Tech Has a Huge Diversity Problem. This Woman Is Determined to Fix It.

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Valeisha Butterfield-Jones is a political advisor-turned-tech exec, with a goal to change Google.

“I want to create something that will outlive me,” says Google’s Valeisha Butterfield-Jones. “I want to leave behind a legacy. I’m not sure what it is yet, but I want to build something that can empower a community, and I know it’s going to be centered around women.”

If Butterfield-Jones makes fulfilling sky-high ambitions sound deceptively easy, perhaps it’s because of the heights she has already achieved. A former senior-level Obama campaign consultant, she was hired by Google in 2016 for a newly created position: Global Head of Women and Black Community Engagement.

It’s well-known that tech has a gender and a racial diversity problem. As of 2016, the most recent year for which figures are available, Google’s workforce was only 2% black and 31% female. Butterfield-Jones has been tasked with helping the company better reflect the diverse world it works in. “It’s trying to disrupt the status quo,” she says, with a smile that belies her determination.

Butterfield-Jones grew up in small-town North Carolina. Her parents are both prominent politicians: her father, G.K. Butterfield, is a member of congress, and up until recently was the head of the Congressional Black Caucus. Her mother, Jean Farmer-Butterfield, is a North Carolina state legislator. When Butterfield-Jones was in high school, her father was a judge. “I remember going to public school and seeing some of my friends actually have to go in front of my dad in court,” she says. “It was just this serious, I would say, awakening for me. I realized that if you don’t have the right people in leadership positions, then sometimes the right thing doesn’t always happen.”

When it comes to increasing diversity in tech, Butterfield-Jones thinks the greatest challenge is “decoding what the real barriers to entry are, for people of color and for women.” To that end, as one of her first projects at Google, she organized an event called Decoding Race, which took place at nine of the company’s offices around the world. Van Jones spoke with Google’s chief legal officer David Drummond, and over 15,000 employees took part in facilitated discussions about race, gender, access, and equality. She has also founded a program that connects talented students at historically black colleges and universities with Google internships.

“I’m proud to work for a company that really wants to get it right and figure it out,” Butterfield-Jones says. She thinks tech’s diversity problem is a legacy of the conditions under which the industry’s leading companies were founded. “I really don’t believe that as an industry, it’s coming from a place of hate at all,” she says. “I really don’t. I think these companies were just set up by friends of friends of friends, who hired their friends. They scaled and grew so fast that now we’re trying to fix a problem that started at the core of the foundation.”

Continue onto Harper’s Bazaar to read the complete article.

Women in Computer Science: 6 Assumptions to Avoid

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women-computer-science

The shortage of women in computer science is no secret. It’s been a hot topic in recent years, with numerous organizations and campaigns rallying to increase the number of women in jobs related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

But the facts remain. Though interest and aptitude in STEM courses are about equal for both genders in lower grades, by the time kids hit high school, The National Science Board reports that male students take Engineering, Computer Science and Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science classes in much larger percentages than female students.

The disparity only widens from there. Less than 20 percent of all bachelor’s degrees in Computer Science and Engineering are earned by women. The reason for this, according to research published by Frontiers in Psychology, is partially due to social barriers—both real and perceived.

The study argues that many women choose not to pursue Computer Science because they believe stereotypes about the kind of people who work in the field—and don’t see themselves fitting in with those stereotypes. In this way, perceptions can shape career paths.

But STEM careers can be lucrative and full of opportunity. Some reports indicate the demand for Computer Science graduates is higher than universities can churn them out. Additionally, computer scientists have a hand in creating the very tools that shape society. With more women at the helm of those inventions and decisions, other areas of implicit gender bias might be neutralized.

As you can see, there are more than a few good reasons for women to get into STEM careers. We connected with some prominent female tech professionals to get their views on some of the commonly held beliefs that may be keeping women away from the field.

Common misconceptions keeping women from computer science jobs:

  1. The math is impossibly difficult

This misconception thrives for both genders, but in a society where girls have been historically discouraged from pursuing mathematics as an academic interest, it disproportionately impacts women.

“Super advanced math isn’t necessary to be good at computer science,” says Milecia McGregor, founder of Flipped Coding. “The real focus is on logical thinking skills.” McGregor explains that designing algorithms or an architecture depends more on being able to see how the current state is going to affect the next state. While math is definitely still involved, McGregor says many computer scientists don’t need more than college-level algebra to get by.

“The problem is usually that equations get really long or have a lot of different symbols, and it makes things look more complicated than they are,” McGregor says. “As long as someone is willing to take the time to really analyze what’s happening logically, they can figure out how to do their calculations without a lot of math knowledge.”

  1. The work environment is hostile to women

“Especially today, with the media focused on the lack of women in tech, I think young women might expect a hostile work environment,” says Margaret Groves, founder of Engineered Process Improvement. “Or they at least expect to be a stranger in a strange land.”

Groves says while it’s true that women still stand out in many of the STEM fields, that high level of visibility doesn’t mean the work environment will be hostile. “I remember being 24, on a work trip and calling my mother saying, ‘This is a meeting of 50 people, and I’m the only woman.’ She said, ‘Well, at least they’ll remember you!’and she was right.”

Drawing visibility and standing out from the crowd automatically gives you some extra power. “You’ll stand out in meetings, in presentations and in projects,” Groves says. “No one will be able to forget who you are. In business, that’s extremely valuable.”

This is not to say that women won’t experience any hostility. Groves says the early days of her career were sprinkled with men talking over or ignoring her. “I’d wonder if my whole career would be like that.” But Groves soon realized much of the problem was just with certain individuals.

In these cases, Groves advises everyone to document offensive instances and individuals and recognize that the bias is their issue, not yours. Bias cuts in many directions as well. Groves points out that people of color, and even professionals who are younger than average also face barriers.

  1. Tech careers are antisocial

“I thought that all technology roles were very numbers-driven and antisocial,” says Jennifer McDermott, consumer advocate at Finder. A common stereotype is that Computer Science majors stay inside on their computers, avoiding other people as much as possible. Another is the idea that computer science-related careers aren’t often depicted as collaborative or full of teamwork. But many of them are exactly that.

If you prefer to work alone, then you can probably find a job situation to suit you. If you love to work with others, then you can find that too. “Now that I have been working in technology for some time, I have met women from all different walks of life, with different personalities, values and cultures, doing a gamut of work accessing a wide range of skills and experience,” McDermott says.

For a better look at what these careers are like, McDermott recommends asking professionals in the field about their jobs. “The people you canvas will give you real insights into and, often times, encouragement for their line of work. It is a highly rewarding industry with plenty of ongoing opportunities I think many women would love.”

  1. Computer science isn’t ‘feminine’

“I’ve heard plenty of misconceptions about women in tech. We’re somehow supposed to be isolated or exceptionally nerdy or somehow less feminine because of all the men in the field,” says Dasha Moore, founder of Solodev.

“It has developed this undercurrent where young girls don’t feel like there’s a place for them in technology.” Many stereotypes of people in STEM careers—often reinforced by TV shows and movies—involve men working and gaming. But Moore points out how strange it is to assume that certain hobbies or likes and dislikes automatically come with a love of technology or computer science.

You can be an absolute rock star in a software engineering job and also love being in nature, going dancing, reading literature or gaming. “Accept that we are multitudes. Female technologists can love pink and coding at the same time,” Moore says.

  1. Women in STEM careers don’t have time for relationships

“I had a lot of assumptions about the women in computer science before I became one,” McGregor says. “I was one of those people that thought if you went into any STEM field that you wouldn’t find a boyfriend.” Women who want to have a family also worry that their plans are incompatible with computer science-related careers.

Part of this assumption might come from female role models in technology who’ve been the subject of criticism, McDermott points out. “The ones that have received a lot of attention, for example, Sheryl Sandberg or Marissa Mayer, have been largely criticized for holding demanding positions while raising a family.” McDermott says this makes young women believe they will have to choose between a STEM career or their personal lives.

So many women in these fields do have it all, McGregor emphasizes. “These women have the job, the family, the looks and the brains to back it up.” The idea that you have to sacrifice personal relationships or forgo having a family to be a woman in computer science is just mistaken.

It is so important that the perception of women in STEM careers changes, McDermott says. “Young girls need to be exposed to more females in tech, from senior positions down to the [front lines]. We need to normalize women in tech instead of representing their careers as an anomaly.”

  1. A computer science major limits your career options

Even those who feel confident about their career path can get nervous at the thought of closing out all other options. If you like computer science, but worry that you are limiting your career choices, lay that worry aside. Computer science is much more versatile than people think.

“When you graduate, you’ll have more options than most of your friends, and you’ll have a skill that can literally take you around the world,” McGregor says. “Everything after graduation will be drastically different than what you experience in college, and when you have a computer science background, you can go anywhere. Companies will almost kill to hire you.”

A Computer Science major gives you a skill set that companies in every industry want. And if you decide to move on from a programming-heavy role, other employers will love your background. “These days with internet-based services pervading all parts of our life, anyone who pursues a tech career has a ton of opportunities in fields such as internet marketing, sales and tech reporting,” says Nirupama Mallavarupu, founder of MobileArq.

We need women in computer science

These commonly held beliefs about the computer science field may be deterring women like you from pursuing promising careers. While there may be a kernel of truth to many of these beliefs, that doesn’t mean women should avoid computer science. By taking on this currently challenging, yet shifting environment, you can set a strong example for other women to pursue and excel in STEM fields.

“Keep asking questions. Keep challenging the status quo,” Moore says. “If this education is what you want, have an unshakable passion for your classes. And remember—you can do it.”

About Rasmussen College

Rasmussen College is a regionally accredited private college that is dedicated to changing lives and the communities it serves through high-demand and flexible educational programs. Since 1900, the College has been committed to academic innovation and empowering students to pursue a college degree. Rasmussen College offers certificate and diploma programs through associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in seven schools of study including business, health sciences, nursing, technology, design, education and justice studies.

Author: Brianna Flavin
Source:rasmussen.edu/degrees/technology/blog/women-in-computer-science-assumptions-to-avoid/

How This Tech Founder Is Giving The Internet A Face Lift By Changing The Way We Shop

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Shirley Chen’s list of experiences is as diverse as it is impressive: she spent her childhood on China’s national gymnastics team, studied biochemical engineering at Columbia University, interned at Chanel, Bergdorf Goodman, and Vogue, and worked as a media and retail consultant at McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm.

Chen never imagined her resume would include founding a company. But when a former Vogue colleague tapped her on the shoulder to run the marketing and business development for luxury goods brand Moda Operandi, a seed was planted. Chen was tasked with driving customer acquisition with a specific focus on digital e-commerce, and that’s where she spotted a gap in the market.

Companies were so focused on the traffic from traditional platforms like Google and Facebook that they were missing a valuable source of customer acquisition—online content. When consumers wanted to find the trendiest swimsuit, most effective blackout curtains, or best-priced coffee maker, they looked for the answer in online magazines and blogs. The problem with that was two-fold. On the one hand, thanks to an aging internet, many older links on publishers’ pages are dead, leading consumers to 404 pages. On the other, many publishers were using hardcoded, static links to Amazon product pages (some 650 million times per month), meaning consumers didn’t have the opportunity to consider purchasing from other retailers, even if Amazon didn’t have the best price. In either case, it was a lose-lose-lose situation for consumers, advertisers, and publishers alike.

Chen devised a solution with Narrativ, a tech company that’s using AI to #EndThe404 and build a better internet for shoppers by making sure that every time they click on a product link on a publisher’s site, it will lead not just to an active page, but to the retailers with the best price.

“We built a SmartLink technology that repaired broken links online, and we democratized that pipeline that was being hard credited to Amazon through content,” Chen explained. “The mission is to improve the consumer shopping experience and build a better research experience as well when it comes to buying products.”

The results so far have been stellar. In the year since their launch out of stealth mode, Narrativ has raised over $3.5 million in venture capital, rewired more than one billion links, and impacted more than 200 million internet users each month. Narrativ, who has also partnered with notable brands like Dermstore, Ulta Beauty, and New York Magazine, is set to deliver more than $600 million in advertiser value in 2018, and has earned a nod from the World Economic Forum as a Technology Pioneer.

Chen stands at the helm of it all, CEO of a game-changing tech company she was once almost too afraid to build. She recalls the nervousness she felt when the idea first came to her. She approached two former employers to build it, but both declined. That’s when Chen’s mentor, head of McKinsey’s North America Media spoke the words that fired her up: “Why don’t you build this thing on your own? I think you’re being a real coward.” She knew that he spoke not to discourage her, but to push her to make a move.

Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.

Ph.D. with ADHD brings can-do focus to science, life

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In third grade, Jennifer “Jenna” Kotler was perfectly happy counting the tiles in the classroom ceiling instead of doing her work. What she tried hard to do was sit quietly like her classmates in their French-immersion school in Toronto.

Sitting quietly isn’t a requirement at Harvard, a place no one ever expected Kotler to land. At age 8, she was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a learning disability that can challenge even the most determined student.

“I was not disruptive, never got into physical altercations or had vocal modulation,” Kotler said. “But my third-grade teacher knew I had a learning disorder because I could not do the written work. My mom had to stand behind me with her thumbs in my ears and her hands around my eyes so I could finish a page of multiplication tables.”

Twenty years later, Kotler is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Organismic & Evolutionary Biology (OEB) at Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. An evolutionary theorist, she uses clinical and genetic studies to reinterpret how humans think about health, disease, and the human evolutionary path, especially as it relates to biological and psychological development.

David Haig, the George Putnam Professor of Biology and Kotler’s doctoral adviser, worked with her to create an interdisciplinary research program that would accommodate her condition. While she doesn’t count the ceiling tiles in her brightly lighted office at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, Kotler still spends nearly every waking moment combating her ADHD, which affects both her memory and her personality.

“My brain works differently … I struggle daily with how to be in the workplace and constantly monitor myself,” Kotler said. “I’m really enthusiastic and eager, so I talk a lot, and really loudly. I interrupt a lot, and can be distracting to others. I’m extremely friendly, and tend to come on very strong. It sets you up for a lot of heartbreak, because that’s not how people typically interact.”

Kotler credits her early ADHD diagnosis with summoning a mission to help others who face arduous paths and learning to convert her own challenging characteristics into strengths.

“It’s really difficult to separate your personality, your identity, from your diagnosis. They are deeply connected,” Kotler said. “Most of the training I got through school was how to be successful there, which was important, but not sufficient when you are trying to survive the rest of the world. I needed support.”

She got that growing up in a family of feminists and activists. Outings with her parents often involved bringing snacks to teachers on a picket line, or sitting with striking daycare workers. Her early engagement in local activism, and her rejection of gender stereotyping, grew into a commitment to social justice.

“I never felt like I wasn’t smart because of ADHD; my parents did not emphasize my diagnosis, and my family talked to me about complicated issues,” she said. “They knew I was capable and also knew I needed to learn the skills to get things done.”

Kotler combined multiple therapies, including neurofeedback, focus training, and muscle-relaxation exercises, to manage her symptoms, but it was years before she could sit still in a classroom. As an undergraduate at McMaster University, studying psychology, neuroscience, and behavior, she often needed to Skype with her mother to do her work.

“It was hard for me to sit and do the work alone. I have some hyperactivity,” she said. “I just needed to know somebody was there helping me.”

Continue onto the Harvard Newsroom to read the complete article.

5 Ways for Parents to Become Savvy About Hidden Added Sugars

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Hidden Sugars

FREDERICKSBURG, Virginia – Ask 10 parents how much added sugar their child consumes each day and there’s a good chance that at least 9 of them will have no clue or will underestimate it. In fact, research published in the International Journal of Obesity reported that 92 percent of the parents surveyed in the study underestimated the added sugar content in foods and beverages.

The study also showed that kids are more likely to be overweight when their parents are misinformed about sugar in their kids’ diet. Since sugar intake is associated with an increased risk of being overweight and parents are a child’s nutritional gatekeeper, it essential that they know the ins and outs of sugar.

“Added sugars have infiltrated our lives in a pervasive way, making it crucial that parents know how to identify it and how much is too much,” says Dr. Nimali Fernando, a Fredericksburg, Virginia-based pediatrician who founded The Doctor Yum Project. “Without solid information regarding sugar intake, we may be setting our children up for possible health problems later.”

According to the American Heart Association, children should consume less than 25 grams of added sugar per day, which is equivalent to 6 teaspoons, and that children under the age of 2 should not have any sugar-added foods or beverages. They report that eating foods high in added sugar throughout childhood is linked to a higher risk of developing such diseases in adulthood as heart disease. It’s also linked to obesity and elevated blood pressure in both children and adults.

Childhood obesity has become a hot-button issue in recent years, as the number of children considered overweight and obese continues to rise, particularly among children age 2-5. According to a recent report in the New England Journal of Medicine, 57 percent of today’s children are predicted to be obese by age 35.

Parents are often confused when it comes to sugar intake with their children. Sugar that comes in the form of whole fruit is generally good, while added sugar is what parents need to really watch. Added sugars are those sugars that have been used by the food industry to enhance a food’s flavor. While a piece of fruit is a good choice, “fruit snacks” (the kind that come look like soft candy, for example) may not be, because of the added sugars. Even some foods that seem healthy may contain “hidden” added sugars, making it important for parents to get to know the terms and become label readers.

Here are 5 ways for parents to become savvy about the sneaky ways food companies add sugar to foods:

  1. Confusing food labels. Figuring out how many added teaspoons are in a recipe is not straightforward. First, food labels report sugar in grams. So remember this equation the next time you look at a label: 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon of sugar. To further complicate things, food labels historically did not break down added sugar with naturally occurring sugar. So when we look at a label on a sweetened fruit yogurt, it’s often unclear how much of the sugar comes from natural milk sugars and fruit versus how much extra sugar the food company has added. Luckily, by the end of 2018 most food labels will be updated to break down total vs added sugar which will make reading a label more straightforward.
  2. Small portion sizes. A favorite food may not look like it has much sugar per serving, but if you look closely you may notice that the serving size is much smaller than what you may actually eat. Take the example of cereal. A typical serving size for cereal may be a half a cup or less than a cup per serving, which is much smaller than most people will actually eat (especially if it’s really sweet, because you are likely to eat more). If there are two teaspoons of sugar in a serving, but you can eat three servings, that 2 teaspoons quickly multiplies to 6 teaspoons, the recommended daily limit for a child.
  3. Sweetening with “healthier” sugars. Sweeteners like honey, agave and maple syrup may make a food appear healthier, but that doesn’t mean they actually are. While they may be more natural than refined sugar, manufacturers are still adding sugar to a food that may not need extra sweetness. Don’t be fooled by healthier sounding added sweetener ingredients.
  4. Using sneaky names for sugar.Sometime it can be hard to spot sugar in an ingredient list because there are so many code names. One nutrition source reports that sugar can be spotted with as many as 61 different names. Sugar’s many code names include: rice syrup, dextrose, maltose and barley malt, and high-fructose corn syrup. This is a great tactic, as companies are required to list foods by weight in decreasing order. By listing sugar with more than one name, companies may be able to bury sugar further down on the list, making it seem like there is less.
  5. Know the sneakiest foods.There are some foods that seem to have hidden sugars in them more often than others. Be aware of and read the labels carefully on such foods as granola bars, breakfast cereals, yogurt, fruit snacks, and juice. Juice is trickier because technically the sugar in juice is considered naturally occurring. However, it’s more like a processed food. There is nothing natural about a child drinking the equivalent of 5 apples worth of sugar. And when we drink apple juice, there is no fiber to help slow down the absorption the way there is when we eat an apple. Skip the juice and stick with water for hydration and whole fruit for fiber and nutrients instead.

“Childhood is where many of our food habits are formed, making it that much more important that we help our children learn to sensibly navigate the nutritional landscape,” added Heidi DiEugenio, director of the Doctor Yum Project. “The more we can help them learn better and healthier food habits now, the more they will benefit from those choices and habits into the future.”

Dr. Fernando created The Doctor Yum Project, an organization with the mission of transforming the lives of families and communities by providing an understanding of the connection between food and overall health, as well as empowering them with the tools to live a healthy life. The project offers healthy cooking classes, child nutrition classes, cooking camps for kids, hands-on cooking instruction for families, first foods classes, a teaching garden, and online tools to help families make healthier meals. They also offer a preschool nutrition program, with 40 classrooms and almost 600 participating preschoolers.

Dr. Fernando, otherwise known as Dr. Yum, is a board-certified pediatrician. She is also the co-author of the book “Raising a Healthy, Happy Eater: A Parent’s Handbook” (The Experiment, October 2015). To learn more, visit the site at: doctoryum.org.

About The Doctor Yum Project
Founded by Dr. Nimali Fernando, The Doctor Yum Project is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to transforming the lives of families and communities by providing an understanding of the connection between food and overall health, as well as empowering them with the tools to live a healthy life. They offer a variety of community programs to help with those efforts. They are located in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and feature an instructional kitchen and teaching garden for holding classes. To learn more, visit the site at: doctoryum.org.

# # #

Sources:
American Heart Association. Children should eat less than 25 grams of added sugar daily. newsroom.heart.org/news

International Journal of Obesity. Parents’ considerable underestimation of sugar and their child’s risk of overweight. nature.com

Sharon Caples McDougle is somewhat of a “hidden figure”

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Sharon McDougle with Mae Jamison

Everyone knows that Dr. Mae Jemison was the first African American woman to travel into space – but many don’t know that an African American woman “suited her up”. McDougle was Jemison’s suit tech for the historic mission STS-47 aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor September 12, 1992.

McDougle worked closely with her during her training leading up to launch, as well as actual launch day and landing of the space shuttle – taking care of all of her assigned crew escape equipment – her suit, helmet, writing utensils, even her diaper.

McDougle joined the NASA family through Boeing Aerospace Operations in 1990 where she worked as a Flight Equipment Processing Contract team member in the Space Shuttle Crew Escape Equipment (CEE) department. She began her career as a CEE Suit Technician and was responsible for processing the orange launch and entry suit (LES) assemblies worn by all NASA space shuttle astronauts. She was assigned to her first mission STS-37 within a year. McDougle was one of only two women CEE Suit Technicians and the only African American technician when she began her career.

In 1994 McDougle was promoted to the position of Crew Chief making her the first female and first African American Crew Chief in CEE. In her new position she was responsible for leading a team of technicians to suit up astronaut crews. She was responsible for leading her team and ensuring the astronaut crews were provided with outstanding support during suited astronaut training, launch, and landing events. In 1998, United Space Alliance (USA) absorbed the Boeing Aerospace Operations contract and McDougle continued in her position as a CEE Crew Chief employed by USA. She traveled to Kennedy Space Center quite often where she worked in support of many space shuttle launches. As Crew Chief McDougle had the honor of leading the first and only all-female suit tech crew supporting space shuttle mission STS-78.

In 2004 McDougle became the first female and first African American promoted to the position of Manager of the CEE Processing department. In this position, she managed the team of 25+ employees responsible for processing the Advanced Crew Escape Suit (ACES) and related equipment worn by the astronaut crews aboard the space shuttle. Her team assisted the astronaut Sharon McDougle and Lt. Uhuracrews in donning/doffing the suit, testing the equipment, strapping the astronauts into the space shuttle before launch, and recovering the crew upon landing. She held this position until the Space Shuttle Program ended in 2011. Sharon continued working until 2012 to help close-out the program, ending an illustrious 22 year career with the space shuttle program.

Other notable African-American astronauts McDougle has suited up: Charles Bolden, Frederick Gregory, and Dr. Bernard Harris.

During her career she was recognized with the Astronaut “Silver Snoopy” Award, Space Flight Awareness Honoree Award, USA Employee of the Month Teamwork Award, USA Employee of the Month Community Service Award, and the coveted Women of Color in Flight Award from Dr. Mae Jemison recognizing her career as the first and only African American woman suit tech/crew chief in her field. She absolutely loved her job and is proud to have been a part of our nation’s historic Space Shuttle Program.

McDougle was recognized by her home state as a 2018 Mississippi Trailblazer at the 16th Annual Mississippi Trailblazers Awards Ceremony and Black Tie Gala where she received two awards: the Calvin “Buck” Buchanan “FIRST” Award named for Mississippi’s first United States Attorney for the Northern District – honoring a Mississippian who holds the distinction of being the “first” in their profession and the Dr. Cindy Ayers “Legacy” Award honoring a Trailblazer whose singular work and contributions will leave a legacy long after their life has ended.

Most recently, McDougle received the Lifetime Achievement award from the Moss Point Visionary Circle during their 6th Annual Living Legends Ball for her military service and NASA career.

McDougle is also a United States Air Force (USAF) veteran, which is where she began her aerospace career in 1982 after graduating from high school. She served proudly in the Strategic Air Command (SAC) as an Aerospace Physiology Specialist at Beale Air Force Base, CA (1982-1990), reaching the rank of Sergeant (E-4).

During her enlistment she was a member of the Physiological Support Division (PSD). McDougle was responsible for training the SR-71 and U-2/TR-1 (“spy planes”) reconnaissance aircraft pilots on high altitude operations. She performed hazardous duty as an inside observer chamber technician and as a chamber operations team member during hypobaric (altitude) and hyperbaric (dive) chamber operations. During the hypobaric chamber flights crewmembers learned firsthand how hypoxia affects their judgment while flying an aircraft. The crewmembers were taught and practiced how they would handle these types of situations and the importance of wearing all equipment correctly.

McDougle also inspected and maintained flight equipment used for the SR-71 and U-2/TR-1 missions. The equipment included full pressure suit ensembles (helmet, gloves, boots, etc.), harness assemblies, and survival equipment (seat kits and parachutes, and emergency oxygen systems). She sized and fitted crewmembers’ pressure suits, assisted crewmembers in donning and doffing their suits, and performed functional tests before takeoff. She also loaded the survival seat kits and parachutes into the aircraft, strapped-in the crewmembers before take-off, and recovered the crew upon landing.

• 1982 – Graduated from Moss Point High School (Moss Point, MS)
• 1982-1990 – served in the United States Air Force as an Aerospace Physiology Specialist
• 1990 – Joined Boeing Aerospace Operations/Space Shuttle Crew Escape Equipment (CEE), becoming the first African American CEE Suit Technician
• 1992 – Suited up Dr. Mae Jemison, the first woman of color to travel into space (STS-47)
• 1994 – Promoted to Crew Chief, becoming first African American (male or female) CEE Crew Chief
• 1996 – Led the first and only all-female suit tech crew (STS-78)
• 2004 – First and only African American (male or female) promoted to the position of Manager of the CEE department

McDougle spent much of her enlistment on temporary assignment traveling abroad to Greece, Korea, Japan, and England, as well as stateside locations, in support of the SR-71 and U-2/TR-1 reconnaissance aircraft missions. She separated from the Air Force in 1990 with an honorable discharge. During her enlistment she was awarded the Humanitarian Service Medal, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award (2 devices), Good Conduct Medal (1 oak leaf cluster), Training Ribbon, NCO Professional Military Education Ribbon, Longevity Service Award, and was also recognized as Airman of the Month.

NASA’s Katherine Johnson Honored With Statue, Scholarship On 100th Birthday

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Taraji P. Henson portrayed Johnson in 2016’s “Hidden Figures.”

West Virginia State University honored NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson’s 100th birthday with a statue and scholarship dedication over the weekend.

Hundreds of people ― including 75 of Johnson’s children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren ― attended the event honoring the woman who was portrayed by Taraji P. Henson in the 2016 film “Hidden Figures,” according to the West Virginia Gazette. The bronze statue of Johnson was unveiled Saturday, one day before she turned 100.

The scholarship in Johnson’s name was awarded to freshmen Jasiaha Daniels and Alexis Scudero, both of whom are studying in the science, technology, engineering and math fields.

“What makes Katherine so extraordinary is she not only prevailed while segregation failed, Dr. Johnson has continued to persevere and thrive with the gracious poise and clarity that defies mere words of explanation, let alone definition,” said Dr. Yvonne Cagle, the keynote speaker at the ceremony and the space and life sciences directorate at the Johnson Space Center.

Johnson started attending WSVU when she was 14 because she wasn’t able to receive further education in Greenbrier County. She graduated from the university in 1937 with degrees in both mathematics and French, then went on to pursue graduate studies at the institution.

Johnson was a teacher for 15 years, then joined the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics, which later became NASA. She and three other women calculated rocket trajectories and orbits for some of the earliest American voyages into space, including helping astronaut John Glenn orbit the Earth three times.

Continue onto the Huffington Post to read the complete article.

Young Professionals are Shaking Things Up in STEM

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Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski speaks onstage

STEM—science, technology, engineering, and math—skills have become increasingly valuable, and careers in STEM are among the fastest-growing and highest-paying. Yet Latinas only account for 3 percent of the industry. Meet two young professionals who are making their mark in their STEM careers, leading the way for other Latinas to enter into these much-needed, highly paid fields.

Meet Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski. At just 23 years old, Pasterski had a job offer from NASA. Stephen Hawking cited her research. And she built her own single-engine airplane from a kit in her garage when she was 14. Once it was certified as airworthy, she took it for a spin, becoming the youngest person in history, at age 16, to build and fly her own plane. That same year, she was admitted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Photo caption: Honoree and physicist Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski speaks onstage during the Marie Claire Young Women’s Honors presented by Clinique at Marina del Rey Marriott. RICH POLK/GETTY IMAGES FOR YOUNG WOMEN’S HONORS

Now, at 24 years old, she has a standing job offer from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Pasterski, a Harvard PhD student, researches black holes, spacetime, and quantum gravity. Her Harvard peers have characterized her as the “Next Einstein.”

“Be optimistic about what you believe you can do,” Pasterski said in an interview with Marie Claire. In 2013, she was the first woman in two decades to graduate from MIT at the top of her physics class. “When you’re little, you say a lot of things about what you’ll do or be when you’re older—I think it’s important not to lose sight of those dreams.”

Learn more about Pasterski and STEM at physicsgirl.com.

Sources: hertzfoundation.org; and curiosity.com

Meet Nicole Hernandez Hammer. Hernadez Hammer is a sea-level researcher and environmental justice activist who is educating and mobilizing the Latino communityNicole Hernandez Hammer attends the Build series ‘Smart Girls’ panel to understand and address the ways in which climate change negatively impacts them. This Guatemalan-Cuban advocate speaks from personal experience as well as academic knowledge. When Hernandez Hammer was four years old, she and her family moved from Guatemala to South Florida. There, she learned firsthand about the effect of rising sea levels. Photo caption: Nicole Hernandez Hammer attends the Build series ‘Smart Girls’ panel at Build Studio. JIM SPELLMAN/WIREIMAGE/GETTY

During Hurricane Andrew, when Hernandez Hammer was 15 years old, her house—much like the homes of other Latino families near coastal shore lines—was destroyed. She felt “obligated” to learn more about the issue, and went on to study biology and the natural sciences.

Hernandez Hammer was the assistant director of the Florida Center for Environmental Studies at Florida Atlantic University, authoring several papers on sea
level rise projections, before moving into advocacy. She served as the Florida field manager for Moms Clean Air Force and is now a climate science and community advocate at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

In 2015, she was former first lady Michelle Obama’s guest at the State of the Union Address.

Sources: remezcla.com; blog.ucsusa.org

SHWAXX: Atlanta Barber Experiment Produces Cutting Edge All-Natural Product That Manages Various Types Of Hair

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Schwaxx Inventor

Two years and 40 attempts later, Kevin Rodgers’s hair care product had to pass a final test: His wife’s.

Following another late-night session where he mixed a special blend of natural oils in the kitchen of his Atlanta home, the 49-year-old Rodgers waited expectantly as his wife Lorraine rubbed the creamy pomade into her palms and then her hair.

“I needed her approval,” Rodgers said. “After all that work, it wasn’t done until she said it was.”

She looked him in the eye, smiled and gave her husband the thumbs up.

SHWAXX Hydrate and Style was officially born. The all-natural product Rodgers intended to manage beards was a multipurpose reality. Through his experimentations, Rodgers created a water-soluble pomade that softens, hydrates and conditions all textures of beards and hair, especially coarse, thick hair consistent with many African Americans.

His product features Shea butter, jojoba wax, and other organic ingredients that Rodgers toyed with for years before coming up with the right formula.

“Some would say it was a struggle, but I would say it was a journey,” Rodgers said. “An exhilarating journey.” But Rodgers also knew that developing a great product was only the first step in realizing his dream. His next challenge was to transform himself from a creative inventor to a savvy entrepreneur.

Rodgers enrolled in the StartMe Small Business Accelerator program held at and sponsored by the Emory University Goizueta School of Business and nonprofit organizations that empower small businesses.

The 14-week program connects a select group of entrepreneurs to the knowledge, networks and SCHWAXX Cancapital needed to build and develop sustainable businesses. While helping Rodgers sharpen his business skills, the program also affirmed that his wife wasn’t the only person who thought the product he crafted was special: he became one of just 24 peer selected ventures to receive startup capital through the program.  When he and SHWAXX were among the recipients of a Growth Seed Investment Grant—over competition he deemed formidable—his emotions ranged from surprised to gratified.

“Validation comes from within,” he said. “Affirmation, however, came through the steps and procedures that my mentors (in the program) tested me on each session. Halfway through the program. . . I stopped looking to win the seed grant, and focused heavily on my business plan, income statement and balance sheet.

“StartMe gave us knowledge, network, and access to capital. We learned that knowledge must be converted into wisdom, network must become relationships and access to capital begins with a solid business plan and income projections. More specifically, I learned that accounting is the language of business.”

He said he plans to use the $4,000 award to help produce larger quantities of SHWAXX and to expand his marketing platform.

Rodgers attacks his new/old venture with the same passion and work ethic he has applied to other creative works. Those include a short film, “Every Idle Word,” about business, family, loyalty and the struggles within a barbershop which was released to critical acclaim in 2013. It was the visual version of a novel he had written nine years earlier, “The Barber Game.”

He also taught himself guitar and performed under the stage name “Kevo Desh.”

SCHWAXX Display“My wife teases me because I love to create,” Rodgers said. “I create through the arts, whether literary, music, or visual arts. I love to express how I feel, or where I would like to be creatively. So, to me, it is just one thing. There are different disciplines, but it is all expression through the arts.”

Rodgers earns his living as a barber at his own boutique Atlanta shop, The Tilted Crown, replete with two chairs. In developing SHWAXX , Rodgers would end his workday as a barber and begin his evenings in the kitchen of his Atlanta home filing pots with various oils, mixing them to create about 40 pleasant-smelling incarnations over two years, he said. He test-marketed eight of those versions on clients before settling on the blend that earned his wife’s approval.

“Barbering is art and science,” Rodgers said. “I study and practice the science of natural hair, the ingredients that can alter that hair and the results of these experiments. I chose to handcraft new products as an extension of my service as a barber.”

Wife of 24-years, Lorraine, and daughters, Jaiah, a 2018 Magna Cum Laude graduate of Savannah State University, and Peyton, an incoming freshman at Howard University, served as his aides, stirring the oils, jarring them and applying labels to the finished product—or just supporting his vision.

The goal, said Rodgers, who attended Norfolk State University with his wife after they met in high school, is for SHWAXX to evolve into a family business with his three women playing various significant roles in the management, production, marketing and selling of the product. “A local business and brand with global reach. Ultimately the SHWAXX brand will be a go-to product for natural hair consumers worldwide,” he said.

Rodgers’s journey is far from reaching that goal. But he continues to receive affirmation every step of the way. As part of his marketing effort, he showcased SHWAXX at the Bronner Bros. International Beauty Show in Atlanta last February – one of the nation’s most prestigious showcases for African-American hairstylists, barbers and makeup artists.

One attendee, Cedric Frazier, owner of Anointed Cuts barbershop in San Antonio, was impressed. “There are all kinds of products being sold and I usually don’t buy any at that event,” Frazier said. “But Kevin said, ‘Just try it.’ I did—and I hit the jackpot.

“It’s all natural and it’s multi-purpose,” Frazier added. “When my clients use it and come to me, I can cut their hair. But if they use traditional hair grease, it’s going to be a long day. I have to shampoo their hair and get that stuff out of it. And with SHWAXX, you can use it on waves, dreadlocks, twists, beards. It hydrates the hair and you can style it at the same time.”

SHWAXX received an even bigger boost through the hit television show, “Atlanta,” which stars Donald Glover. It was placed in a scene in the first episode of the recently completed Season 2 of the Emmy Award-winning FX series.

“Over one million viewers have seen our SHWAXX logo (through the show),” Rodgers said. “Now we’ve got to help them understand what they saw. . . That’s the exciting part.”

Author
Curtis Bunn
Urban News Service

How Deja Baker overcame long odds and finally landed her dream job

LinkedIn

Her title may be unremarkable—software engineer at a Chicago trading firm—but the journey she took to land it is a triumph that doesn’t fit neatly on a resume.

The phone call that ended the military career of Midshipman Deja Baker came on a rainy morning in Hawaii in late May 2017. Having recently completed her third year at the U.S. Naval Academy, Baker was on leave, one week into a month of R&R—hiking, beachcombing, and Netflix-bingeing at her fiancé’s apartment in Oahu. The voice on the phone was her company officer’s. He told her she was to return to Annapolis immediately and pack up her things. Her time at the academy was over.

“It put me in panic mode,” she says.

That spring, a mysterious bruise on her leg had prompted Baker to visit the doctor, a decision that tipped one unlucky domino after the next: The doctor ordered blood tests; the results were alarming, and he hospitalized her; after a five-day stay, she received a diagnosis of a rare blood condition she chooses not to reveal. Simply put, her blood didn’t clot right. The U.S. Navy insists that its officers bleed properly. So, even though she had already served a tour in Japan as an enlisted sailor, had completed advanced training in cryptologic intelligence, was one year from completing a computer science degree, and was aiming to work in the information warfare command far removed from battle, she was out. She had no job prospects, no cash, and as soon as she packed up her things back on the mainland, no home.

“For the next 24 hours, I just bawled,” she says.

By the next morning, however, Baker had regrouped. Having persuaded her company officer to let her finish the remaining three weeks of her leave, she spent that time researching coding boot camps she could apply to.

Recruiters and industrial psychologists stress the importance of attributes such as resilience and determination (a recent survey by LinkedIn identified four soft skills most coveted by companies—leadership, communication, collaboration, and time management), and employers are devising new methods to assess these kinds of intangible qualities, but the relentless drive Baker possesses can be hard to spot on a résumé. She doesn’t present as tough. She’s soft-spoken and doesn’t like talking about herself. She dresses in startup-employee casual—cropped jeans, Toms shoes, and hoodie. At 27, she still gets carded whenever she orders a beer. Baker’s most valuable talents, the formidable inner strength and insatiable curiosity she’s exhibited since she was a child, are traits that might only emerge over the course of the kind of probing face-to-face interview with a perceptive manager that seems to happen less and less often in this era of job application portals and chatbots. Does an algorithm yet exist that will discern the extent of Deja Baker’s tenacity?

Continue onto Fast Company to read the complete article.

Crime Museum to Host 9/11 Forensic Expert, Offer Discounted Admission for Locals

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As we approach the 17th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Alcatraz East Crime Museum will be hosting a special guest speaker who will share his story of working at Ground Zero in New York.

Arthur Bohanan, a forensic expert, will be speaking at the museum on Saturday September 8, 2018. His presentation is included in the museum admission, with talks scheduled for 12 p.m., 1:30 p.m., and 3 p.m.

“We are honored to have Art Bohanan speak at the museum and share his first-hand experiences of the 9/11 attacks,” says Rachael Penman, director of artifacts and exhibits. “Around the anniversary we always try mark the moment in some way, and we look forward to visitors joining us to hear Art’s powerful story.”

Bohanan is a local forensic expert who arrived at Ground Zero the day after the attack. He spent weeks onsite, using his expertise to do the difficult work of identifying human remains. Working 12-hour shifts in a makeshift mortuary, he was subjected to breathing in a toxic combination of vaporized plastics, jet fuel, asbestos, and numerous other toxins. To this day, he continues to suffer health issues from breathing in the toxins. Since that tragic day, there have been over 1,000 rescue and recovery workers who have died as a direct result of medical issues they developed from working at the site.

In addition to hearing Bohanan speak, visitors can visit the museum’s 9/11 exhibit. The display includes pieces from Bohanan, including his ID badge, hard hat, and respirator mask. There are also additional new items that the museum has added from the cleanup site, including a computer keyboard, melted and twisted from the heat and impact of the towers’ collapse.

Arthur Bohanan will share his experience working at Ground Zero

“I worked in New York City at Ground Zero and the Medical Examiner’s lab for eight weeks on DNA recovery. The personal sacrifice of the dedicated first responders in the aftermath is often overlooked, and I am honored to speak about my time there,” says Bohanan. “The medical issues from the site have been difficult, but I have been blessed and would do it again.”

Bohanan grew up in Sevier County, joining the FBI out of high school. He spent 26 years with the Knoxville Police Department as a senior forensic examiner. Specializing in fingerprints, he also invented a device using vaporized superglue blown onto skin to make prints available. He received a patent for the invention, which is used around the world.

From September 7, 2018 – October 14, 2018 Alcatraz East Crime Museum will be hosting its annual fall local appreciation days. Locals from the counties of Blount, Cocke, Jefferson, Knox, and Sevier, as well as those from the state welcome centers, receive $5 admission when they show their local identification or paystub.

The museum is always adding to their collection and has a star-studded panel of experts who make up the Advisory Board, including those in law enforcement, collectors, a medical examiner, crime scene investigators, and others. The board includes Jim Willett, a retired prison warden, Anthony Rivera, a combat veteran and Navy SEAL chief, and Judge Belvin Perry, Jr., who is best known for the Casey Anthony trial. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit: alcatrazeast.com.

About Alcatraz East

Alcatraz East is the most arresting crime museum in the United States. Guests of all ages can encounter a unique journey into the history of American crime, crime solving, and our justice system. Through interactive exhibits and original artifacts, Alcatraz East is an entertaining and educational experience for all ages – so much fun it’s a crime! This family attraction is located at the entrance of The Island, located at 2757 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN. General admission tickets are $14.95 for children, $24.95 for adults. Group ticket sales are available. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., with the last ticket sold 60 minutes before closing. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit: alcatrazeast.com.