk.

Yeah, it was absolutely inspirational to hear her story. And I think it’s just another testament to age does not matter. Like whether you’re 18, the youngest person went to space, whether it be the oldest person, I feel like age is just a number. It really doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t mean you can’t achieve your dreams. It’s amazing to see how she dreamed of going into space for so long. And she achieved it. And that just goes to show that nothing is impossible. As long as you keep at it. She didn’t give up. And you know, at her press release at the end when she was talking, she was like, her face was glowing. And it was amazing to see her excitement. And I think you know, it was just so inspirational. She’s going to be an inspiration for generations to come. And she’s going to show everyone “Never give up.” Hold on to your dreams. So, absolutely amazing.

I loved watching her on stage. She was just so excited like “Oh my god, I love this woman.” I’m just gonna keep playing that all day every time I feel a bit low.

That’s gonna keep me going most of the weekend. It’s gonna keep me going for another couple weeks probably. So, with that being said, being the youngest person on the list, what do you think about being the youngest person in space? Or what kind of courage do you need, or do we need to get to space? Or tomorrow? I mean, we would have made space. So, how about Mars and beyond?

Yeah, I just think just not again, like not viewing age as like a factor. And just believing in yourself is so important, like never having imposter syndrome, but you’re not good enough to be a part of a certain group. And just don’t let those thoughts get to you is really important, as we’re like looking into going to Mars one day, I think taking in the younger ones. As I feel like a lot of the demographics and space industry right now is on the older side. And as they start to retire, it’s important to transfer the skills and that knowledge to the younger generation and encourage them to believe that they can do it. So, I think just overcoming that imposter syndrome, and believing your talents and your skills and that you got in because you deserve it. It’s so important to remember. I was talking with a girl the other day, she’s a physics major, and in her business class she was the only girl. So, she was facing imposter syndrome. Like, can I take a physics class? And it was so important for her to realize that she got into the class, not because she was a girl or because of something, but she got in because she has the worth to get into that physics class. So, I think it’s so important to remember to believe in yourself, don’t let other negative comments influence who you are.

Wow, what an incredible answer right off the bat. You had that. I agree with a few of them. I mean, once you’re done being an astronaut, or maybe at the same time, you should consider coaching.

Yeah, definitely, definitely. Maybe you could have that be part of your Ignited Thinkers Academy? I love it. I love it. Well, Gitika It’s been a real pleasure interviewing you here today. And I just realized, I never actually asked you the first question that I always ask our interviewers, interviewees, which is, you know, what do you think about the glass ceiling? You know, as a young woman who’s 17? You know, do you see the glass ceiling? Do you see it? Do you think it still exists?

I think that it’s starting to break down. I think it still to some extent exists; in that we’re still trying to break it. I think it’s so important to acknowledge the positive change that’s happening there. A lot of people are supportive, there’s so many initiatives to support females in space, or females, in really any career. And I think that’s happening, and there is acknowledgment of it. There’s still a long way to go. And there’s still cases of harassment in workplaces. It’s crazy to think that in the 21st century, women still have to go through that. And so, there is still some of the ceiling up there, the glass ceiling, but we’re breaking it down. And hopefully, in a few years, a few months would be great. But you know, thinking realistically, hopefully, in a few years, we can completely tarnish that view. And we don’t have that glass ceiling anymore. So, I definitely think it exists, but we’re working to break it down.

Well, thank you Gitika, I would love to bring that message to women around the world, you know, for the next generation, you know, we don’t want it to be there. And you know, meeting people like you and being inspired by people like you, that gives women like me a reason to do this, you know, we want to break that glass ceiling so that the women behind us don’t even have to face it. Because with your energy and your enthusiasm and your talent, I think that you could really do anything, and we don’t want a glass ceiling slowing you down. So, thank you for everything that you do. And thank you for being a role model for others not just children but adults too.

Thank you so much for having me.

Yeah, thanks for coming on Gitika. Thanks for supporting the article and, you know, talking to us. We’ve learned a lot from you today and I can’t wait for that day where the answer to that question is basically what you’re kind of saying is, what glass ceiling? I’m looking forward to that one.

Yeah, what glass ceiling? Do you hear that everybody? What glass ceiling? Let’s act as if it’s not there now. How about that?

About Gitika

Gitika Gorthi is a rising senior attending Chantilly High School and she is an aspiring astronaut and physician, hoping to research in aerospace medicine. Ms. Gorthi is also the Founder/CEO of a non-profit organization, IgnitedThinkers (www.ignitedthinkers), which she founded in 8th-grade to spread space education to all. Ms. Gorthi actively inspires and educates students globally to spread her passion for space while also working with professionals in the industry through conducting aerospace medicine research and interning at NASA Ames Research Center GeneLab. Ms. Gorthi’s vision is to create equal opportunities and break all stereotypes in the space industry to create a more creative and diverse space ecosystem, while also developing innovative telemedicine to support astronauts on deep space missions and provide accessible medical support for those on Earth.

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