WOC STEM Conference Wrap-Up

Over 4,500 high school and college students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, including hundreds of STEM professionals, attended the Women of Color in STEM Conference this fall.

Held Oct. 11 – 13 at the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center, 2018 marked the 23rd anniversary of the Women of Color in STEM Conference.

Career Communications Group, Inc., (CCG) producer of the annual conference focused on STEM careers, said it was a record turnout for the event, which had global aerospace and defense company Lockheed Martin Corporation as Title Sponsor for the first time.

“We’re pleased to have them as the title sponsor of our Women of Color in STEM Conference,” said
Tyrone Taborn, CCG’s CEO.

“This event is one of a few trusted communities where women are supported in STEM, and Lockheed Martin is a great addition to our growing sponsor line-up,” he said.

Lead sponsors include Consumers Energy, a public utility that provides service to more than 6 million of Michigan’s residents, and General Dynamics Corp., one of the world’s largest defense contractors.

Participants at the Conference engaged with thought leaders at 40 professional seminars spread over the two-day event.

Aknesha Miller Barui, who serves as global capture and operations executive at Harris Corporation, said she “had a great time with fellow Harris employees” at the ‘Woman to Woman Up Close and Personal’ seminar, a staple at the multicultural event.

The ‘Me Too and Times Up!’ seminar, available on Hipcast and iTunes, examined what the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements mean for women in STEM.

The discussion, which drew a capacity audience, was moderated by Rainia Washington, vice president for Culture, Diversity and Equal Opportunity Programs at Lockheed Martin Corporation, and Ted Childs of Ted Childs LLC, who retired as the executive responsible for IBM’s workforce diversity programs.

The panel explored harassment; allies needed to address the issues of discrimination in the workplace, and examples of sexual harassment.

Seminar participants also discussed whether the existence of movements such as Me Too and Time’s Up intimidate or threaten allies that may be willing to engage in the career development of women of color in STEM.

During Saturday’s gala, the award ceremony which concludes the Women of Color in STEM Conference, LG Chem Power’s CEO Denise Gray, 2017 Technologist of the Year, introduced the passing of the torch segment featuring 2018 Technologist of the Year, Mrs. Donna L. Bell, director of research operations at the Ford Motor Company.

“In elementary school, I wanted to be like my dad, a carpenter, so I chose wood shop over home economics. I quickly became fond of math and science, and my mother nurtured that, ensuring I participated in programs, camps, and events that would help expand my young mind,” Bell said in her acceptance speech.

Bell went on to discover computer hardware and software at Cass Technical High School, a university preparatory high school in Detroit. The inspiration led to a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, which would allow her “flexibility to work on computers or any other electrical devices that peaked my interest,” Bell said.

During her long career at Ford, Bell has worked on technologies such as Generic Electronic Modules that combined electrical systems for the Taurus, Sync infotainment system, fuel-efficient technology, and a real-life solution to improving CO2 emissions.

In Silicon Valley, Bell led a research and innovation team to deliver Ford’s vision of introducing smart vehicles for a smart world. Bell is currently working on protecting the future of US cars.

“This year, the award candidates represented the most diverse collection of executive professionals we have had the pleasure of evaluating,” said Monica Emerson, national chair of the 23rd Women of Color STEM Conference. “From managers to vice presidents, Women of Color STEM award candidates stand out as superior authorities in their respective fields.”

This year’s conference theme, “Press for Progress,” reflects the global push for gender parity.

Alexandra Garr-Schultz, a doctoral candidate and winner of the 2018 Women of Color in STEM Student Leadership Award, said the award was an affirmation.” That a whole team has enough faith to submit a nomination,” she said.

Over the last 20 years, CCG’s Women of Color magazine has published thousands of stories of women of color in STEM.