Last year, Black Enterprise interviewed Ayanna Howard, Ph.D., an award-winning robotics scientist. Howard has worked with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, where she led various robotics projects. She is also a Motorola Foundation Professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech’s Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines.
The inspiring NASA movie Hidden Figures is resonating with moviegoers, especially black women who have encountered similar obstacles in engineering and the sciences. It tells the true story of three black women whose exceptional math skills played an integral role in the space race during the Jim Crow era of the 1960s.
As a recently appointed Ambassador to the Minorities of Energy initiative, I was delighted to be invited by the Director of The Office of Economic Impact and Diversity, Dr. LaDoris Harris, to attend an official launch of Girls of Energy on December 9th 2016 at Excel Academy, the first all-girls charter school in Washington DC. This e-learning initiative has been designed to ignite curiosity and engage young minds across the globe by spotlighting exceptional women who are conquering today’s energy challenges and creating tomorrow’s technology solutions.
Nearly 50% of men thought the main reason was too few women and minorities entering the tech sector. Only 23% of women agreed with them. The biggest reason for the lack of diversity in tech, in female founders’ eyes, was unconscious bias. Only 12% of male founders thought this was the main driver behind male and pale dominance.
I was delighted to be invited by Dr. Ronnie Lowenstein to serve as a Global NetGeneration of Youth Cyberjournalist and attend an annual TC Williams High School “Noche de Ciencias,” more commonly known as “Night of Science.” Upon entering the Alexandria, Virginia High School, I was immediately welcomed by students, who then ushered me to the dining area where a variety of booths circled the inside of the room.
The fact that many young women do not pursue a career in the 'STEM' fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics may have its roots in gender stereotypes. These not only magnify uncertainty and doubts in young women about their success, but also influence whether they are actually interested in mathematics or not, says Helen Watt of Monash University in Australia, who led a study in Springer's journal Sex Roles.
Most inventors come up with their inventions as a means to solving a problem they face or affected by in their every day lives. Given that majority of inventors are men, they design their inventions with men in mind, ensuring that many women’s issues are not being accurately represented.
Although women comprise a small fraction of tech professionals -- just one in four, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology -- several nonprofits and startups are working to jumpstart women's participation in computer science.
The science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) field as it exists today faces many obstacles in increasing diversity among the individuals who work within it. In particular, the addition of women to the area has been slow going, as STEM continues to facilitate a male-dominated environment. Several factors contribute to creating this imbalance.