Posted by: peninsular | October 18, 2019

The Future Is Female?

This morning, NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir set their space suits to battery mode and ventured outside the International Space Station orbiting the earth. The historic first all-woman space walk offers a unique opportunity for the organization to use messaging to promote its work and inspire a new generation of young girls to pursue STEM careers. 

Except this occasion comes on the heels of last spring’s aborted spacewalk when two female astronauts learned at the last minute that there was only one suit on board configured to fit a woman. Despite NASA’s intentional efforts to be inclusive, unintended and implicit associations about the types of bodies that need a spacesuit spread into the planning process, turning it into a NASA failure.  

That’s why it’s so important for strategic communicators to bring awareness of implicit associations and biases to our processes. To communicate succinctly and powerfully, implicit associations can serve as shorthand for the messages we want our audiences to understand. We all know Energizer batteries last a long time thanks to a 20-year-old ad campaign associating the brand with the active and fecund bunny. However, these associations are rarely so benign. Stereotypical and negative associations can easily infect our messaging and strategic planning. Even when we’re trying to challenge these biases, just as NASA was when it first planned the all-woman spacewalk, organizations communicate beliefs through processes and outcomes as well.


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