Saturday, October 06, 2007

A Hope for the Future

Yesterday morning, I had the pleasure of meeting several groups of students from the Society of Women Engineers. Some enterprising colleagues had arranged for them to tour our company, one group in Bay Area, and another in North Carolina. My product is particularly well suited to flashy demos, so I spent a few hours explaining what we do and taking questions.

I sat down with the team here, and when the video screen came to life, showing the students in other office, I was faced with a half dozen young African-American women, all computer science majors. I can't express how exciting this was! I don't think I've known six female African-American engineers in my entire career. Many of the women on the California side of the equation were also minorities, Asian- or South Asian-Americans, and all of the students were eager to hear about the technology.

Women have made great strides into fields such as medicine and law, but we're still lagging in numbers in engineering. With all of us getting more and more dependent on technology, it's critical us to grow in this area. Engineers and programmers are creating the tools that define so much of our interaction.

For example, if a 22 year old woman had created Facebook, do you think there would be so many contradictory "policies" in force? Perhaps, but it's just as likely that a young woman would have had a roommate with an eating disorder at some point in her life, or an older sister who breastfed, and would better understand the needs and issues of the female half of the population.

Help and encourage girls in your life to keep up their math skills, so that as many choices as possible are open to them. Our future depends on it. I know that I feel better about it, seeing all those students getting ready to take on the world.

6 comments:

Kimberly said...

Even though I'm a literary mathphobe myself, I always play up and encourage Diva Girl's math and science ability. I want her to have choices based on what she can do, not on society's expectation that "math is hard" for Barbie.

kittenpie said...

Awesome. You're right, I haven't met many african-amercian engineers, either. But both my SIL's are engineers.

ewe are here said...

Sadly, I think one of the overlooked reasons young women don't opt for the maths/ sciences/engineering careers is they aren't 'social' careers. People who work in these fields often appear to spend a lot of time in a research lab, staring at a computer, working long hours ... all rather anti-social behaviors. And most women like to be social, interact with other people, have lives outside their jobs...

But maybe that's just my odd take on some of this.

mayberry said...

I would love to see Jo get into math! That's so great that you had the opportunity to mentor those students (however briefly) and dazzle them a bit. WTG!

dancing dragon said...

There are so many false stereotypes about math and engineering careers for women. The amount of influence a single statement saying that engineering is not a career conducive to women who want families or to interact with people is really underestimated. I know, because I was one of the influenced! I can't think of another office job more collaborative and flexible in terms of time and working from home. I could probably write my own blog post about it, rather than taking up all your comment space.

I don't think I've ever met a single African-American female engineer, and only a handful of male ones. However, white or actually any non-Asian female engineers seem to be a rarity around here too.

I've only ever spent a few days in the South, but I remember being struck by the fact that I saw a lot of African-Americans in positions that we don't see them in around here.

K goose blog said...

K is going to do every math class there is as I struggle through all my math this quarter.