Viasat employees on the women who’ve inspired them

For International Women’s Day, we asked some of our female employees around the globe to talk about women they admire, and provide a quote that inspires them.


Clockwise from left: Sarah Shepis, Francesca Del Monaco, Huma Hakim, Danielle Rowtliep, Vicky Chan

Today is International Women’s Day, a global celebration held each March 8 to honor the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. First held in 1911, the day also acts as a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

To mark the day, Viasat asked some of our female employees around the globe to talk about women they admire, and provide a quote that inspires them.

Sarah Shepis | Tempe, AZ

Mildred Dresselhaus essentially invented my field of study: materials science and engineering.

She is a solid-state physicist and nanotechnologist who pioneered studies on the thermal and electrical properties of materials, creating a new field of engineering (my bachelor’s degree discipline) as well as advocating for groundbreaking women in science and engineering.

Dr. Dresselhaus earned the title of “Queen of Carbon Science” for her fundamental contributions to understanding carbon nanomaterials. In the 1960s her research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) provided the most accurate characterization of carbon’s electronic band structure that had ever been achieved.

In addition to being described by many as a delightful human being, Dr. Dresselhaus is also known as the first woman at MIT to attain the rank of full, tenured professor. She was the first solo recipient of a Kavli Prize and the first woman to win the National Medal of Science in Engineering. Mildred inspires me to persevere through any adversities and achieve success with insatiable curiosity.

She inspires me so deeply that I named my cat Millie after her.

“I stand on the sacrifices of one million women before me, thinking what can I do to make this mountain taller so the women after me can see farther.” – Rupi Kaur

Francesca Del Monaco | Amsterdam

An inspirational person is for me Rita Levi Montalcini. She was an Italian Nobel laureate, honored for her work in neurobiology. She was awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. She also served in the Italian Senate as a senator for Life. She dedicated her life to science and women’s emancipation and she did not stop researching until she died.

“Above all, don’t fear difficult moments. The best comes from them.”

“The body does whatever it wants. I am not my body; I am my mind.” – Rita Levi Montalcini

Vicky Chan | Boston

I immigrated from Hong Kong — a highly competitive place — to America to pursue more opportunities in higher education. It changed my life. Education for women is still a battle fought in many parts of the world.

Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai is inspirational for her unwavering commitment to speaking up for those who have no voice. I wish all women around the world have the opportunity to pursue their dreams.

“Education is education and it’s the right of every human being.” —Malala Yousafzai

Danielle Rowtliep | Sydney

It was my first lesson on the first day of high school when one of the scariest, fiercest and harshest ladies I have ever met entered the room and presented herself as our English teacher. This lady ended up being my teacher for at least one subject every year, teaching me that no matter how uncomfortable you are, you should give every opportunity your best. Attempt everything — even if you don’t get it right; there will always be something you have learned. This lady, Mrs. Goodchild, ended up being one of the most inspirational women to me, and has inspired me to succeed not only in my career but as a mother and role model to my children.

When you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back and give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.” —Michelle Obama

Huma Hakim | Germantown, MD

One woman who really inspires me is Indra Nooyi. I am very impressed with the way she clearly states that women can’t have it all. And how often we pretend to do just that. In one of her talks, she said the following:

“I don’t think women can have it all. I just don’t think so. We pretend we can have it all. My husband and I have been married for 34 years. And we have two daughters. And every day you have to make a decision about whether you are going to be a wife or a mother, in fact many times during the day you have to make those decisions. And you have to co-opt a lot of people to help you. We co-opted our families to help us. We plan our lives meticulously so we can be decent parents. But if you ask our daughters, I’m not sure they will say that I’ve been a good mom. I’m not sure. And I try all kinds of coping mechanisms.”

This was very helpful to me in dealing with my guilt when trying to balance work and starting a family. It also helped me delegate and co-opt people to help me. Finally, it helped me understand that I have to prioritize what is more important to me in every stage of my life, balancing between work and being home for the kids and what failure would be more devastating for me- one as a mother or one as not making it to a title I wanted at work. Certain things can be postponed while certain ones cannot, and women just have so many more things to balance on their plate than men – sometimes life is just not fair!

“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.” – Verna Myers

viasat women

Clockwise from top: Nevena Saponjic, Anna Kepler, Sheu-Sheu Tan, Shaudi Kheradmand, Beatriz Lindoso

Nevena Saponjic | Lausanne, Switzerland

I have been inspired by work of Wislawa Szymborska, a poet, essayist and Nobel prize laureate for literature. Her essays encourage thinking and rethinking worldviews. I find it very important to have an open mindset, to understand different views and opinions and to strive to discover and understand the world every day.

“Any knowledge that doesn’t lead to new questions quickly dies out: it fails to maintain the temperature required for sustaining life.” – Wislawa Szymborska

Beatriz Lindoso | Viasat Brazil

Bertha Lutz (1894-1976) was a Brazilian and inspiring woman who has made history by fighting for women’s rights. In 1922, she founded the Federation for Female Progress and started her struggle for women’s suffrage and equal political rights. She obtained her first major victory in 1932, when the new Brazilian Electoral Code was enacted, which guaranteed the female vote in the country. In 1945, she was essential for the addition of gender equality in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“To refuse equal rights to women by virtue of sex is to deny justice to half the population.” —Bertha Lutz

Shaudi Kheradmand| Germantown, MD

My mother always portrayed the women in her family as unapologetically strong, smart and resilient in the midst of struggles. I remember being so impressed as a child to have learned of our Apache lineage in Mexico, where our great-great-great grandmother was both the chief and medicine woman of her tribe. With every new story I learn about a historical female figure, I am always amazed at their fearlessness, courage and perseverance.

I recall as a young lady learning about Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, a Mexican female figure in the 1600s, who essentially became a self-taught renaissance woman. In a time where women were not allowed to study, she refused several marriage proposals and became a nun just so that she could continue to pursue her passion in studies, writings, plays and music. Although she was very controversial in the church and the patriarchy, her mastery of words gained her friends who helped distribute her works. Propagating these stories is crucial to a continued cultural evolution where all genders are equally valued.

For me, it instills pride in who I am and confidence to diligently pursue the goals I set forth for myself.

“One can perfectly well philosophize while cooking supper.”

Response by Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz to the church and patriarchy

Sheu-Sheu Tan | Carlsbad CA

I have been inspired by Hellen Keller. She faced significant disadvantages but persisted with determination and sayings like, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” Her outlook has encouraged me to persist against adversity I’ve faced in my education, career and life in general.

Anna Kepler | Germantown, MD

From the first time I got introduced to the works of Maya Angelou, I was not only amazed by the various talents this woman had but also by the way she channeled her feelings into her art. She worked hard to achieve her goals, and she always remained positive no matter the obstacles.

“Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.” —Maya Angelou