Arab Women Make a Charge into Engineering

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Arab woman engineer looking at plans

By Eric Iversen

Try as people have, getting and keeping women in U.S. engineering programs remain vexing challenges. For a decade now, the numbers have stayed the same: 30 percent of students enrolled, 20 percent graduated. Individual successes like Dartmouth and Harvey Mudd notwithstanding, the overall rates don’t seem to budge.

Meanwhile, in Arab countries, rates of women participating in engineering education have shot past those in the United States. Across the Arab world, in countries both developing and wealthy, women enroll and graduate in noticeably greater numbers.

The reasons vary, and it’s not clear that researchers have fleshed out the whole story. But throughout the Middle East, women’s participation in engineering is notably higher than in the United States. For reasons as diverse as the countries themselves, Arab women exceed their U.S. counterparts in enrolling and completing engineering degrees, and it’s not even really close.

Recent U.S. history

From 1990 to 2000, women’s share of earned engineering degrees in the United States rose from 15.4 percent to 20.1 percent. At this rate of increase, one-third over ten years, we should have seen women earning about 27 percent of degrees in 2010.

The actual result: 18.4 percent.

It ticked up to almost 20 percent in 2014 but still below the 2000 rate after nearly a decade and a half of extensive outreach to girls extolling the opportunities and rewards of studying engineering. Perhaps indicating a break-out, the rate of freshman women intending to major in engineering has gone up from 3.3 percent in 2008 to 5.8 percent in 2014. Until more numbers come in, though, the story remains that women resist the engineering argument.

In Arab higher education, however, the story is different. Women are responding to the engineering argument. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization or UNESCO estimates that women could comprise as many as 60 percent of engineering students in the countries surrounding the Persian Gulf.

Among rich countries:

  • Kuwait graduates women at 49 percent of engineering classes.
  • Thirty-two percent of engineering students in Bahrain are women.
  • United Arab Emirates enrollments increased from 2.9 percent in 2012 to 24.9 percent in 2015.
  • In Saudi Arabia, graduation rates for women in engineering have risen from one percent in 2000 to 10 percent by 2011. And 80 percent of female students show interest in engineering.

Developing countries do well, too:

  • Women are 40 percent of engineering classes in Jordan.
  • Algeria’s engineering class is 36 percent female.
  • Women in Gaza study computer science and engineering at the same or higher rates than men do.

Knowledge-based economies

Governments across the Arab region have made transitioning to knowledge-based economies a policy priority. One study found 17 of the 22 Arab countries have made this commitment, and the education pieces of this project have accelerated women’s entry into STEM fields, and engineering in particular:

  • With national education systems in place, countries have pushed STEM-related reforms quickly and substantially throughout primary, secondary, and post-secondary education systems.
  • Many girls attend single-sex schools, which might (or might not) be a factor promoting their achievement in math and science fields.
  • University admissions are typically tied to performance on tests, which are gender-neutral. Girls who do well on tests move into areas of their demonstrated aptitude.

Prestige

Engineering enjoys a higher social status in the Middle East than it does in the United States. Tod Laursen, president of Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi and former Duke University faculty member, says, “The engineering profession in general holds a lot of prestige in the UAE, and we find that the families of our female students are very highly supportive and proud of their daughters, wives, siblings studying these subjects.”

Startup culture, and the technology industry in general, can be, surprisingly, less gendered in the Middle East. A recent meeting of Internet entrepreneurs in Amman, Jordan, was over one-third women, a rate that attendees confirmed as typical in the field.

Where it shows up

  • Microsoft runs an annual app-building competition called the Imagine Cup. The 2013 competition attracted notice because two of the three all-women teams came from the Middle East: one from Oman, the other from Qatar. Their presence at the competition impressed observers more than the women themselves. “We really didn’t think about it until we came and everyone was surprised,” says Latifa Al-Naimi, 20, a member of the team from Qatar.
  • The Committee of Arab Women Engineers has been recognizing accomplishments by women in the field in public ceremonies since 2011. Jordanian Princess Sumaya, also the President of the Royal Scientific Society in Jordan, has been a staunch supporter of the group, and she also chairs the Board of Trustees of the Princess Sumaya Institute of Technology.
  • When Nerman Fawzi Sa’d, a mechanical engineer in Jordan, was looking for help with some projects, she posted a seven-word ad online: “Female engineers required to work from home.” Within a week, she received over 700 resumes. This response led her to form Handasiyat, a virtual engineering consultancy employing female Arab engineers. A crashing success, the company earned her recognition as one of the 100 most powerful Arab women in the world, according to ArabianBusiness.com.

What we might learn

The factors and forces behind Arab women’s increasing prominence in engineering education and technology fields in general cut in fascinating, confounding ways. The phenomenon has garnered enough attention to be serving as the focus of a two-year, NSF-funded study of female engineering students in four Arab countries.

The researchers themselves emphasize the counter-intuitive nature of their work. Predominantly Muslim countries, notoriously restrictive for women, are unexpected places to go for insights into how to unlock the potential of women in engineering in the United States.

And yet, the data are clear, for all the complexity underlying them. We should clearly keep working on how to bring the lessons from the Middle East back to the United States in a form applicable to our own challenges with the gender gap in engineering.

Source: start-engineering.com

Catalysts for Change

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Women in tech

Women building inclusive cultures, communities, and workforces

By Mackenna Cummings

The annual Wonder Women in Tech Conference has become a top destination for a multitude of women who are doing incredible things in STEM.

Because the industry is still difficult for many women to enter, the conference dedicates panels and brings forth speakers to address, advise, and encourage women in STEM to continue pushing for equality and accomplishing great things.

Mona Lisa Faris, CEO and President of DiversityComm, Inc., moderated one of these panels, “The Strategy Behind Inclusive Cultures: How to get Sh*t Done,” at the 2018 conference in Long Beach, California.

The panel focused on business inclusivity, and panelists included leaders from top tech companies: Erika McKiel, Diversity Program Manager at Google; Caroline Hubbard, Product Strategy and Operations at LinkedIn; Claudia Galván, a Technical Advisor at Early Stage Innovation; and Crystal Tomczyk, Director of Recruiting Programs at Zillow Group. Each wonder woman gave advice and encouragement on how to foster inclusivity in their workplace and community.

Claudia Galván is currently pursuing her PhD, and her doctorate focuses on increasing the number of women in tech and engineering in the workforce. As a region officer for the Society of Women Engineers, Galván helps her own work environment and many other communities support women in tech pursue and achieve careers. From a position of great insight, she stated that, overall, most companies are making great strides in supporting their female employees in tech. Larger companies implement specific efforts to close wage gaps—a change that has slowly but steadily been improving. Nearly 90 percent of tech companies have Affinity Groups and ERGs that support women employees, a great resource that allows women to share their experiences and advocate for equality. “Many of these groups are catalysts for change,” Galván said, which is why it is important for women to join and expand these groups. And, Galván mentioned, there is a lot more transparency with companies as they publish their demographics and how they are achieving their diversity and inclusion goals. It is easier to find companies that are supportive of their women and diverse employees because of this available information.

But once a company has built its diversity goals into something that supports its employees, there is more work to be done. It takes a lot more to sustain these inclusivity initiatives so that each employee feels that he or she belongs.

Recognizing how difficult building, supporting, and finding an inclusive culture at a company can be, the panelists addressed these very issues as well as supported other women who wish to join the field of tech with positivity and inspiration. Each woman shows how success can be found and that the diversity that a woman in tech brings to a company should be celebrated.

Tomczyk weighs in: “What it means to belong versus just be included: Belonging means, ‘I really can

Women Women in Tech Conference Panel

share my opinions, I’m not always right, I may not always get what I want, but I can have the conversations.’” She went on to address the fact that plenty of companies have not quite managed to build an inclusive environment. Therefore, she gave three pieces of advice on how to sustain an inclusive culture as an employee, even when in an environment that lacks one. One: Know who you are and what’s important to you. Two: Be intentional. Three: “Be involved. Be involved in your community so that you’re shaping the opinion of what’s important to you.” While it is imperative as an employee to be inclusive and supportive even when the community is not, it can be difficult to move up and thrive in this environment.

McKiel’s advice for women to move up in their career is to act instead of wait. Don’t sell yourself or your skills short, and be confident in what you can offer to a job. “By taking action, you’re not going to look at a job preference or a listing of what their requirements are and try to figure out where you don’t fit; you’re going to figure out that this is where I do fit,” she said, adding that you can realize that requirement listings may have forgotten about a few skills that you can bring to the job.

This advice is easier for those with years of experience and references, but fortunately, Hubbard addressed how fresh-out-of-college and new employees can stand out at as candidates and recent hires at a company. “Have a rock-solid vision of who you are and what you stand for, and that really translates into the work that you do,” she said. Hubbard recognizes that new employees keep their heads down and focus on work output. This, however, can be damaging because, essentially, what you put in is what you can expect to put out, and if you are not actively building a culture of inclusion, you cannot expect it to exist. Echoing the thoughts and advice of others, Hubbard emphasized the need to be an active employee, regardless of your experience, because supporting others and their belonging will, in turn, help you be supported.

Inclusive cultures and diversity initiatives are being built into our workforce but cannot be successful without active and supportive employees. The importance of knowing your value as a diverse employee and the skills and perspectives you bring to any job is imperative to your ability to thrive and help others thrive as well, as each panelist mentioned. The Wonder Woman in Tech conference is a great resource for women looking to seek more advice and support, as well job as opportunities with the right company. Don’t be afraid to ‘get it done’ because you could be the best person to make these changes happen.

 

Morgan State University Awarded $1.6 Million Base 11 Grant to Launch Student Rocketry Program

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MSU-grant

The nonprofit Base 11 today announced that Morgan State University is the winner of a three-year, $1.6 million Aerospace Workforce and Leadership Development Grant, which will fund a state-of-the-art rocketry lab and launch a student rocketry team.

Former NASA astronaut Leland Melvin was on hand to formally present the check to and inspire university students who were in attendance, to pursue aerospace as the “Next Frontier.”

The commercial space industry is expected to become a $2.7 trillion economic sector in the next 30 years, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Yet the industry faces challenges in recruiting a diverse workforce. According to the National Science Foundation, African Americans make up just 5 percent of the science and engineering workforce.

“We want to ensure that the next generation of space innovators is just as diverse as America,” said Melvin, a veteran of two Space Shuttle missions. “I am excited to see this generation of students getting critical hands-on experience in rocket technology, and I encourage Morgan State’s students to seize this incredible opportunity to reach for the stars.”

The grant, which aims to improve diversity in the aerospace talent pipeline, was announced in June 2018, and drew proposals from eight Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Leland Melvin was joined by experts from Dassault Systèmes, Blue Origin, SpaceX, Sigma Pi Phi fraternity, and Base 11 in reviewing the applications.

“The proposals for the HBCU Aerospace Workforce and Leadership Development Grant were quite impressive,” said Base 11 Chairman and CEO Landon Taylor. “Morgan State is especially well positioned to leverage their existing resources, faculty expertise, and industry partners to launch a successful and sustainable rocketry program that brings hands-on, experiential learning to students.”

The grant will fund the build-out of a liquid-fuel rocketry lab at Morgan State, as well as the recruitment and hiring of an aerospace faculty leader to create a world-class liquid fuel rocketry program. Morgan State aims to bring together these elements to successfully build and launch a liquid fuel rocket that reaches 150,000 feet by 2022.

“We are honored that Morgan State University was selected for this competitive grant, and confident that it will further advance our efforts to increase diversity in the STEM talent pipeline, while also turning out workforce-ready talent in high-demand industries like aerospace,” said David Wilson, president of Morgan State University. “At Morgan we encourage our students to be bold and to aim for the stars, and with the launch of this program, we can provide them with the resources to take on that challenge literally.”

Morgan State will house the fledgling rocket program in its Center for Built Environment and Infrastructure Studies (CBEIS) building, the home of The School of Architecture and Planning and some of the University’s engineering programs. CBEIS is a gold certified LEED green building with solar water heating panels and a bioretention pond. Designed for the needs of the modern university student, CBEIS is also the home to the only earthquake simulator on the east coast and a supersonic wind tunnel. Students studying in this contemporary facility have access to printing labs that contain 2D and 3D printers and a fabrication lab where students can use technologically advanced cutting tools.

“With this very generous grant, we will bring together a cross-disciplinary team of faculty and external collaborators to develop and prepare our students for future opportunities in the commercial aerospace industry. This is an area loaded with opportunities for innovation and creativity, and in need of a more diverse workforce” said Dr. Willie E. May, vice president of research and economic development at Morgan State University.

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Siemens Foundation launches new training program to fill building technology industry skills gap

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The Siemens Foundation is advancing its mission to narrow the opportunity gap for young people in the United States in STEM careers by launching a new workforce training program to fill skilled positions in the intelligent buildings industry in collaboration with Siemens Building Technologies and the Association of Controls Professionals (ACP).

Together, the organizations will create community college training programs and develop career pathways into local K-12 systems, both aligned to new, non-proprietary industry certifications under development by ACP.  This innovative program will focus on reaching traditionally underserved or underrepresented student communities and providing them the opportunity to excel in a software-driven field. The Foundation will invest more than $1.6 million in the workforce training program over a three-year period, with the first iteration expected to launch in DeKalb County in metro Atlanta in late spring.

“Operating and maintaining today’s smart building systems requires skilled, technology-minded professionals, but companies like Siemens continue to have difficulty in finding skilled applicants for these open positions,” said Dave Hopping, CEO of Siemens Building Technologies division, Americas. “The development of career pathways from K-12 through community college, leading to high-quality certification, will help address this gap and grow the diversity of individuals who have an opportunity to receive training, compete for these software-driven jobs and earn a competitive salary.”

“A career focused on how to make buildings smarter and more efficient is truly one of purpose, giving students the opportunity to pursue work in a field that will play a significant role in reducing emissions and making our world more sustainable for years to come,” said Brian Lovell, president of ACP. “There are tens of thousands of jobs in the building automation field open today and our program’s mission is to provide the next-generation workforce with the skills and opportunity to fill these jobs and move the industry, and our world, forward.”

The intelligent buildings workforce training program is a part of the Siemens Foundation’s new SPARKS (STEM Partnerships to Advance Real-World Knowledge and Skills) Initiative, an effort to stand-up focused and employer-informed STEM training programs across industries like smart infrastructure, healthcare, and advanced manufacturing.

The Foundation will work in tandem with Siemens core businesses to develop targeted programming that addresses specific workforce development needs across their industry. Though each program will be unique, all share common goals under the broader SPARKS Initiative to provide economic opportunity for America’s next generation of workers and grow talent for relevant industries.

Since its inception, the Siemens Foundation’s mission has been to ignite and sustain today’s STEM workforce and tomorrow’s scientists and engineers. The Foundation has invested more than $115 million in the United States to advance workforce development and education initiatives in science, technology, engineering, and math. Its mission is inspired by the culture of innovation, research and continuous learning that is the hallmark of Siemens’ companies. Together, the programs at the Siemens Foundation are narrowing the opportunity gap for young people in the United States in STEM careers.

Recently, the Foundation took a closer look at the widening U.S. income gap and shifts in workforce demographics and determined it could better address the education and economic challenges facing young adults by leveraging Siemens own business expertise and the Foundation’s experience in building and implementing youth STEM initiatives. This focus led to the Foundation’s launch of the STEM Middle-Skill Initiative in 2015, its inaugural investment in workforce development.

“The Foundation’s mission, at its core, is to ensure opportunity for those who traditionally have been left behind and make good on America’s most basic social compact  – to ensure that those who set goals and work hard can provide for themselves, their families, and their communities,” said David Etzwiler, CEO of the Siemens Foundation. “Work like the STEM Middle-Skill Initiative and SPARKS partnerships allows us to continue to deliver on this mission by increasing awareness, advancing proven training models, and communicating the value of STEM middle-skill careers.”

Through the STEM Middle-Skill Initiative, the Siemens Foundation has created an ecosystem of national partners, government leaders, and educational stakeholders to further its workforce development mission including the National Governors Association, The Aspen Institute, Advance CTE, New America, among others. These partnerships have resulted in expanded work-based learning opportunities, including new registered apprenticeship programs, the first national conference on apprenticeship, growing excellent community college STEM programs, and building a new generation of CTE students.

For further information on the Siemens Foundation, please visit https://www.siemens-foundation.org/programs/stem-middle-skill-initiative/.

A New Generation of Black Founders Is Rising in Atlanta–and the Startup World Is Taking Notice

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Forget Silicon Valley. Black entrepreneurs have discovered the best tech scene in the country.

On the 7th floor of Atlanta’s historic Biltmore Hotel, high above the Bird and Lime e-scooters below, Paul Judge stands by a window. He points toward nearly every building within a few-block radius. “Five years ago, these spaces were all dirt,” he says.

Now, they’re full of startups–and Judge, a serial entrepreneur who’s been on the tech scene for 21 years, is responsible for much of that growth. The cybersecurity firm he co-founded in 2011, Pindrop, occupies office space on three floors of the Biltmore. Judge’s early stage venture capital firm, TechSquare Labs, is a five-minute walk away–and as he passes by, a man leans out the front door. “Hey, Paul!”

Judge is practically a celebrity in Atlanta’s entrepreneur world, partly because he’s the most accomplished black tech founder in the city. The 41-year-old Baton Rouge native moved here in 1995 to attend Morehouse College, and never left. After a few successful startups, he started using his capital to help other Atlanta-based entrepreneurs get off the ground. Now, a new generation of young and ambitious black founders are working to craft their own versions of his career path.

Atlanta has a 52 percent black population, according to census data, and it’s brimming with entrepreneurs who benefit from what Judge describes as the “three Cs”–colleges, corporations, and culture. Atlanta’s schools–including Georgia Tech, Georgia State, and black universities like Morehouse College and Spelman College–are churning out talented black developers and engineers. Pair that with the city’s thriving black culture–from actors and musicians like Tyler Perry, Donald Glover, and Outkast to politicians like John Lewis and current mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms–and the result is what Mike Ross, a local black angel investor, describes as an atmosphere “like Harlem was in the ’20s.”

Three years ago, entrepreneurs Ryan Wilson and T.K. Petersen opened The Gathering Spot, a private membership club created to build community between black entrepreneurs from local colleges, Atlanta’s celebrities, and executives from corporations like Coca-Cola and Home Depot. “The Gathering Spot, humbly, has become one of the places in town where people know that important conversations are going to be held,” Wilson says. “We’ve been fortunate that other people have come to see this space as one of those central places where you can connect with people.”

His proof: The club has more than 1,000 members, including founders of black-led startups like consumer robotics maker Monsieur, political engagement app Empowrd, and visual recognition tech company Partpic, which was sold to Amazon for an undisclosed sum in 2016.​​ In particular, Partpic co-founder Jewel Burks Solomon, 29, is one of the city’s most recent success stories.

Growing up in Nashville, Burks Solomon dreamed of moving to Atlanta and starting a business. Upon doing it in 2013, she found plenty of like-minded black entrepreneurs experiencing a common challenge: difficulty securing funding. Of the $2 million Burks Solomon raised for Partpic, only $25,000 of it came from a local source–Ross, one of the city’s few black angel investors.

“Atlanta has a high population of black entrepreneurs. The investor landscape doesn’t necessarily look the same,” explains Burks Solomon. “I’m a black person, and I’m also a woman–and if you look at the numbers, we don’t get invested in at the same rate as our white male counterparts.”

Shawn Wilkinson, founder of blockchain cloud storage company Storj, faced similar hurdles when he was trying to fundraise in 2015. “Then I brought on an older, white co-founder,” says Wilkinson, who’s 27 years old and black. “And suddenly, we’re just getting so many more leads and actually closing deals.” The company has since raised $33 million over seven funding rounds, according to Wilkinson.

Some of Atlanta’s black founders believe they can change that equation by building or selling successful companies and then investing in other black founders. “We’re trying to create this momentum where we can start having major exits or major growth in our businesses to really start shaping the ecosystem,” says Candace Mitchell, 31, founder of Atlanta-based digital hair-care startup Myavana.

Burks Solomon is already leading the way. She’s helped fund five minority-led startups since selling Partpic, including a surplus food management platform called Goodr and The Gathering Spot. And successful companies are emerging–the increasingly popular online scheduling tool Calendly, for example, was founded by Tope Awotona, an Atlanta-based native Nigerian.

Black entrepreneurs in other parts of the country are taking notice. In December, Tristan Walker sold his personal care business, Walker & Company Brands, to Procter & Gamble. Rather than relocate his operations from Silicon Valley to P&G’s Cincinnati headquarters, he threw a curve ball: The company would be moving to Atlanta. “I’ve been spending more time over the past year in Atlanta, and I get this feeling that I had back in 2008 when I came to the Bay Area where you knew something was about to pop off,” Walker explains. “I feel that way in Atlanta now across every industry.”

Continue onto Inc. to read the complete article.

Conference Strengthens Pacific Island Pipeline Into STEM Careers

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The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo hosted a conference in January for educators from Hawaiʻi and 10 Pacific Island nations who are working towards encouraging students from underrepresented populations to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

At the conference, the Islands of Opportunity Alliance (IOA), led by the UH Hilo chancellor’s office, kicked off their 2019 STEM mentorship programs, which are funded by $600,000 of a continuing $4 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

Topics at the conference included inter-campus programs, curriculum enhancements, student learning communities, peer tutoring, enrichment through research experiences, the promotion of STEM graduate degrees and employment, institutional support and sustainability plans.

UH Hilo serves as the administrative hub for the IOA, including 10 other partner institutions in American Sāmoa, Guam, Hawaiʻi, Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands.

“We share the common goal of increasing underrepresented professionals in STEM fields and I feel inspired by each member of our alliance,” said Marcia Sakai, interim chancellor at UH Hilo and principal investigator of the program.

The main goal of the alliance is to increase the number of underrepresented minority students, with a focus on Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students who graduate with baccalaureate degrees in STEM disciplines, and go on to pursue graduate degrees or enter a STEM career in their local communities.

“The benefit is not just the STEM degree, but what the students are going to do with their STEM degree,” said Joseph Genz, UH Hilo associate professor and IOA project director. “In the vast majority of cases, that means going back home to their island communities and using their degrees to build up the capacities of their communities, fostering a system of self-empowerment.”

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Minority ph.D. students need institutional change to make larger impact in STEM fields

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Women and underrepresented minorities in STEM fields are more likely to advance professionally, publish more research and secure postdoctoral and faculty positions if their institutional culture is welcoming and sets clear expectations, according to a study of hundreds of Ph.D. students at four top-tier California research universities.

University of Washington Provost Mark Richards, the study’s senior author, and a team of researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, UCLA, Stanford and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) sought to understand how gender, race and ethnicity impact graduate students’ success in math, physical sciences, computer sciences and engineering, as measured by publication rates in academic journals.

The findings, published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE, suggest that doctoral scholars in STEM fields are more likely to publish if enrolled in well-structured graduate programs that lay out clear, unbiased expectations for assessing students and supporting their careers.

“Our study strongly indicates that the onus should not fall on minority students to make changes to succeed in STEM settings,” said Aaron Fisher, an assistant professor of psychology at UC Berkeley and lead author of the study. “Institutional changes that make students feel welcome and provide clear guidelines and standards for performance are optimal ways to ensure the success of all students.”

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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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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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Hyundai shows off ‘walking car’ at CES

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The Hyundai Elevate Walking Car

Hyundai has shown off a small model of a car it says can activate robotic legs to walk at 3mph (5km/h) over rough terrain and also able to climb a 5ft (1.5m) wall and jump a 5ft gap.

The Hyundai Elevate could be useful for emergency rescues following natural disasters, Hyundai said.

It was part of a project exploring “beyond the range of wheels”, it added.

The concept has been in development for three years and was unveiled at the CES technology fair in Las Vegas.

“When a tsunami or earthquake hits, current rescue vehicles can only deliver first responders to the edge of the debris field. They have to go the rest of the way by foot,” said Hyundai vice-president John Suh.

“Elevate can drive to the scene and climb right over flood debris or crumbled concrete.”

Mr. Suh also suggested that wheelchair users could be collected via the vehicles, which could “walk” up to the front door of a building with step-only access.

Prof David Bailey, from Aston Business School, said: “Often car companies bring out lots of concepts which may or may not make it into production but it’s great to think in new ways about mobility.

“For most of us, it’s going to be wheels and roads but in extreme situations there may be scope for this sort of thing.

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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