The World’s Most Powerful Women: June 15

Jun 16, 2017

NASA, it turns out, doesn't leave voicemail messages.

When Kayla Barron, a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, was waiting to hear whether NASA had selected her for its next class of astronaut candidates, she actually missed the selection committee's first call.

"It was a horrifying experience," she told me last week. "It was the most important call of my life."

Once Barron, 29, connected with NASA, she found out that the selection committee, after a rigorous, months-long evaluation process, had selected her as one of its 12 new recruits—from the biggest-ever pool of applicants: 18,300.

Barron says she stands apart from her classmates in that she just recently came to see the astronaut program as a concrete goal. From the Navy, she didn't see a straight path to NASA.

But working as a submarine warfare officer—operating in small teams, in confined spaces, in hostile environments—got her thinking about going into orbit. "The depths of the ocean are not that different from the vacuum of space," she says.

In addition to being the most competitive class in NASA history, the new cohort is also one of the most diverse. Barron is one of five women. Of the 350 astronaut candidates in NASA's history—including this year's group—57 have been female.

And Barron has a message for any girls who might want to add to that number.

It's important, she says, "to learn how to fail and move on from failure. You have to risk failure in order to be successful."

In applying for the astronaut program, Barron had herself confronted that possibility. "I knew it was competitive," she says, and she thought her unconventional background in the Navy might be a strike against her.

She thought about wanting to go to space for weeks without telling anyone before spilling the secret to her boss, Vice Admiral Ted Carter, as the two traveled to an event at the Air and Space Museum. "So while we were there, he introduced me to a bunch of astronauts," she recalls. And finally Carter asked Barron if she knew how to become an astronaut. When she said no, he responded: "You apply."

"That was kind of a lightbulb moment," Barron says. "It was the obvious answer; that I should go for it and put my name out there, and I wouldn’t be here if hadn't."

@clairezillman

EUROPE/MIDDLE EAST/AFRICA

Looking for answers

Prime Minister Theresa May has ordered a full public probe into the fire that engulfed the Grenfell Tower in West London on Wednesday, killing at least 17. May said residents "deserve answers" as to why the blaze spread so quickly. 

BBC

On the block

Some of Audrey Hepburn's personal belongings are going up for auction. Bloomberg has a story on how the British actress's items are being priced. “It’s a very difficult question to answer,” says Adrian Hume-Sayer, Christie’s director of private collections. “How do you put a price on provenance?”

Bloomberg

Closing the door

Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi has demanded a halt to migrants arriving in the city. A letter she sent to Italy's authorities saying it was time to stop sending migrants to the capital came just two days after her anti-establishment Five Star Movement party lost ground in the municipal election. The letter highlights the party’s veer towards the right on immigration. 

Financial Times

THE AMERICAS

She wears the pants

On Thursday morning, Fox News host Ainsley Earhardt wore a bright green pantsuit on air. The wardrobe choice was notable since in the era of former CEO and chairman Roger Ailes, women were effectively banned from wearing anything but skirts. Some saw Earhardt's pantsuit as an indication that the broadcaster's notoriously macho culture is finally evolving, albeit slowly. 

The Cut

Hail to the chiefs

For the past 30 years, the Kayapo communities—8,500 people who live on 11 million hectares in northwestern Brazil—have been increasingly exposed to the outside world, bringing major shifts in the tribe's social structure. One of the more recent changes has been the emergence of three female chiefs. They're now heading protests against illegal logging and mining and have proven themselves to be passionate, effective leaders of the movement.

Vice

Powering up

In the latest issue of Fortune, Valentina Zarya has a profile of PG&E CEO Geisha Williams, born in Cuba, who in March became the first Latina CEO of a Fortune 500 company. 

Fortune

ASIA-PACIFIC

Rebel with a cause

Actress Rebel Wilson has won her defamation case against Australia's Bauer Media, which published articles in 2015 that painted her as a serial liar. After the unanimous verdict in her favor, Wilson acknowledged that she has the money and education—a law degree from the University of New South Wales—to take on the “harrowing” and “very expensive” fight. “Not everyone has the strength to stand up for themselves, but I do,” she said. 

Fortune

Uber under (even more) fire

The rape victim whose medical records were reportedly shared among Uber executives is suing the ride-hailing company for defamation, intrusion into private affairs, and public disclosure of private facts. Last week, Eric Alexander, Uber’s president of business in the Asia-Pacific region, was fired after it was learned he obtained the medical records of the 26-year-old woman who was raped by her Uber driver in Delhi in 2014. Alexander, who questioned the woman's account of the incident, is named as a defendant along with CEO Travis Kalanick and another former executive. 

Fortune

IN BRIEF

Kyra Sedgwick made a film about slut-shaming with her daughter

Elle

'Gorilla moms': The women rescuing Congo's endangered primates

Guardian

The link between domestic violence and mass shootings

New Yorker

J.P. Morgan is accused of discriminating against fathers

Fortune

PARTING WORDS

"[T]here's liberation in feeling like I don't have to make everyone like me."

—Actress America Ferrera on playing a character who's not constantly seeking approval.

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