Mary Lou, Gale and Josie dreamed of being astronauts when they were growing up during the baby boom years, but their heads were in the clouds, according to the established, male-dominated order of the day.
The trio, now women of a certain age, finally got their shot at the stars through a program called “Breaking the Glass Ceiling” from Ford and actress-activist Gina Rodriguez.
They logged time at Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., put through their paces above ground and under water on contraptions like a “one-sixth gravity chair” and the “multi-axis trainer” (the former simulates a space walk, while the latter spins the recruits in circles like a carnival ride on steroids).
Their experience is captured in a four-minute film launching today as part of a yearlong partnership between the carmaker and Rodriguez, who narrates and co-stars in the video.
The debut of the content, created by Shareability for YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and other digital platforms, coincides with a gathering at New York University with Rodriguez, Travel Channel host Ellene Miles, Ford’s CMO and Lincoln group vp Joy Falotico, Out magazine executive editor Raquel Willis and others to talk about career opportunities for women and forging a path in today’s job market.
“Breaking the Glass Ceiling” is the next step in Ford’s ongoing outreach to women, said Al Uzielli, head of Ford global brand entertainment.
“We started this journey with Geena Davis a few years ago,” he said of the #ShesGotDrive video series that told inspirational stories of female YouTube creators. “It’s a way for us to speak to women in a meaningful way, not just to try to sell to them.”
Ford, which has plans for more custom content and live events with Rodriguez, follows a wave of other marketers calling attention to issues like gender inequality in the workplace and the pay gap.
ADP, for instance, went literal at South by Southwest this spring by giving women baseball bats and sledge hammers and letting them smash piggy banks, office equipment and actual glass ceilings. And a Kraft Heinz brand called NUT-rition and actress-producer Laura Dern duped male shoppers with gender-specific packages with 20% less product. The hidden camera video captured mens’ reactions when they learned they had to pay full price for the short-changed snack bags.
Ford has partnered in the past with Karlie Kloss (coding camps for young girls) and Maria Shriver (social media campaign via her Architects of Change). The brand’s work with Jane the Virgin star Rodriguez kicked off at UCLA in December with a panel discussion that featured Ford futurist Sheryl Connelly, aerospace engineer Aisha Bowe and MiLA Capital managing partner Noramay Cadena.
“We’re working with women who have powerful voices and speak to their generations,” Uzielli said.
The first mini movie served more than one purpose, according to Rodriguez.
“Our goal was to create a program that inspires women to achieve their goals and dreams,” she said. “I realized after watching our group of women successfully conquer Space Camp that we had also created something that inspired me as well.”
The long-form content, called “Never Too Late,” could show “only a fraction of what the women went through” during training, Uzielli said, and provided a peek into their unrealized childhood dreams.
Gale says her early Star Trek fandom taught her that space might have been a more hospitable place than Earth for ambitious women of color. (And women in general lagged in the real world. The first man went to space in 1961, but it was 22 more years before an American woman—Sally Ride—did the same, the video notes).
Mary Lou, who was “captivated by the moon landing” as a kid, says she’s trying to be a person who “doesn’t second guess” herself anymore.
“You don’t have to be fearless,” she says in the short film. “There’s going to be fear, but it’s a matter of having the courage to face the fear.”