Austin, TX–A professor emerita of mathematics at The University of Texas at Austin has received mathematics’ top international award for the year. The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters has named Karen Uhlenbeck its 2019 Abel Prize award winner.
The prestigious international award, modeled after the Nobel Prize, comes with a monetary award of 6 million Norwegian kroner, approximately $700,000.
“For more than three decades at The University of Texas, Karen Uhlenbeck conducted research that revolutionized geometric analysis and mathematics as a whole” said President Gregory L. Fenves. “She was an inspiring teacher and dedicated mentor to thousands of UT students, motivating them to reach great heights in their academic and professional lives. The Abel Prize is the highest honor in mathematics, and it is one that Professor Uhlenbeck richly deserves.”
Uhlenbeck was cited “for her pioneering achievements in geometric partial differential equations, gauge theory and integrable systems, and for the fundamental impact of her work on analysis, geometry and mathematical physics.” Her work has been described as some of the most important in 20th century mathematics, constituting revolutionary advances in geometry.
The President of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, Hans Petter Graver, announced the winner of the Abel Prize at the academy in Oslo today. Norway’s King Harald V will present the Abel Prize to Uhlenbeck at an award ceremony in Oslo on May 21.
Some of her most noted work focused on gauge theories, providing an analytical foundation for a number of concepts explored in modern physics.
“Uhlenbeck’s research has led to revolutionary advances at the intersection of mathematics and physics,” said Paul Goldbart, dean of the College of Natural Sciences and a professor of physics. “Her pioneering insights have applications across a range of fascinating subjects, from string theory, which may help explain the nature of reality, to the geometry of space-time.”
Let’s say you want to be a part of building something great in your career—something people can tangibly benefit from, something no one else has thought of, and something you can point to and proudly say, “Hey, I made that.” If that’s the case, look no further for inspiration than Miriam Daniel.
She’s currently the VP of Alexa and Echo Devices at Amazon. That means she and her team are the brains behind the imaginary woman who answers all the random requests you make, from “Alexa, tell me what the weather’s like” to “Alexa, set a reminder to pick up milk” to “Alexa, play ‘Baby Shark.’”
We sat down with Daniel because, quite frankly, her career path is pretty cool—from working as a developer to joining the leadership team at Intel (and staying on for more than 14 years) to transitioning into AI and eventually landing her role at Amazon. Besides joining Amazon at a time when AI and speech technology was just taking off, Daniel has had the pleasure of building a product from the start that can help people—especially those who are disabled—lead more efficient and happier lives.
Here’s how she broke into this creative field, how she balances being a tech leader and a parent, and what advice she has for aspiring innovators.
Tell us a bit about your career path and how you ended up at Amazon.
I spent the first few years of my career working as a developer in various service industries, and then moved on to work at Intel for more than 14 years. I started there as an engineering leader before transitioning to product and business roles, eventually becoming the Director of Innovation Strategy and Product Management.
Then five years ago, I received a call from Amazon. After going through a rigorous interview process and consulting with a couple of my mentors, I decided to make the move. Today, I lead a talented, multidisciplinary team that spends a lot of time thinking about customers—what they want out of voice-driven devices and specifically how Alexa can make their lives easier and more convenient.
What made you want to enter this field?
I started dabbling in speech and AI while running the innovation group at Intel. The power of voice as an intuitive and natural means of human interaction with technology fascinated me. When presented with the opportunity to lead the Echo product line at Amazon, I jumped at it, knowing that this could be a transformative leap in using voice as the ultimate simplifier, cutting through many layers of friction to access information and services in the cloud. I was also excited to be a part of an early-stage innovative product with the ability to shape it from the start. I was ready for a big challenge.
What gets you excited about your job?
I’m excited by the fact that I get to innovate every day. Sometimes I feel like a kid in a toy factory—I dive right into putting the puzzle pieces together to solve hard problems that in the end simplify lives.
Building an entirely new way of interacting with products through voice and visuals was an incredibly difficult problem to solve. When we started, this was a completely new means of interacting with machines, and to see how far we’ve come (of course, there’s still so much more to do) motivates me every day.
What’s the biggest challenge in your role? The biggest reward?
The challenge is that building an Echo device is about so much more than just creating a piece of hardware—it’s about designing an experience, and it’s an experience that’s getting smarter every day. There’s no playbook here or precedent to go off of—we’re exploring and innovating as we go. There’s no such thing as “done.”
The biggest reward is when a customer tells me that they love the products we’re building and how much voice technology has changed their lives for the better. We hear anecdotes from parents, grandparents, teachers, distant family members, and customers with disabilities all the time, and their stories are truly heart-warming.
What’s one thing people don’t know Alexa can do?
Alexa is always getting smarter and is now starting to do things for customers that once were considered science fiction. One example is a feature called “Hunches.” As you interact with your smart home, Alexa learns more about your day-to-day routine and can sense when connected smart devices—such as lights, locks, switches, and plugs—are not in the state that you prefer.
For example, if your living room light is on when you say “Alexa, good night,” Alexa will respond with “Good night. By the way, your living room light is on. Do you want me to turn it off?”
Continue on to The Muse to read the complete article.
Dr. Wendy Okolo is a Nigerian-born National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) aerospace engineer and the first Black woman to earn a doctorate in the field.
According to her profile on the organization’s website, Okolo works as a special emphasis programs manager at Ames Research Center and is a research engineer in the Discovery and Systems Health Technology (DaSH) Area. Her role includes researching control systems applications, systems health monitoring and creating solutions for issues related to the designing of aircraft and spacecraft.
She earned her B.S. and Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Arlington in 2010 and 2015. Okolo completed her dissertation research with a focus on aircraft fuel-saving methods. Her research was funded by several organizations including the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), American Institute for Aeronautics & Astronautics (AIAA) and Texas Space Grant Consortium (TSGC).
Per the Philadelphia Tribune, Okolo is the first Black woman to earn a doctorate in aerospace engineering at just 26 years old. Along with accomplishing the prestigious honor, she was the winner of the Black Engineer of the Year Awards (BEYA) Global Competitiveness Conference award for being the most promising engineer in the United States government.
Before his death, the rapper was involved in projects focused on revitalizing his South LA neighborhood and supporting STEM among black and brown youths.
When Los Angeles–based rapper Nipsey Hussle was shot and killed on March 31 at the age of 33, his death plunged people in his LA community, as well as others all over the world, into resounding grief.
It wasn’t only that he was young and beloved or that he was a father of two who was in a relationship with actress Lauren London. Hussle (whose given name was Ermias Asghedom) was lauded through his life not just for his music but also for his service to the black community.
In the days after his death, there has been much talk about much he did for the black community in South LA, but most people didn’t realize how far-reaching his activism and entrepreneurship were:
He was an advocate for STEM among black and brown kids
Hussle was an investor in Vector90, a technology space founded by Gross. The center is home to a community program called Too Big to Fail, which serves as a link between young people in the inner city and Silicon Valley. The aim: to train underrepresented and disenfranchised black and brown youths in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. Hussle and Gross reportedly had plans to expand the program across the country.
He was in the beginning stages of addressing gun violence with the LAPD
On March 31, LA Police Commissioner Steve Soboroff revealed that Hussle had a scheduled meeting with the LAPD the day after his death to discuss gun violence in the city. Hussle, a former gang member, spoke openly about his experiences with gang culture and his desire to focus on “giving solutions and inspiration” to young black men like him.
He was revitalizing the community with new real estate developments
In a bid to bring black-owned businesses and jobs to his South LA neighborhood, Hussle reportedly spent several million dollars on a strip mall property on Crenshaw Boulevard and Slauson Avenue with several stores, including his “smart store” Marathon Clothing.
He had bigger plans in the world of real estate: In February he told Forbes that his goal was to work with black community leaders in other U.S. cities to create similar business and real estate hubs designed to benefit rather than push out the black community.The plan was part of an initiative called Our Opportunity, co-founded by Hussle and led by his business partner Dave Gross.
And the woman whose crucial algorithm helped make it possible is just 29 years old.
Katie Bouman was a PhD student in computer science and artificial intelligence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) when, three years ago, she led the creation of an algorithm that would eventually lead to an image of a supermassive black hole at the heart of the Messier 87 galaxy, some 55m light years from Earth, being captured for the first time.
Bouman was among a team of 200 researchers who contributed to the breakthrough, but on Wednesday, a picture of her triumphantly beaming as the image of the black hole materialised on her computer screen went viral, with many determined that Bouman’s indispensable role was not written out of history – as so often has been the case for female scientists and researchers.
The data used to piece together the image was captured by the Event Horizon telescope (EHT), a network of eight radio telescopes spanning locations from Antarctica to Spain and Chile. Bouman’s role, when she joined the team working on the project six years ago as a 23-year-old junior researcher, was to help build an algorithm which could construct the masses of astronomical data collected by the telescope into a single coherent image.
Though her background was in computer science and electrical engineering, not astrophysics, Bouman and her team worked for three years building the imaging code. Once the algorithm had been built, Bouman worked with dozens of EHT researchers for a further two years developing and testing how the imaging of the black hole could be designed. But it wasn’t until June last year, when all the telescope data finally arrived, that Bouman and a small team of fellow researchers sat down in a small room at Harvard and put their algorithm properly to the test.
With just the press of a button, a fuzzy orange ring appeared on Bouman’s computer screen, the world’s first image of a supermassive black hole, and astronomical history was made. In a post on social media, Bouman emphasised the collaborative efforts that had made the imaging of the black hole possible.
“No one algorithm or person made this image, it required the amazing talent of a team of scientists from around the globe and years of hard work to develop the instrument, data processing, imaging methods, and analysis techniques that were necessary to pull off this seemingly impossible feat,” said Bouman. While their discovery was made in June, it was only presented to the world by all 200 researchers on Wednesday.
WonderWorks, the indoor amusement park for the mind, is scheduled to open in Branson, Missouri in October 2019. They are teaming up with schools in Branson and Hollister County, to offer in-service educational opportunities.
These programs will begin the week of April 15, 2019. This is just one of many STEM activities that WonderWorks offers and focuses on using scientific methods to engage students in learning about both the principles of pressure and fingerprints.
“Since WonderWorks is under construction, we are happy to bring these great programs to the classrooms” says Janine Vaccarello, chief operating officer at WonderWorks. “These hands-on programs provide them with fun STEM lessons that will engage students and expand their understanding of the topics.”
The interactive lessons that will be taken to the local schools include:
The Principles of Pressure:
This program will be in-service at local elementary schools. It uses the scientific method to understand how pressure works and specifically how you can lay on a full size bed of nails and not get punctured. This is a two-part demo that includes understanding how much pressure it takes a nail to puncture something. The kids will work with the teacher to develop a hypothesis, conduct an experiment using a balloon on a nail, and then repeat the experiment using a block of wood. They will use math to determine the weight that can be on the nail before the balloon pops.
This program will be in-service at local middle schools. Using scientific method and reasoning, the interactive learning program includes having students look at their fingertips through the magnifying lens and examine the patterns on their skin. They will learn how unique fingerprints are formed, they will make a set of their own printed fingerprints, and will compare their unique pattern with common types of fingerprints.
Both sessions will give students a hands-on learning opportunity that should boast their science interests. The programs offer opportunities for interaction, using scientific methods, creating hypothesis, and evaluating the outcome.
“We are excited that WonderWorks is entering the Branson market and bringing educational programs not only within their attraction but to the schools directly,” says Brian Wilson, superintendent at Hollister Schools. “They are committed to STEM programs and are helping teachers by creating an interactive learning environment.”
WonderWorks Branson will be the company’s 6th location. WonderWorks new home was the previous location of Baldknobbers Theater located at 2835 W 76 Country Blvd. The new location will feature the attraction’s iconic exterior – a grandiose house flipped upside-down. The unique façade is part of WonderWorks’ background story. According to legend, it was once a top-secret laboratory that was lifted and flipped on its roof by an experiment gone awry. From its exterior to its interior, visitors of all ages will enjoy a family friendly, out of this world experience, which will make for some amazing memories.
The interactive indoor amusement park offers STEM-focused activities for all ages. There are over 100 hands-on activities that are focused on the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math. Some of the exhibits will include a bubble room, Professor Wonder’s adventure, interactive sandbox, illusion art gallery, and xtreme 360 bikes. For more information on WonderWorks, visit the site at: wonderworksonline.com/branson-coming-soon/.
WonderWorks, the upside-down adventure, is a science focused, indoor amusement park for the mind, that holds something unique and interesting for visitors of all ages. There are four floors of non-stop “edu-tainment,” with over 100 hands-on and interactive exhibits that serve a STEM educational purpose to challenge the mind and spark the imagination. WonderWorks has locations in Orlando, Pigeon Forge, Myrtle Beach, Panama City Beach, and Syracuse. For more information visit: wonderworksonline.com.
Drive through any city in America and you are bound to see some graffiti. Some people love it, while others hate it. These images, letters and paintings found on buildings, bridges and other surfaces can often signal decay and bring property values down.
This has prompted many cities to create designated graffiti art spaces, and many businesses have commissioned artists to create murals to deter graffiti on their walls. Putting graffiti art into the spotlight, Alcatraz East Crime Museum will be holding its 2nd annual Graffiti Art Contest on Saturday, June 1, 2019. All graffiti artists are invited to compete for cash prizes and the chance to have their work on exhibit in the museum.
“We are happy to encourage people to think outside the box and work with those who love this form of public art,” explains Rachael Penman, director of artifacts and exhibits at Alcatraz East Crime Museum. “This contest gives artists a chance to showcase their talent and a rare chance to have their art featured in a museum.”
The artists who are selected to compete in the contest will be staged in the parking lot behind the Alcatraz East Crime Museum. The event is open to the public. There will be three winners, who will be awarded $750, $350, and $200 respectively. Each of the three winners will also have their graffiti art put on exhibit inside the museum.
Contestants must pre-qualify by entering online and must be at least 18 years old. The deadline to enter for consideration for the contest is May 8, 2019. Artists can review the full guidelines for the contest at: alcatrazeast.com/graffiti-contest/.
The judges’ panel includes local representatives of law enforcement and the arts, including Pigeon Forge Chief of Police Richard Catlett.
In 2018, Alcatraz East Crime Museum held its first annual graffiti contest, with contestants from both the local area and surrounding states. The grand prize went to Steve Hall of Maryville, Tennessee.
“Everyone competing was very kind, and it was inspiring to see all different artists with different talents, backgrounds, mediums, and ideas come together and celebrate their art,” says Emily Overbey, an artist who competed in last year’s competition.
The Alcatraz East Crime Museum is located at the entrance to The Island, at 2757 Parkway in Pigeon Forge. They are located near the Margaritaville Hotel and Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen. The museum is always adding to its 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 and $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.
WonderWorks in Orlando is on an out of this world mission to inspire kids to be interested in space exploration. Teachers who took part in the WonderKids program nominated students to meet an astronaut will get the opportunity to do so on April 25-26, 2019.
WonderWorks has teamed up with Dr. Don Thomas, an astronaut who has orbited the Earth nearly 700 times, to visit Orlando school students. The WonderKids students will also be honored at a special ceremony on April 27, 2019, at 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. Members of the media are invited to attend the schools the astronaut visits, the ceremony and the meet and greet.
“We are excited to be able to have someone as special as Dr. Thomas team up with us to meet Orlando area students,” states Brian Wayne, General Manager for WonderWorks Orlando. “His insight and experiences will be fascinating to the children and will hopefully further inspire a love of science.”
The dates for the program are as follows:
· Astronaut Dr. Don Thomas will visit local schools on April 25-26, 2019.
· The WonderKids official ceremony will be held April 27, 2019, at 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.
· A public meet and greet will be held on April 27, 2019, from 10:00 a.m. to noon.
“The WonderKids program is one of a kind and one that is special for kids who love to explore science,” said Dr. Don Thomas, “It’s an honor to participate in programs that encourage young minds to desire science and I look forward to teaming up with WonderWorks.”
WonderKids is a program that is offered by WonderWorks that focuses on student achievement through a variety of categories, including academic excellence, service to the community, and future scientist. Its mission is to make science fun and interesting. The program is open to students across Central Florida. Only a limited number of students are accepted into the program. The deadline for nominations was March 25, 2019. Those interested in learning more about the program can visit the website:wonderworksonline.com/orlando/wonderkids/.
WonderWorks in Orlando is an adventure that tourists and locals both enjoy. The indoor amusement park is open 365 days per year from 9:00 a.m. until midnight. WonderWorks features a glow-in-the-dark ropes course, laser tag, 4D XD motion theater, magic comedy dinner show, and the Wonder Zones, which include interactive exhibits on natural disasters, space discovery, light and sound zone, imagination lab, far out art gallery, and a physical challenge zone.
WonderWorks the upside-down adventure is a science-focused indoor amusement park for the mind that holds something unique and interesting for visitors of all ages. Guests enter through an upside-down lobby with the ceiling at their feet and the ground above their head and must pass through an inversion tunnel to be turned right side up. There are three floors of nonstop “edu-tainment,” with over 100 hands-on and interactive exhibits that serve a STEM educational purpose to challenge the mind and spark the imagination. WonderWorks Orlando is also home to The Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show. WonderWorks has locations in Orlando, Pigeon Forge, Myrtle Beach, Panama City Beach, and Syracuse. For more information, visit the site at:wonderworksonline.com/orlando/.
Every student is different. Each comes into the classroom with different life experiences, learning abilities and personalities. In an evolving society where employers are rapidly demanding workers with STEM skills and schools are struggling to keep up, a tailored approach to STEM education – one that includes mentorship and accessibility – is required to ensure every student finds success.
Mentorship Makes a Positive Impact
For underserved, underrepresented, and vulnerable students, mentorship can make the difference in delivering positive STEM education outcomes. Many school-aged young adults face challenging circumstances, such as a lack of positive role models, insufficient access to education or other financial or societal barriers, but those who have a mentor are 55 percent more likely to be enrolled in college than those who do not, according to a study by Civic Enterprises. As more employers seek STEM-qualified workers, there are plenty of students who are poised to meet this need – with equitable support.
“Students who question if there’s a place for them in engineering or technology gain self-confidence working with team mentors – especially if they share similar interests or backgrounds,” said Don Bossi, president of FIRST®, a global nonprofit that fosters kids’ interest in STEM fields through robotics competitions. “Our organization relies heavily on professionals and educators who dedicate their time to mentorship, and students learn so much from them.”
Many students – especially young women and people of color – need encouragement and guidance to understand the opportunities that exist for them in STEM. Melissa Smith, a senior user experience researcher at Google and YouTube – and a FIRST alum – only joined her middle school robotics club because she mistook it for an aerobics club. However, Mr. Turner, her science teacher, encouraged her inquisitive nature, and Ms. Foy, her robotics coach, created a welcoming environment by taking the time to teach her how to use everything in the robotics lab, one-on-one. “I remember, very early on in robotics, I was this awkward kid,” said Smith. “Ms. Foy encouraged us to ask questions if we didn’t know something.” Smith says this judgement-free setting is extremely important for young students’ success, and she now calls joining the robotics club the luckiest mistake she’s ever made. Her interest in science blossomed from field trips to the Everglades and space camp, and Smith now works on human and computer interaction for one of the world’s biggest technology companies.
Connecting Disadvantaged Students with Mentors
Whether it’s family economic hardship, gender or racial barriers or a dearth of basic educational resources in communities, disadvantaged young people are systemically hampered by insufficient access to STEM education and relevant mentors. Organizations like FIRST provide students and classrooms with STEM resources, including grants and scholarships, and actively connect students with corporate partners to provide hands-on learning experiences and guidance from professionals. Data shows the approach works: Across all demographic groups (gender, race, economic status and geography), FIRST students show significant gains in STEM knowledge, STEM interest, STEM career interest, STEM identity and STEM activity compared to their peers who don’t participate.
“Companies, education systems and nonprofits must invest in their communities to deliver positive STEM education outcomes,” said Bossi. “There is tremendous untapped potential in underserved communities, and all stakeholders can play a role in connecting students with the resources they need to be successful. We have worked with corporate partners to provide resources and develop strategies that address inequalities in access to STEM education. We hope these resources enable more educators and community leaders to inspire students of all backgrounds to reach their full potential.” For example, FIRST and its equity, diversity and inclusion sponsors have awarded $1.2 million in grants to-date to more than 38 communities across the U.S. and Canada so they can develop strategies to bring STEM engagement opportunities to disadvantaged young people. FIRST also partnered with the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE) to develop free online training for mentors who commit to create diverse, inclusive and equitable teams.
Well into her professional career, Smith now pays it forward by mentoring and volunteering as much as she can, including attending information sessions where middle and high school students can interact with Google engineers, and volunteering as a head referee for FIRST competitions. She has seen firsthand how students gain confidence and come out of their shells when they get excited about learning, and how interacting with industry professionals gives students the opportunities to gain skills beyond robotics. Smith says the most rewarding part of mentorship comes when students learn to deal with adversity and learn from failure during the competition process. “The most exciting part for me is seeing how the kids learn to handle when something bad happens. The students are clearly upset, but they come up to you and thank you for helping them. It’s one of the mentoring moments I truly treasure in my current role, when the students are upset but remain able to have a mature conversation and understand that losing is sometimes part of the experience.”
Bossi echoes this sentiment and adds that mentorship doesn’t have to end when a student graduates. “Good mentorship doesn’t have an expiration date, and it’s gratifying to both the mentor and mentee to watch the latter grow and come into their own. Especially for disadvantaged populations, who may continue to face barriers as they advance in their careers, mentorship can create very valuable lifelong relationships.”
Meeting the Needs of All Students
Educators alone cannot be expected to meet the needs of a diverse student body: The responsibility must be put on all STEM community stakeholders, including the public and private sectors. According to Bossi, school administrators, parents, business leaders and nonprofits have a responsibility to ensure all students have equitable opportunities and pathways to STEM careers. “To truly meet the challenges of education today, we must ensure all students have role models who make them feel welcome, understand they have a voice and have the ability to get their fair shake at success.”
Kloss launched Kode With Klossy back in 2015 as a way to empower and inspire young women to become involved in tech. Throughout the year, the nonprofit hosts learning experiences to help girls pursue their passion — and one of the most well-known programs is the annual Kode With Klossy Summer Camp.
The organization hosts free two-week summer coding camps across the country annually for young women ages 13 to 18, to teach the fundamentals of programming and web development. The 2019 applications are officially open — and Kloss is running around the city (literally) to spread the word.
Kloss took to the streets of New York City to let everyone know about the opportunity, even making her own “Ask Karlie” booth to attract interested applicants. She also spoke with PEOPLE to and tells them even more about the program and answer all their coding camp questions.
Find out what makes an application stick out from the rest, how she chooses applicants and whether you’ll see her in one of the Kode With Klossy sessions this summer!
Continue on to People to read the complete article.
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
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.