The CataLyst: Privilege and Diversity

Before I was an adult woman (and had to endure everything that comes with it) I was a girl growing up in a place where, as far as I could tell, the biggest injustice was not based on gender. I knew that I was treated differently by certain people, but it wasn’t because I was a girl. You see, in addition to being a woman, I’m also mixed-race (hello diversity!).

My mum moved to Sweden in the late 1970’s, and back then Sweden was (and comparatively still is today) a very homogeneous place. I was lucky enough to live in a city with a larger than average immigrant population, and in fact, many of my school friends were not Swedish by birth. However, even among the diverse groups of ethnicities in my school I was a minority, and the stereotypes that come with looking Chinese were constantly being pointed out to me.

What I’m trying to say is that whatever group we identify as belonging to, we carry with us some sort of privilege that other groups may not have. These privileges come in different forms and depend on where we are, where we come from and where we’re going. And it’s so important to be aware of them and recognise that we have them. The same way that men have a societal privilege over women, white women have a privilege over women of colour and other ethnic minorities. Having been brought up in the West gives you a certain privilege and what socioeconomic background you come from will also play a part.

I’m by no means trying to rank people on how bad off they are. I am, however, trying to highlight that in this fight for equality between the sexes, it’s easy to see things in just one dimension (men and women). It’s easy to forget that when encouraging girls in schools, their biggest struggles may not be based on their gender, but on their skin colour, religion, or sexual orientation. And asking of them to identify with one very specific type of woman might be harder than identifying with someone of a similar background.

This is why it’s so important, that even though we’re trying to promote women within STEM (and for me, women within wider society in general), we have to remember to diversify our group as much as possible. Being inclusive is the only way that we will truly succeed, and having a cross-section of women from all backgrounds represented, ensures that we can reach out to girls from all parts of society.

Easier said than done? Yes it is. For the same reason there are more men than women in STEM, there are more white women then ethnic minority women. And there are more women from higher socioeconomic backgrounds than from lower ones. But that’s all part of the reason that initiatives like this exist right? So although we should keep up the effort to get more women into STEM, we also need to look at what we can do to balance the makeup of our group. We should definitely keep encouraging girls and focusing on girls everywhere, but maybe put a little more focus on the girls who will have to fight the odds a bit more.

There is (maybe not) surprisingly little out there about intersectionality in STEM fields, but I’m hoping that talking about it will be a good start.

STEMinist Profile: Linda Ratliff, CNC Machinist

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Linda Ratliff

CNC Machinist

Aventics


What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
It was inevitable really, given the sheer number of engineers in my family–my father, both grandfathers, brother, and a cousin all ended up in STEM fields. My brother had been through the machining program at our local vo-tech school, and it looked like so much much fun. My art degree wasn’t doing much for me career wise, so I took the plunge and went back to school for something more employable that I would still enjoy doing.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
My coolest project was probably in school–we designed and machined turtles using some model stock donated by a local business. Drawing the 3D model and watching it come to life was super exciting, especially with all those curves.

At work I primarily make parts for the various pneumatic devices we make, and I must say, the sheer variety of products we make is astounding. I have made parts that go on fire trucks, railroad cars, medical devices, and more.

Role models and heroes:
My brother and my parents were really influential. While the guys are both engineers, my mom also worked as a lab tech before she had us kids, so I’ve always had role models right in front of me.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
I love how at the end of the day I have a physical result of my work, and that the parts I run could be instrumental in saving a life one day. Also, I really enjoy the bragging rights of having the knowledge to run extremely complicated machinery and make precision parts. I mean, most people don’t even know what a lathe or mill is, much less know how to run one. While my job doesn’t currently require programming, I have the knowledge to do so, and knowing that I have the ability, given time and equipment, to make ANYTHING is really awesome.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Haters gonna hate. Seriously, do what you want, be who you are, and don’t let anyone tell you can’t do something because you’re a girl. If you want to be a scientist, be a scientist. If you want to be a machinist, be a machinist. You don’t have to give up who you are to pursue a STEM career.

Favorite website or app:
It’s so hard to pick a favorite, but I do love Boggle the Owl (http://boggletheowl.tumblr.com/) and really have too much in common with the Bloggess (http://thebloggess.com/).

 

Six Developer Bootcamps Helping to Close Tech Gender Gap

It’s no secret that women are largely underrepresented in the software engineering field and the numbers don’t lie: women make up only around 20% of the computer programming world. In the US, plenty of organizations are attempting (and succeeding) in drumming up interest in STEM subjects among K-12 classes. Many of these, like Girls Who Code, are working hard to generate interest with specifically younger girls. But how can we encourage women to start mastering programming skills or even switch careers after they graduate from high school? Developer bootcamps are one of the most popular and disruptive trends in education today – let’s take a look at how these immersive bootcamps may fit into the puzzle and solve some of this gender disparity.

No Boys Allowed
Two coding bootcamps in the US exist exclusively for women: Ada Development Academy and Hackbright Academy. Their primary teaching languages, tuition costs and curriculum differ, but both share the same overarching goal: to train female software developers and close the existing gender gap.

Ada Development Academy
Ada Lovelace is widely regarded as the world’s “first programmer,” so it’s only fitting that the Ada Development Academy take their name from the famed female mathematician. Ada is based in Seattle and offers a 24-week intensive curriculum, followed by an internship in the tech community. During this class time, students learn HTML/CSS, JavaScript and Ruby on Rails. Ada cites the wide gender gap in Washington state (85% of programmers in the state are male) as their impetus for training women to be software engineers, and perhaps the most enticing and unique feature at Ada is that tuition is free!

Hackbright Academy
Move a bit further down the West Coast to find Hackbright Academy, based in San Francisco. As a 12-week program, Hackbright is modeled after the more traditional coding bootcamp structure, but stands out with it’s commitment to boosting female engagement in tech and because they’ve chosen to teach Python as opposed to Ruby.

While some critics have commented that female-only schools don’t reflect the real world, Hackbright alum Siena Aguayo feels “that completely misses the point of all-female engineering schools in the first place. I feel like we’re really changing things- people are talking about the problem of women in tech a lot more. And that opens the door to talking about racial diversity and income disparity as well. (…) Hackbright graduated more female engineers than both Stanford and Berkeley combined this last year.”

Tuition at Hackbright Academy is $15,000, although students who accept jobs with companies in the Hackbright hiring network get a refund of $3k.

Scholarships
Not every school is exclusively female, but many bootcamps offer scholarships to women in order to boost applications and create more balanced cohorts.

1. Dev Bootcamp is one of the most established coding bootcamps in the US, and has led the charge in many ways in encouraging women to apply. Most recently, they partnered with Girl Develop It to offer $2500 scholarships to 10 women who are active members of GDI in New York. Dev Bootcamp also partners with the Levo Scholars program to give partial scholarships to women in their quest for gender parity.

2. Codeup is a 12-week school in San Antonio, Texas that teaches the LAMP stack along with JavaScript and jQuery. Each cohort, they offer 3 scholarships to women for 50% off tuition in order to level the playing field. Regular tuition is around $9,000

3. The Iron Yard awards two $1500 scholarships per class in order to lower the bar for women who want to break into programming. In addition, Iron Yard makes outreach into the local tech community a priority. Students are required to volunteer at the free kids’ programming camps.

4. Flatiron School in New York offers a scholarships for women who apply- while we aren’t able to pinpoint the exact amount, we’re more excited about the school’s most recent new hire: Sara Chipps is Flatiron School’s new CTO and will head up the newly founded Flatiron Labs, the school’s dev shop that will employ their graduates. Strategic hires like this show that the school is committed to bringing women on in senior positions.

How can you distinguish a bootcamp that’s trying to change the future of technology from one that’s stuck in the past? Look for schools that do outreach in younger communities and with underrepresented minorities. Visit the schools you apply to and meet with their founders or instructors to really understand their values. And once you’re enrolled, be sure to stay involved in your local tech community inspire the next generation of girls to be STEMinists!

Correction: An earlier version of this post misstated the technology Codeup teaches. It includes the LAMP stack, not Rails. 

Author
Liz Eggleston is a LivingSocial alum and co-founder of Course Report, the online resource for potential students considering a coding bootcamp. Catch up with Liz on Twitter @coursereport and on the Course Report Blog.

Research Survey on Stereotype Threat in STEM

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STEMinist Profile: Nicole Trenholm, Program Director/Field Operations Scientist

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Nicole Trenholm

Program Director/Field Operations Scientist

Ocean Research Project

 



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
It is a deep-rooted passion of mine to embrace STEM throughout my life. I aim to contribute to society by researching the relationship between man and our planet’s oceans and encouraging sustainable solutions to nurture a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
In 2013, I spent 80 days offshore; after 20 some days commuting to my work site, I collected 40 sea surface plastic samples throughout the eastern extent of the North Atlantic Gyre, a Texas size survey. Plastic debris, a concoction of un-natural chemical pollutants, are peppered throughout Earth’s oceans and changing what was once a pristine watery wilderness. It is the toxicity absorbed in the material being exchanged between marine species to people and its impact on human health that scares me. I am sailing for science but for the betterment of all parties within the biosphere.

Role models and heroes: Benjamin Franklin, Ida Lewis, Rachel Carson

Why do you loving working in STEM?
Initially, pursuing STEM was not a thought, I steered away, taking cover from STEM-related intimidation and anxiety. I am in love with the natural sciences. I want to defend the environment; therefore, I decided to charge STEM and embrace it.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Take charge and defend our home! Learn the technical tools to be STEM capable. Experience science & engineering in a hands-on manner by being proactive by engaging in citizen science & tinkering. Build your STEM network for a bigger bang.

Site: oceanresearchproject.org