It’s difficult to deny that Latinas are fierce women. Ellen Ochoa is a prime example, having gained recognition for being the first Latina in outer space, the first Latina to become director of the Johnson Space Center, and the first woman to soon be inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame.
Despite all of these great accomplishments, Ochoa was not included in LEGO’s Women of NASA set, leaving many disappointed.
Although LEGO received applause for releasing such an important set, which included the Black women from “Hidden Figures,” people felt that Ochoa should have been included as well.
Latinas in STEM, an organization that encourages young girls to pursue a career in STEM, has vocalized their opinion on the matter.
“We were also excited that something had been put out representing the women, but we also noticed that there was a missing piece,” said Cecilia Fernandez, director of administration for Latinas in STEM. “We were disappointed that Dr. Ochoa was not considered or included.”
Fernandez believes having Ochoa as part of the set would give young Latinas the representation they need in STEM. According to a 2015 report, there were only 3.5% of STEM bachelor’s degrees given to Latinas in 2010.
She continued, saying:
“Even if it’s just a figurine, it could have an impact on them and their future. It’s saying, ‘Hey, there’s someone who looks like you.’”
LEGO’s Women of NASA was created by Maia Weinstock, who submitted her idea through the LEGO Ideas program.
It includes five women: Sally Ride (the first woman in space), Mae Jemison (the first African-American woman in space), Katherine Johnson (the mathematician in “Hidden Figures”), computer scientist Margaret Hamilton, and Nancy Grace Roman (NASA’s former chief astronomer).
The creator made it a point to choose a variety of women to be part of the set.
“I also wanted to show a mix of well-known versus less well-known women; a mix of cultural backgrounds; a mix of professions – mathematician, programmer, scientists, doctors, entrepreneurs – and a mix of ages.”
Despite the disappointment, Weinstock did mention that she has created an Ochoa figurine before. “I actually made a figure for her a few years back,” she said. “I had the honor of presenting it to her when I was visiting NASA Johnson in 2014.”
The final design and product details of the set are not available yet but it's moving into development.
Weinstock doesn’t dismiss the future possibility of LEGO creating more sets about women in STEM. Fernandez hopes that Ochoa will be included in those future sets. She said:
“Or they come up with more sets and she [Ochoa] is included in that set. It’s a missed opportunity for LEGO to reach this growing population."