One female engineer shatters space’s glass ceiling

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How one woman overcame adversity and found success in space.

Diana Trujillo has always looked to the stars.

Growing up in Colombia during the 1980s, a place and time known for its civil unrest, she would stargaze to escape from the danger in her country. “I knew there had to be something better than this,” she recalls, adding, “Somewhere better than where I was.”

It’s that yearning which pushed Trujillo to immigrate to the United States with only $300 in her pocket, receive a degree in aerospace mechanics and biomechanics, and become one of the first Hispanic women to break into the aerospace industry.

Today, Trujillo oversees dozens of engineers and spearheads crucial projects, including a rover mission to Mars to explore the Gale Crater with one of the most technologically advanced rovers ever built.

We recently sat down with Trujillo to discuss resilience, the future of STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), and her advice for thriving in a male-dominated industry. Here’s an excerpt of the conversation, edited and condensed for clarity:

Q:| You went from being a Hispanic immigrant who didn’t speak English to one of the country’s top female engineers. How did you turn what many would consider an adversity into an asset for your career?

It was an asset the whole time—I needed to decide how I would see it. My upbringing has taught me that you never give up. I’m not shy of asking what I want to do. I don’t run away from the problem; I run toward the problem. It’s something my peers find very valuable, because they know I’m going to grab any problem by the horns.

Q:| What’s been the biggest challenge in your career so far and what did you do to overcome it?

Honestly, the biggest challenge has been to get over myself. I often text my husband saying, “Oh, man, I’m in a meeting with 17 people and I’m the only girl.” So what if I’m the only girl? It doesn’t make me less capable. I’m all about having more women in the workforce, and having more women of color in the workforce. So, when there aren’t any other women in the room, I need to do my best and let other women in. If I’m too preoccupied about being the only one, I won’t perform.

Q:| What advice do you have for women to get over themselves, own a room, and own their place at the table?

It’s not about you; it’s about the goal. You need to focus on the goal. Nobody’s going to argue with you if your discussion is all about the goal. When the goal is bigger than you, it’s doesn’t matter who sets it because it’s for the greater good of the team.

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Being Intentional: Convening in a World with Too Many Conferences

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By: Rochelle L. Williams, PhD, ARC Network Project Director, AWIS

The ARC Network, an initiative of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS), elevates thought leadership on the successes and challenges to realizing equity in STEM. Since 2009, AWIS has worked with the National Science Foundation (NSF) to convene ADVANCE institutions and NSF Gender in Science and Engineering (GSE) program to discuss synthesizing quantitative and qualitative approaches affecting gender composition and representation in STEM education workplaces.

By combining AWIS’ convening power and the ARC Network’s mission to advance equity in STEM, we’ve sought to create community, not another conference that promises a magical solution to research problems.

The 2019 Equity in STEM Community Convening builds on the momentum of the NSF ADVANCE/GSE Workshops, while simultaneously curating an experience that embodies a culture of innovation and inclusion. Traditional meeting features (i.e., poster sessions, networking coffee breaks and interactive breakout sessions) are infused with components that amplify, revolutionize and cultivate a community of researchers and practitioners.

Amplify.

To increase the reach and visibility of proven strategies that promote equity in STEM, additional avenues for authentic storytelling have been incorporated into this year’s programming. To start, presenters will stretch themselves by submitting visual abstracts, visual summaries of their presentations instead of the traditional text-based abstract. Shifting to visual abstracts allows easy distribution of their work within the ARC Network and with external audiences using social media. In addition to having prominent keynote speakers and poster showcase, the Equity in STEM Community Convening will also feature Lightning Talks during the networking reception. The Lightning Talks will challenge presenters to outline the highlights of their work and explain its importance within five minutes.

Revolutionize.

The Equity in STEM Community Convening will highlight high-quality research and works-in-progress that have potential to advance and transform STEM workplaces. The Early-Stage Innovations sessions will support new researchers and practitioners looking to share the initial phase of their work or seeking feedback from the community. Experience Reports, sessions dedicated to those on the frontline of change, are designed for well-developed and/or later-stage initiatives or research.

We’ve also introduced a new priority area, ADVANCE to Market. Presentations will center on research, programs, and practices that discuss academic STEM entrepreneurship and commercialization, including social equity issues and taking diversity and inclusion research and resources to market.

Cultivate.

Advancing equity in STEM requires an intentional focus on creating authentic, sustainable and inclusive environments while simultaneously cultivating a community that collaborates, shares and implements promising practices and tools shown to affect change. Presenter-designed Symposia and Workshops are meant to give participants the time to reflect and create, both individually and with others. The informal setting of the Networking Breaks make way for relaxed exchanges that are crucial for the learning process.

In a world with too many conferences, too many broken promises and not enough time, you’ll leave the convening inspired to take your work to the next level and, more importantly, knowing there’s a community ready to support you in your efforts toward #EquityinSTEM.

Building and Gathering a Community

Join the ARC Network Community! This AWIS initiative connects scholars and practitioners committed to equity in STEM at no cost. In collaboration with Mendeley, the ARC Network hosts a dedicated online group for members to access and contribute to a rich library of curated resources – including reports, articles, datasets, toolkits, videos and more – that serve as an important part of systemic change efforts. As the go-to hub for community collaboration, the platform also offers members the opportunity to share events hosted by the community and their institutions as well as online learning opportunities, such as webinars and virtual workshops. There is no cost to register. AWIS Membership not required.

Equity in STEM “First Look.” Published on SSRN, this quarterly digest allows peers to share a wide range of STEM equity content and early stage research, empowering the community with early access to the tools and knowledge needed for change. The inaugural publication provides a historical perspective of the NSF ADVANCE program and outcomes of and lessons learned from past awardees.

Dr Rochelle L Williams standing outside with buildings in the backgroundRochelle L. Williams, PhD, is Project Director for the ADVANCE Resource Coordination (ARC) Network for AWIS. The ARC Network has a primary focus on organizational and institutional systemic change from both the research and practical perspectives. Before joining AWIS, Dr. Williams served as Research Scientist in the Office for Academic Affairs at Prairie View A&M University. Since 2012, Dr. Williams has worked as a subject-matter expert for the National Science Foundation on issues about cultures of inclusion, broadening participation, and university education programs. Dr. Williams received a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Spelman College and both a Master of Engineering in Mechanical Engineering and Doctorate in Science and Mathematics Education from Southern University and A&M College.

AWIS is a global network with 80 grassroots chapters and affiliates connecting more than 100,000 professionals in STEM with members, allies and supporters worldwide. Founded in 1971, AWIS has been the leading advocate for women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to achieve business growth, social change, and innovation. We are dedicated to driving excellence in STEM by achieving equity and full participation of women in all disciplines and across all employment sectors.

Funded by the National Science Foundation ADVANCE Program, Award HRD-1740860, the ADVANCE Resource and Coordination (ARC) Network seeks to achieve gender equity for faculty in higher education science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. As the STEM equity brain trust, the ARC Network recognizes the achievements made so far while producing new perspectives, methods and interventions with an intersectional, intentional and inclusive lens. AWIS serves as the backbone organization of the ARC Network.

Charu Sharma: The Future of Women in Technology

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By Jaeson “Doc” Parsons

Charu Sharma is the founder and CEO of NextPlay.ai, a company focused on intelligently pairing employees with mentorship and cross-functional relationships. Companies, such as Square, Netflix and Asurion, use NextPlay’s mobile app to build mentorship programs to better equip their employees to build critical leadership and coaching skills.

Diversity in STEAM Magazine spoke with Charu about her background, her insight into women in tech, and the future of Artificial Intelligence.

Growing up in India, she describes her early life as a bubble where women were raised to be stay-at-home moms.

“I was on track to go study at the premier engineering institute in India,” she said, “but I was very attracted to the liberal arts education in the U.S. where I could study a range of disciplines from world politics to physics to film studies and develop my critical thinking skills.”

Her family was unable to provide for an American education, but she was able to gain a scholarship to study in the United States. Charu decided on Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, which was the first institution in the United States where women could earn degrees.

“The values and culture at my college also hugely shaped how I looked at the world and the contribution I wanted to make in society,” she said.

While at Holyoke, Charu began as an intern at a startup called SumZero, which was funded by the Winklevoss twins of Facebook fame.

“I did meaningful business-critical work. And my mentor, the CEO of the company, was a young brown man. I identified with him. The next time I saw a problem, I built a solution for it. The power of role models is huge.”

For that reason, she started GoAgainsttheFlow.com, which through storytelling educated one million women around the world on starting their own businesses.

“I was lucky to have role models, and I wanted them to see someone like them in those shoes. In Go Against the Flow, I told stories of successful women entrepreneurs ranging from an 18-year-old college dropout to a woman in her 50s—they all went against the flow and wrote their destiny. Self-doubt holds us back more than anything else. Which is why it’s so important to create mentoring opportunities for young women so that they know their options and have someone cheering for them.”

Charu is working to effect change worldwide regarding the global opportunities for women. At her core she is driven by leveling the playing field to create real opportunities for women and minorities.

“I realize I’m part of a system and so I try to do three things. Do my part by mentoring women (and men) Creating systems at scale through my work at Nextplay for companies around the world. Partner with like-minded organizations and influencers to educate leaders around the world on creating equal access for their employees.”

Charu sees Nextplay as a conduit for providing equal access to advancement and growth for all employees.

“Nextplay is best in class in building such systems at scale, and I’d love to see us impact tens of thousands of organizations and billions of humans in a meaningful way.”

AI is an exciting new frontier and is being applied to everything from agriculture to health care. Her advice to new entrepreneurs is to fix the problem that they need to solve instead of focusing on becoming an AI company.

“Understand the path you want to follow. AI is becoming a massive field, and each stream requires different training and skills. So do informational interviews—and go find mentors!” she said.

Mentorship has taken center stage—and for good reason—as the experiences of Charu Sharma attest. Creating companies, which provide new avenues for individuals to pursue their dreams through entrepreneurship, will add more depth and opportunities for society as a whole. With the advances of AI and the leveling technology with these advancements, the inaccessible becomes accessible for groups once trapped by the barriers of an ethno- and gender-centric society. Through programs and companies like Charu’s the world becomes more accessible to the genius once hidden by ineffectual economic and social prejudices. The limits are bounded only by the imagination of the dreamers and their mentors.

What it Takes to be a Successful Woman in the Field of Architecture

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By Gretchen Callejas

Frank Lloyd Wright. I.M. Pei. Those are the familiar names of two of America’s best-known architects.

Wright’s distinct prairie-style homes dot the American landscape while Pei’s large but elegantly designed urban buildings and complexes are among the world’s most famous architectural works. Pei’s projects, among others, include the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the controversial glass pyramid in Paris’ Louvre Museum courtyard.

But have you heard of Julia Morgan, who designed California’s famous Hearst Castle?

Or trailblazers such as Marion Mahony Griffin, the first woman to be officially licensed as an architect, and Zaha Hadid, the first woman to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize?

It isn’t surprising if you haven’t. According to a January 2019 article in ThoughtCo., which listed 20 famous female architects, the role that women have played in architecture and design often go under the radar.

While architecture has been a male-dominated field, that is not the case at Felder & Associates, where I have worked since its inception in 2012. We have four women and three men on staff. The forward-thinking leadership of the firm’s managing principal, Brian Felder, has played an extraordinary part in making our workplace a gender free oasis in an otherwise industry-wide testosterone-filled desert.

Why is architecture, like so many other professions, such a tough profession for women to crack?

According to a 2016 article in the Los Angeles Times, only 18 percent of licensed practitioners are women although they make up nearly half of U.S. architecture school graduates. This disparity sometimes is referred to as “the missing 32 percent.” Unfortunately, females leave the field in disturbingly high numbers after they’re confronted with lower salaries, given fewer career-building opportunities or find a lack of mentors, who champion for them.

Full-time female architects earn 20 percent less than their male counterparts, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Plus, architecture’s history as a male-dominated profession has contributed to an all-consuming workplace culture that leaves little flexibility for women expected to balance work and family. According to the Times article, 75 percent of female survey respondents had experienced sexual discrimination on the job, and 83 percent believed having a child would hurt their careers.

My personal observations and experiences have confirmed some of these disparities, but I consider myself lucky.

Fortunately, I’ve been able to maintain a successful professional career while balancing family because I have a husband who shares responsibilities and encouragement. Without his support, it would be more challenging to continue with a professional career.

And while I have quite a few female friends who are architects, I have never worked for a woman nor had a strong female mentor. Contractors and clients often assume I need to ask my male boss for help in understanding construction, codes or a design issue. When I approach a problem with the same assertiveness as a male architect, I’m sometimes labeled with the “B”-word.

Since I was a kid, I dreamed of designing buildings before I knew what that encompassed. And now as an adult would I encourage young girls to enter architecture? Absolutely. I would tell young women (and men) entering the field that determination and passion go a long way. You will be successful if you work hard, tune out the negativity and chase your goals with perseverance. If you want to be an Architect, then go be one.

I finally believe that I am in a position to give them a hand. I’ve been around enough to help guide them and try to be the mentor I never had. I’m pleased we have two young women working with us at Felder & Associates. Alma Johnson and Cathryn Sinclair graduated with architectural degrees from the Savannah College of Art and Design last year and are interning with us as project associates.

Sinclair says she believes the playing field is more level than ever before but there is always room for improvement.

“I hope to continue to see the gap close,” she says.

For Johnson, success is based on how hard you work.

“Now, the gender gap does exist, but I think that the world is evolving on a more modern idea of a woman in the workplace. I don’t see gender. I see what skill sets I need to acquire to be as successful as the candidate next to me,” Johnson says.

I hope their perspectives will remain true and their positivity high after spending 15 years or so in the industry. I suspect they will reflect on their early days as a time when they had to deal with an old and outdated set of standards.

One thing I know for certain. They are in a wonderful setting to avoid bias and discrimination working at Felder & Associates. We are, thankfully, treated equally regardless of our gender, and we treat one another with mutual respect and understanding.

My hope for young women in architecture is that they will continue to mentor the next generations of women architects, have equal opportunities and respect. One day we will be as well-known as Frank Lloyd Wright and I.M. Pei.

Gretchen Callejas is a project architect at Felder & Associates, where she specializes in historic preservation, adaptive reuse, small scale commercial architecture and high-end residential design. She is also LEED-accredited from the U.S. Green Building Council. Callejas earned Bachelor of Architecture and Bachelor of Science in Environmental Design from Ball State University and a Master of Fine Arts in Historic Preservation from Savannah College of Art and Design.

Citations:

  1. Craven, Jackie (2019, January). 20 Famous Women Architects. ThoughtCo. Retrieved from: https://www.thoughtco.com/famous-female-architects-177890
  2. Stratigakos, Despina (2016, April). Why is the world of architecture so male-dominated? LA Times. Retrieved from: https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-stratigakos-missing-women-architects-20160421-story.html
  3. Newman, Caroline (2019, January). Three Generations Of Female Architects Seek To Bring More Women Into The Profession. UVA Today. Retrieved from: https://news.virginia.edu/content/3-generations-female-architects-seek-bring-more-women-profession

 

 

From Refugee Camp to Medical School

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By Samixchha Raut

Eight years ago, I lived in Goldhap, a refugee camp in Nepal, where more than 7,000 people reside in just over 1200 households, without running water or electricity. Today, I’m 22, a senior at Rochester Institute of Technology, majoring in Biomedical Science and on a path to achieve my dream of becoming a doctor. I am studying for the MCAT exam to apply for medical school. It has been a long journey for me and my family.

My dad, a native of Bhutan, fled the homeland with his family. He settled in Goldhap, where he did construction work in a surrounding town, and later started repairing bicycles. He met my mother; they married and had me, and my two younger brothers. But there was barely enough food to go around.

In 2010, my family was able to immigrate to the United States, where we settled in Raleigh, North Carolina. I studied hard and earned a full scholarship to Rochester Institute of Technology. In spring 2018, I participated in a study abroad program with the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE). I spent six weeks in each of three locations – studying HIV/Aids Policy & Politics in Cape Town, Media, Gender & Identity in London, and Family and Child Development in Paris. The experience reinforced my commitment to be a doctor!

As a child, I was stricken with jaundice, and it wasn’t sure that I would survive. My parents worked extra hard and were finally able to purchase the medicine that made me better. Once I recuperated, I decided I wanted to be a doctor to help others.

While studying in South Africa, my class visited a township village, Zwelethemba. I felt like I was back in the refugee camp. The people were living in severe poverty. But you could see and feel the camaraderie and love among the villagers. Every child was being raised by the entire village. I pictured myself in them.

It took me back to our camp and to our struggles. I spent 13 years of my life in a refugee camp, living just like these people, and then suddenly, there was I among them as a scholar. It reaffirmed that I am on the right path. It’s important for me to become a doctor and pursue my passion of helping underserved people by providing them with adequate health care.

The study abroad experience was so valuable because I know if I’m to become a doctor and work with a diverse population of people, then I need to experience diversity. This exposure has boosted my motivation to work hard and give back to the community.

Continue on to Hudson Valley Press to read the complete article.

Get to Know the Scientist of the Year: Dr. Clarise R. Starr

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Dr. Clarise R. Starr—2018 HENAAC award winner for scientist of the year—is a supervisory biological scientist in the Aeromedical Research Department of the Air Force Research Laboratory, 711th Human Performance Wing, United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

As the Deputy Division Chief, she is responsible for the research portfolios for the division. She leads and performs research in biological surveillance, human performance optimization, and force health protection against biological threats. Dr. Starr also serves as the laboratory director for the biological select agent and toxin research mission.

Dr. Starr discusses her career and offers her words of wisdom with Professional WOMAN’s Magazine’s sister publication, HISPANIC Network Magazine.

HISPANIC Network Magazine (HNM): What motivated you to become a microbiologist?

Dr. Clarise Starr (CS): I was always fascinated by the way a virus could mutate and the potential impact of outbreaks on mankind. I read the Hot Zone by Richard Preston and the Coming Plague by Laurie Garrett when I was in college, and I was determined to play some kind of role in preventing the end of the world by these pathogens.

HNM: What advice would you give other women interested in pursuing a career in STEM?

CS: Find good mentors and a good tribe to encourage you, especially when you are frustrated, because the path to a STEM career is not always easy, but it is very well worth it. I have been fortunate to have good mentors from grade school all the way to present day that I can bounce ideas and thoughts off of, and I think that has been part of my success. If you are interested in science, tell your teachers, your Girl Scout leaders, your family, anyone, and ask if they know any scientists whom you can talk to. Talk to as many as you can and then find opportunities to participate in science when you’re in high school, either through science fairs, internships or summer programs if they are available. Science fairs sometimes are judged by people in the community who have a science background, so those are easy networking opportunities. The more people you can talk to about what your interests are, the more insight you can get about types of schooling you need and jobs that are out there that you may never thought required your interests or skill sets.

Mathematics’ Highest Prize Awarded to UT Austin’s Karen Uhlenbeck

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Austin, TX–A professor emerita of mathematics at The University of Texas at Austin has received mathematics’ top international award for the year. The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters has named Karen Uhlenbeck its 2019 Abel Prize award winner.

The prestigious international award, modeled after the Nobel Prize, comes with a monetary award of 6 million Norwegian kroner, approximately $700,000.

“For more than three decades at The University of Texas, Karen Uhlenbeck conducted research that revolutionized geometric analysis and mathematics as a whole” said President Gregory L. Fenves. “She was an inspiring teacher and dedicated mentor to thousands of UT students, motivating them to reach great heights in their academic and professional lives. The Abel Prize is the highest honor in mathematics, and it is one that Professor Uhlenbeck richly deserves.”

Uhlenbeck was cited “for her pioneering achievements in geometric partial differential equations, gauge theory and integrable systems, and for the fundamental impact of her work on analysis, geometry and mathematical physics.” Her work has been described as some of the most important in 20th century mathematics, constituting revolutionary advances in geometry.

The President of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, Hans Petter Graver, announced the winner of the Abel Prize at the academy in Oslo today. Norway’s King Harald V will present the Abel Prize to Uhlenbeck at an award ceremony in Oslo on May 21.

Some of her most noted work focused on gauge theories, providing an analytical foundation for a number of concepts explored in modern physics.

“Uhlenbeck’s research has led to revolutionary advances at the intersection of mathematics and physics,” said Paul Goldbart, dean of the College of Natural Sciences and a professor of physics. “Her pioneering insights have applications across a range of fascinating subjects, from string theory, which may help explain the nature of reality, to the geometry of space-time.”

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Women Aren’t Running Self-Driving Car Startups; Zoox Is About To Change That

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Robo-taxi developer Zoox isn’t the biggest or best-funded player in the self-driving vehicle space and hasn’t logged the most test miles. But when a new CEO joins the Silicon Valley startup next month, it will leapfrog competitors in one important way: It will be the only autonomous vehicle tech firm led by a woman.

The Foster City, California-based company announced last week that Aicha Evans, formerly Intel’s chief strategy officer, will become its CEO on February 26. Her background as a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Senegal distinguishes her as one of the few African-Americans running a tech startup. She will also be the only woman CEO among three dozen self-driving car companies, based on a review by Forbes.

“It’s welcome news in a male-dominated field,” said Bryan Reimer, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AgeLab. “The computer science community to start with is heavily male-dominated, the auto industry is heavily male-dominated. It’s critical that if (autonomous vehicles are) to be a sustaining evolution of technology there’s going to have to be diversification in the leadership as well.”

Women and people of color remain underrepresented as leaders in the auto and tech industries. Looking back to the fabled U.S. government-sponsored DARPA Challenge races of 2005 and 2007 that ignited the robot car revolutions, rosters for the era’s two dominant teams, Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford University, include only one or two women each among dozens of brainy young engineers and computer scientists. Improving gender and ethnic diversity at tech and auto companies isn’t a superficial step – multiple studies find that it meaningfully boosts corporate performance and creates better companies.

“When organizations are represented by people who have similar backgrounds, experiences, education, it can lead to group think – so you’re not getting the most creative ideas,” said Ashley Martin, assistant professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. “Also having social category diversity (e.g., gender, race), can lead to more information elaboration/consideration of ideas and therefore people thinking more carefully and creatively about their decisions, with the potential to lead to better performance.”

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The Rise of Women in Technology

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AnitaB.org—a nonprofit social enterprise committed to increasing the representation of women technologists in the global workforce—announced the results of the organization’s annual Top Companies for Women Technologists program, the only industry benchmark based on statistical analysis of employer data that measures technical employees using a standardized definition of the technical workforce.

Once again, findings show a small but continued increase in the number of women employed in the technical workforce, with the highest increase occurring at the executive level.

In 2018, Top Companies for Women Technologists evaluated 80 companies accounting for more than 628,000 technologists across a variety of fields. Within the participating companies, women held 24.03 percent of technical roles. This 1.08 percent increase is slightly smaller than the 1.2 percent increase in 2017 but represents thousands of new jobs for women technologists.

Although representation increased across all career levels, the most significant increase was measured at the executive level, where the number of women grew 2.1 percent. Women were also promoted at a slightly higher rate than men for the second straight year, with 14.7 percent of them advancing compared to 14.4 percent of their male counterparts.

Organizations continue to invest in building workplaces where women are supported and valued as they pursue career goals. The 2018 results saw significant uptake in relevant policies and programs, including leadership development, gender diversity training, and pay equity policies.

Despite promising gains for women at the leadership level, women from underrepresented groups only make up around 13 percent of the technical workforce. The complete 2018 Top Companies Insights Report offers additional data, insights, and methodology details.

“We’re encouraged by the improvements companies have made to advance and retain women at the executive level,” said Michelle Russell, Vice President of Programs at AnitaB.org. “But in order to create truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive work environments, company leaders must focus on setting the tone and implementing policies for broader recruitment methods. They also must create opportunities and foster sponsorships to not only retain but advance diverse talent.”

In 2018, the five organizations with the highest cumulative scores in their respective workforce size categories (fewer than 1,000; 1,000 to 10,000; and greater than 10,000 technical employees) earned the additional distinction of placement on the “2018 Top Companies for Women Technologists Top Five” lists. These companies scored highest in their respective categories— Technical Workforce of fewer than 1,000: HBO Inc., Morningstar, Inc., Securian Financial, ThoughtWorks, and XO Group; 1,000–10,000: Airbnb, Blackbaud, GEICO, State Farm, Ultimate Software; and greater than 10,000: Accenture, Bank of America, Google, IBM, and SAP.

Source: anitab.org

Dr. Gladys West, Who Helped Develop The GPS, Inducted Into Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers Hall of Fame

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This “hidden figure” is finally getting her due praise.

A “hidden figure” in the development of GPS technology has officially been honored for her work.Mathematician Dr. Gladys West was recognized for doing the computing responsible for creating the Geographical Positioning System, more commonly referred to as the GPS.

On December 6, the 87-year-old woman was inducted into the Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers Hall of Fame by the United States Air Force during a ceremony at the Pentagon.

The Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority member, born in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, earned a full scholarship to Virginia State University after graduating high school at the top of her class. Gwen James, her sorority sister, told The Associated Press she discovered her longtime friend’s achievements when she was compiling a bio for senior members of the group.

“GPS has changed the lives of everyone forever,” James said. “There is not a segment of this global society — military, auto industry, cell phone industry, social media, parents, NASA, etc. — that does not utilize the Global Positioning System.”

Dr. West spent 42 years working on the naval base at Dahlgren, Virginia. During this time, she was one of the few women hired by the military to do advanced technological work. During the early 1960s, she was commissioned by the U.S. Naval Weapons Laboratory to support research around Pluto’s motion. From the mid-1970s to the 1980s, her computing work on a geodetic Earth model led to what became the first GPS orbit.

“This involved planning and executing several highly complex computer algorithms which have to analyze an enormous amount of data,” Ralph Neiman, her supervisor who recommended her for commendation in 1979, said. “You have used your knowledge of computer applications to accomplish this in an efficient and timely manner.”

Continue onto Blavity to read the complete article.

Ada Lovelace: The First Computer Programmer

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A century before the dawn of the computer age, Ada Lovelace imagined the modern-day, general-purpose computer. It could be programmed to follow instructions, she wrote in 1843. It could not just calculate but also create, as it “weaves algebraic patterns just as the Jacquard loom weaves flowers and leaves.”

The computer she was writing about, the British inventor Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, was never built. But her writings about computing have earned Lovelace — who died of uterine cancer in 1852 at 36 — recognition as the first computer programmer.

The program she wrote for the Analytical Engine was to calculate the seventh Bernoulli number. (Bernoulli numbers, named after the Swiss mathematician Jacob Bernoulli, are used in many different areas of mathematics.) But her deeper influence was to see the potential of computing. The machines could go beyond calculating numbers, she said, to understand symbols and be used to create music or art.

“This insight would become the core concept of the digital age,” Walter Isaacson wrote in his book “The Innovators.” “Any piece of content, data or information — music, text, pictures, numbers, symbols, sounds, video — could be expressed in digital form and manipulated by machines.”

She also explored the ramifications of what a computer could do, writing about the responsibility placed on the person programming the machine, and raising and then dismissing the notion that computers could someday think and create on their own — what we now call artificial intelligence.

“The Analytical Engine has no pretensions whatever to originate any thing,” she wrote. “It can do whatever we know how to order it to perform.”

Lovelace, a British socialite who was the daughter of Lord Byron, the Romantic poet, had a gift for combining art and science, one of her biographers, Betty Alexandra Toole, has written. She thought of math and logic as creative and imaginative, and called it “poetical science.”

Math “constitutes the language through which alone we can adequately express the great facts of the natural world,” Lovelace wrote.

Her work, which was rediscovered in the mid-20th century, inspired the Defense Department to name a programming language after her and each October Ada Lovelace Day signifies a celebration of women in technology.

Lovelace lived when women were not considered to be prominent scientific thinkers, and her skills were often described as masculine.

“With an understanding thoroughly masculine in solidity, grasp and firmness, Lady Lovelace had all the delicacies of the most refined female character,” said an obituary in The London Examiner.

Babbage, who called her the “enchantress of numbers,” once wrote that she “has thrown her magical spell around the most abstract of Sciences and has grasped it with a force which few masculine intellects (in our own country at least) could have exerted over it.”

Augusta Ada Byron was born on Dec. 10, 1815, in London, to Lord Byron and Annabella Milbanke. Her parents separated when she was an infant, and her father died when she was 8. Her mother — whom Lord Byron called the “princess of parallelograms” and, after their falling out, a “mathematical Medea” — was a social reformer from a wealthy family who had a deep interest in mathematics.

Lovelace showed a passion for math and mechanics from a young age, encouraged by her mother. Because of her class, she had access to private tutors and to intellectuals in British scientific and literary society. She was insatiably curious and surrounded herself with big thinkers of the day, including Mary Somerville, a scientist and writer.

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