Today is Administrative Professional’s Day and we’ll be introducing a woman who took a somewhat unusual career path.
Mary Winston Jackson grew up in Hampton, Virginia, and received her bachelor’s degree from Hampton Institute in Mathematics and Physical Science. After graduation from college, she was briefly a school teacher in Maryland, then began her long career with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), later the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.
Jackson began her career with NACA as a computer – the title given to women mathematicians at the time. She specialized in analyzing data from wind tunnel experiments and from actual aircraft on the many flight experiments NACA conducted. As her career progressed, she began to recognize that many minorities and women were not advancing as fast as she thought they should and so she began analyzing the situation to see what was holding them back. Occasionally it was as simple as a lack of a couple of courses, the location of the individual, or the assignments given them. Jackson advised women on how to change their titles from “mathematician” to “engineer” and increase their promotion potential; advice she followed herself. She was the first woman to become an engineer then an aerospace engineer.
After 34 years, Jackson had reached her highest potential as an Engineer and looked seriously at her own advancement. She decided to step down from her Engineering position for an Administrative Professional position in the Equal Opportunity Specialist field. She had to take a step back in pay and status to do this. But she was very successful, initiating many changes and bringing to management’s attention the accomplishments of minorities and women, and was instrumental in the hiring of some of those highly-qualified individuals.
In her personal life, she served as a Girl Scout leader and a committee worker over a period of 20 years. She died on Friday, February 11, 2005 leaving a legacy of changing the face of the engineering workforce at NASA.
Written by Nicole Hutchison