Top U.S. Cities for Women Working in STEM
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Top Cities for Women in STEM

According to data analyzed by the National Girls Collaborative Project, women account for roughly half of the total college-educated workforce in the U.S., they’re represented in only 28% of science and engineering jobs. Furthermore, within the range of STEM occupations, women tend to be more concentrated in social sciences and in agricultural, biological and environmental life sciences; here, the share of female job holders exceeds 45%.

And, much like the female workforce, activity in industries pertaining to these fields is unevenly distributed across the country. Consequently, as graduate education in STEM fields look to improve effectiveness and inclusion—and more women are inspired and supported to pursue such career paths—CommercialCafe™ set out to determine the current top U.S. cities for women working in STEM.

While most of the cities highlighted in this article are roughly similar in size, some are outliers by a wide margin. For instance, cities like Washington, D.C., San Francisco, New York City, Philadelphia, Houston, and Chicago are significantly larger than other cities in their respective ranking categories. Granted, larger U.S. cities attract professionals in a wide variety of industries—including STEM—to make a life there.

Meanwhile, smaller U.S. cities offer their own convincing advantages—and actually outperform large, urban areas in some respects. In reality, many of the metrics that influence decisions of where to work and live in the U.S. tend to be related to personal preferences and are, therefore, immeasurable on a wide scale. Subsequently, because our analysis did not track lifestyle factors nor factor population totals into the scores, we opted to preserve all entries.

Rather, to gauge the degree of representation of women in STEM occupations, we looked at the share of female employees out of the total number of local employees in STEM occupations, as well as how that share has changed over time in each city. In order to put that metric into a comparable perspective, we also included the percentage of STEM jobs out of the total number of jobs in each city.

Moreover, in order to gauge economic incentives and estimate discretionary income, we also:

    1. Reviewed data on the median incomes of female STEM employees in each city
    2. Compared average local rents to the female STEM workers’ median incomes
    3. Tracked the change in each city’s female STEM workers’ median earnings during the previous five years

In addition, we also considered:

    1. The local share of women in management positions across all occupations
    2. The percentage of women who have healthcare through their employer the local unemployment rate for women
    3. These are potential indicators of the likelihood that the local economy and business environments are inclusive of women.

Finally, of the college-educated population of each city, we also examined the share of women who hold at least a bachelor’s degree. This is a way to estimate the scale of the local, like-minded community.

Read on to see which urban centers ranked best nationally and regionally, as well as which metrics were the strongest for each entry.

Top U.S. Cities for Women Working in STEM Are in West, South Regions

Arlington, Va., achieved the best overall score in our ranking—57.6 total points out of 100. The data we analyzed showed that the STEM workforce here accounted for 15% of total local jobs, which placed Arlington third for the size of the STEM sector within the local economy. In particular, between 2014 and 2018, Arlington saw an increase of three percentage points for female STEM employees; in 2018, they held 34% of local STEM jobs. During the same five-year interval, the median income for female STEM workers rose a modest 4% in the city, settling at just more than $85,000 in 2018.

Notably, Arlington also ranked first for women’s access to health insurance—79% of working women in the city are ensured through their employer. Arlington also recorded the lowest rate of unemployment for women—2% in 2018.

San Francisco earned a total score of 57.5 points for a very close second in our national ranking. Its strongest suits were its earnings metrics, for which it ranked second-highest among the cities on our list. Specifically, the median earnings of female STEM workers living in San Francisco experienced the second-largest five-year increase in our study at 45%. In fact, the city is one of only two on our list in which the median income of female STEM employees exceeds $100,000 per year. (The other city is also located in California and earned the third-best score on our list.)

Fremont came in third overall, with a total score of 56.7 points. Nearly 30% of the city’s jobs are in a STEM field, 24% of which are held by women. Between 2014 and 2018, Fremont saw the fourth-highest increase—21%—in median wages for women working in these industries. Following that five-year improvement, female STEM employees in Fremont were earning the highest median income out of all of the cities on our list—$101,341. What’s more, the strong, local drive to encourage girls to consider education and career paths in engineering is also visible in supportive local partnerships—like the Tesla and Envirolution workshops, as well as hands-on engineering activities organized in honor of Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day in 2019.

Washington, D.C. landed in fourth with a total score of 55.7 points. The city boasts an impressively diverse economy in which 12% of jobs are STEM occupations, 42% of which are held by women. This placed D.C. and Durham in a tie for first place for degree of representation of women in STEM. Not to be overlooked, the capital is also home to the fifth-highest median income nationwide for female STEM workers, following Arlington and just ahead of Oakland. The city also ranked well for rent to STEM income ratio, as the local average rent accounts for roughly 22% of the median income of female STEM workers who live here.

Durham scored a total of 53.8 points and came in fifth. Of the cities we researched for this ranking, Durham ranked highest for the percentage of women in the local STEM workforce—42%, according to 2018 U.S. Census Bureau data. STEM industries account for 10% of the total employment in Durham. As an integral part of the Research Triangle Park and home to heavily STEM-oriented educational and research institutions, it was hardly a surprise that the city ranked best for women’s overall educational attainment—57% of college-educated residents are women. While the median income of local female STEM workers increased 15% between 2014 and 2018, the final earnings value ranked tenth on our list. However, data showed that this income stretches further in Durham than in other urban centers; the city ranked second for its rent-to-median-income ratio, with the local average rent accounting for 21% of the median earnings of women working in STEM.

Oakland—in sixth place overall—ranked third for educational attainment; here, women make up 56% of the local college-educated population. The average rent here is roughly 22% of women STEM workers’ median income.

In Seattle, 17% of jobs are in STEM occupations and women occupy 30% of them. Additionally, the city ranked third for access to healthcare, with 68% of women insured through their employer. Only 3.6% of local women were unemployed in 2018, which gave Seattle the fourth-best unemployment rate. Sacramento came in eighth overall. California’s state capital’s strongest suits were its increase in representation of women in STEM—which improved 10 percentage points between 2014 and 2018—and its third-place ranking for the representation of women in the industry workforce; 41% of STEM jobs in Sacramento are held by women.

Glendale received the most points for housing affordability out of all of the cities on our list. In 2018, the average rent here accounted for just 13% of the median income for female STEM workers. The Arizona city also ranked highest for growth in earnings; from 2014 to 2018, median earnings increased 112% for female STEM employees. The 2018 median value of roughly $90,500 in annual income placed Glendale third for this metric, behind only Fremont and San Francisco. However, it’s worth noting that during the same five-year interval, the percentage of local STEM jobs that were occupied by women decreased by 14 percentage points, resting at 24% in 2018.

Tacoma rounds out the top 10, with a total score of 51.2 points. Here, the STEM sector accounts for 5% of local jobs, and the percentage of women occupying these jobs increased by 15 percentage points since 2014. This was the highest growth recorded among the cities on our list and brought the degree of local STEM representation of women up to 35% in 2018. Tacoma also ranked second for educational attainment, with women accounting for 56% of the college-educated population. It’s also worth noting that the city took the lead on the women in management index; 56% of total local management positions are held by women.

Continue on to Commercial Cafe to read the complete article.

Microsoft Offers 25 Million People New Digital Skills to Accelerate Economic Recovery
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Woman working on laptop in her home office

Microsoft Corp. recently announced a new global skills initiative aimed at bringing more digital skills to 25 million people worldwide by the end of the year.

The announcement comes in response to the global economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Expanded access to digital skills is an important step in accelerating economic recovery, especially for the people hardest hit by job losses.

This initiative, detailed on the Official Microsoft Blog, includes immediate steps to help those looking to reskill and pursue an in-demand job and brings together every part of the company, combining existing and new resources from LinkedIn, GitHub and Microsoft.

This includes:

  • The use of data to identify in-demand jobs and the skills needed to fill them.
  • Free access to learning paths and content to help people develop the skills these positions require.
  • Low-cost certifications and free job-seeking tools to help people who develop these skills pursue new jobs.

This is a comprehensive technology initiative that will build on data and digital technology. It starts with data on jobs and skills from the LinkedIn Economic Graph. It provides free access to content in LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn and the GitHub Learning Lab, and couples those with Microsoft Certifications and LinkedIn job seeking tools. These resources can all be accessed at a central location, opportunity.linkedin.com, and will be broadly available online in four languages: English, French, German and Spanish.

In addition, Microsoft is backing the effort with $20 million in cash grants to help nonprofit organizations worldwide assist the people who need it most. One-quarter of this total, or $5 million, will be provided in cash grants to community-based nonprofit organizations that are led by and serve communities of color in the United States. The company is also pledging to make stronger data and analytics—including data from the LinkedIn Economic Graph—available to governments around the world so they can better assess local economic needs.

Microsoft also announced it is creating a new learning app in Microsoft Teams designed to help employers skill and upskill new and current employees as people return to work and as the economy adds jobs.

“COVID-19 has created both a public health and an economic crisis, and as the world recovers, we need to ensure no one is left behind,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. “Today, we’re bringing together resources from Microsoft inclusive of LinkedIn and GitHub to reimagine how people learn and apply new skills—and help 25 million people facing unemployment due to COVID-19 prepare for the jobs of the future.”

“The biggest brunt of the current downturn is being borne by those who can afford it the least,” Microsoft President Brad Smith added. “Unemployment rates are spiking for people of color and women, as well as younger workers, people with disabilities and individuals with less formal education. Our goal is to combine the best in technology with stronger partnerships with governments and nonprofits to help people develop the skills needed to secure a new job.”

More information can be found at the Microsoft microsite news.microsoft.com/skills.

Meet Dr. Emma Harp
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Dr. Emma Harp leans on a rail outside medical building smiling wearing uniform

Tribal Affiliation: Cherokee Nation Osteopathic Physician Cherokee Nation

As a student at Westville High School in Oklahoma, Dr. Emma Harp used her spare time to learn about the world of healing instead of participating in more typical extracurriculars.

“I especially loved human anatomy and physiology,” she says. “This led me to spend school breaks in various health professional offices to help figure out what I really felt called to do.”

She discovered that calling before she finished her first year of college. “While job shadowing a family physician at the Wilma P. Mankiller Clinic, I fell in love with my current career,” she says. “I loved being able to encourage patients to live healthy lives and promote preventative and early detection services.”

After Dr. Harp earned her undergraduate degree in biology from Northeastern State University, she attended the Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed her residency at the OSU Tahlequah Campus. She was especially drawn to osteopathic medicine because of its emphasis on holistic care.

“As a Cherokee citizen, treating the ‘whole’ person felt natural for me,” she explains. “While my medication management still remains very much traditionally Western medicine, I treat several patients who utilize Native medicine and who enjoy tribal dishes, like traditional greens, which can sometimes interact with their medication regimens.”

As a Cherokee osteopathic physician, Dr. Harp feels she is able to hold a more respectful conversation with her patients about any risks with those interactions. “I understand the importance of traditional medicine to those people, and I want to utilize those medicines while keeping my patients safe and aware of any risk,” she says.

If a patient mentions a different option that includes traditional medicine, she says she is happy to explore that possibility. “I often find myself in a discussion about our ancestors, their lifestyle, food, and activities,” she says. “It really helps put things in perspective for most patients.”

During her years in college, then as a medical student, and ultimately as a resident, Dr. Harp rotated through Cherokee Nation clinics. Now, as a physician, Dr. Harp has been working for the Cherokee Nation for several years. “I absolutely love taking care of tribal citizens. I really connect with them, and vice versa,” she says. “We grew up in the same communities with the same values and experiences. That connection helps build so much trust and is really the epitome of what you want in a patient-physician relationship.”

Dr. Harp credits her passion for caring for her community to the time she spent with her grandparents growing up. “My grandmother was very selfless and cared for those around her,” she says. Now, with four children of her own, Dr. Harp understands the value of community role models. “It is important for Native youth to see other Natives succeed in the field of their choice,” she says. “It plants a seed that reassures that child that their dream can come true.”
—Vincent Schilling
Source: Reprinted by permission from Winds of Change © 2020 by the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES).

Navajo Roots Trailblaze a Path to Mars
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Aaron Yazzie's headshot

Aaron Yazzie continues to set his sights higher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. With a Diné (Navajo) background, he earned his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University, and as a Mechanical Engineer with a focus on Sample Acquisition and Handling at NASA, Yazzie designs mechanisms for acquiring geological samples from other planets.

Diversity in STEAM Magazine had a chance to talk with Yazzie about his Native American background and how it influenced his journey to NASA.

DISM: Can you tell us about your background and journey to becoming a mechanical engineer at NASA?

Yazzie: I was born in Tuba City, Arizona, on the Navajo Reservation. I was born to parents who were 1st generation college students in their families—families that have had traditional Diné upbringings. Their first language was Dinébizaad (Navajo Language), their first known homes were our traditional Diné Hooghan (Navajo Hogan Houses/Dwellings). They learned the English language in elementary school, where they were the first generation in their family forced to attend school by the US government. From that unique beginning, and from that early-childhood culture shock and trauma, both my mother and father made it through an educational system rigged against them, graduated high school, and went to college—the first in their families. My mother earned her degree in education—she became a high school level math teacher. And my father received a degree in civil engineering—he became an engineer for the Arizona Department of Transportation. Both of them have been pioneers of Indigenous achievement in higher education and STEM careers. They may not be known and recognized by the larger Native community as STEM pioneers, but they are certainly my inspiration and the trailblazers to my career at NASA.

I grew up in Holbrook, AZ, a small border town to the Navajo Reservation. My brothers and I grew up, and attended school in the Holbrook School District, where we all graduated proud “Holbrook Roadrunners.”
Growing up, I didn’t have any examples or role models who went to prestigious private schools or went on to work at places like NASA. I knew I wanted to transcend the expectations of my family and my hometown, which is why I always strove for the highest grades in school, participated in all the school leadership positions and sought out all the high school summer enrichment programs. These are the programs that ended up transforming me from a self-doubting minority student into a solid college applicant with some awareness of my self-worth. They gave me the confidence to apply to, and to eventually be accepted to, Stanford University—an event that changed the course of my life.

Making the transition from small-town public school to prestigious private college was a big challenge. Nothing about my time at Stanford was easy, whether it was the rigorous academics or the constant financial struggle. Not to mention being separated from a tight-knit home community like the Navajo community for the first time. I was forced to learn quickly how to adapt, persevere, and overcome many challenges during my time at Stanford. Thankfully, there was a supportive community of BIPOC students who were going through the same challenges as I was. We all supported each other and made it through—not only graduating, but each of us moving on to do incredible things.

I was hired by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory mid-way through my senior year at Stanford. I was heavily involved with the American Indian Science and Engineering Society from the time that I was a high school freshman. I grew from there to be president of my high school AISES chapter, then became the Stanford AISES chapter president, and then National AISES Region 2 Student Representative. Along the way I received a 4-year scholarship from AISES to attend Stanford, and while there, I received 2 NASA internships through AISES. One placed me at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and one at NASA Glenn Research Center. By the time I was ready to look for a job, AISES had helped give me a college education, 2 NASA internships, and a job opportunity with one of the most prestigious engineering institutions in the world. I met the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory recruiter at the AISES National Conference in 2007. From that interaction, I received an on-lab interview, and was hired soon after. I have been working as a Mechanical Engineer at NASA JPL for 12 years and counting.

DISM: Tell us about your significant milestone – when NASA’s InSight lander touched the surface of Mars. What were you feeling, and how was that experience?

Yazzie: NASA InSight was the first mission I worked on where I was tasked with leading the design and delivery of space flight hardware. Up until this point in my career, I supported missions as a test engineer or support engineer. When InSight successfully launched into space, it was the first time something I designed—something I touched with my own hands—went into space. And when it landed on Mars, it was the first time I sent something to another planet. I was completely thrilled, and overwhelmed with emotions when I saw the first set of pictures of my hardware on Mars. Considering where I came from, this achievement was monumental!
Being an engineer from a remarkably underrepresented community in STEM fields, it is a constant struggle to overcome imposter syndrome. I did not think I was a thriving or even adequate engineer at NASA. It’s a shame that it took an achievement like sending something to Mars to convince me that I belonged in my field, and that I belonged at NASA.

DISM: Can you tell us more about “Mars 2020”? What is the mission? How has the experience been?

Yazzie: Currently, I am the lead engineer for the Mars 2020 Drill Bits. We are sending the Mars 2020 Rover “Perseverance” to drill rock samples and save them in hermetically sealed tubes, so that we can eventually bring those samples back to Earth in future missions to determine if life exists on Mars. Additionally, this mission will study the history of rocky planets and conduct experiments that will pave the way for humans to travel to Mars. It’s really incredible to be part of another historic NASA mission. I’ve grown so much as an engineer—now sending my second flight hardware to Mars, but also being able to lead a team and be a mentor for the first time in my career. I’m very proud to have successfully delivered my parts to the rover, and very excited for the Mars 2020 launch in July 2020.

DISM: How has your Navajo background influenced your career?

Yazzie: Coming from an Indigenous background, I have a deep appreciation for the advancements of my family and ancestors before me. Considering that Native Americans weren’t granted basic civil rights in this country until 1968, it is remarkable that our people have not only overcome this historic oppression, but have been able to thrive and advance. I reflect on my own family, where as recent as one generation ago, my parents spoke no English, but learned in a small amount of time that education was the modern way to advance their people. My own academic achievements and this career I have been fortunate to achieve has all been made possible by the advancements of the Navajo people who have come before me. And it is for them that I use my privilege and platform to continue on.

DISM: What advice would you give to Native Americans wanting to pursue engineering?

Yazzie: Be resilient. It’s almost guaranteed that along your STEM journey, you will look around and not see very many others like you, from backgrounds like your own. But please understand that there are people in all directions of your life that are there to help you. Those before you, who want to help you succeed through mentorship and wisdom. Those beside you, who are on your same journey. And those behind you, who see you as an inspiration and role model. Recognizing that you have a full circle of support and inspiration will help you achieve any and all of your goals.

Washington hires Jason Wright as NFL’s first Black team president
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Jason Wright headshot

Washington has hired Jason Wright as team president, making him the first Black team president in NFL history and only the fourth former player to ascend to that role.

More than any historic aspect, Wright said that what excites him is the convergence of his two worlds: football and business.

“It’s a huge moment to bring those two worlds together,” he told ESPN. “What other job would they come together at such a unique time for an organization at the point our team is? I’m just happy I landed in this role at that time. There are other reasons it’s historic, but that’s a byproduct of me being the right and qualified candidate at this time. All of that is just icing on the cake.”

But Wright said he understands the significance of his hiring.

“What it tries to signal is that, at least in this organization, the hindrances that tend to be in place around Black talent in other places are breaking down,” he said, “and that should send a signal more broadly to the shift in culture that Dan and Tanya Snyder, Coach Rivera and myself are now trying to make.”

Washington had been without a president since Bruce Allen was fired after the 2019 season. The team hired coach Ron Rivera and gave him full power, as owner Dan Snyder said he wanted a coach-centric approach.

Wright’s hiring won’t change that, as he won’t be involved in the football side like Allen was during his 10-year reign. Wright, 38, will focus only on the business side, including operations, finance, sales and marketing. Like Rivera, he will report directly to Snyder.

“[Rivera] is the chief executive of everything that happens on the football side, and I run the business side,” Wright said. “It’s super clear.”

Wright said he began talking with Snyder fairly recently about the job and called it a whirlwind.

“You could say there’s a lot going on, you sure you want to take this on? Yeah, absolutely,” Wright said. “Their actions] made me really confident I could come in here and effect change, that I’d have the ability and autonomy to make real change.”

He also embraces the challenge of coming to the NFL while facing the obstacles of a pandemic and at a time when “the Washington Football Team is at a unique moment, and the NFL, for better or worse, is at the center of so much important dialogue around the role of sport, the players finding their voice about the things they care about.”

Wright will be tasked with helping to change the culture in Washington. Another challenge will be to help locate an area to build a new stadium. Washington has been trying to find a spot in Virginia, Maryland or the District of Columbia for several years. The lease on the land at FedEx Field expires after the 2027 season.

Continue on to ESPN to read the complete article.

How High School Robotics is Healing Afghanistan
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Four Afghanistan teen girls on stage accepting their robotics award

Since 2017, an all-girls robotics team in Herat, Afghanistan, has taken the world by storm.

Within a short period of time, the group of seven teenagers won silver medals at the First Global Challenge robotics competition in Washington and for winning the entrepreneur challenge at the biggest robotics competition in Europe.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, it is no surprise that a group of girls put their heads together to create vital and accessible medical equipment needed to treat coronavirus patients. Taking inspiration from an MIT design, the girls finalized their version of an easily accessible and cost-effective ventilator, a necessary piece of equipment that cannot be easily found among Afghanistan’s medical centers. The ventilator calls for a lighter, more portable, battery-operated design that would cost as little as $700 to obtain a rather than normal $20,000. Though these plans were completely put together by the girls, Harvard University stood with the girls as a source of advice and support.

Somaya Faruqi, one of the members of the robotic team, said of the designs, “We are delighted that we were able to take our step into the field of medicine and to be able to serve the people in this area as well.”

The designs have been submitted to the World Health Organization for approval and have gained great support from Afghanistan’s Minister of Health, praising the girls for their “initiative and creativity in Afghanistan’s health sector…”

Why Diversity Matters: The Benefits of Recognizing Overlooked and Untapped Talent
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fist pump between a white and black hand

By Santura Pegram

Growing up, most of us were taught that brilliant innovators of everything from electricity to the lightbulb, automobiles, pharmaceuticals-medical devices, materials, alloys like steel-iron-aluminum-copper, and everything else under the sun were created by European (white) inventors.

However, while such figures certainly deserve recognition for their creations, and ongoing generations should be grateful to those individuals for their contributions, what was omitted from such history lessons was the fact that equally skillful black people and incredible thinkers of other diverse backgrounds also played equally pivotal roles. These latter groups of people helped to create some of the greatest inventions, took others to the next level or devised a new product or service altogether that are still relied upon today.

Disappointingly, most schools and institutions of higher learning have failed to teach material that revealed such hidden truths – both then and now. Thankfully, recent developments in several industries are enlightening increasing numbers of people about the historic and almost unknown contributions of black and brown people throughout the world.

Most affluent Americans and countless others have little clue that it was black people alone who kept the automobile brand, Cadillac, afloat in the U.S. In the 1930’s, as America was struggling to recover from The Great Depression and as racism continued to ruin opportunities for everyone who held onto to such nonproductive beliefs, a low-ranking German immigrant – Nicholas Dreystadt – who worked for General Motors at the time boldly entered a boardroom after overhearing perplexed white executives discuss consideration of abandoning the brand due to increasingly poor sales. The problem: GM was relying solely upon white Americans to buy the cars. Yet, from his menial position as a service division employee, Dreystadt quickly recognized that it was large numbers of black customers who owned Cadillacs who often were found waiting for their vehicles to be serviced at GM dealerships.

At the time, Cadillac had a strict practice against selling any of their luxury cars to black customers. Interestingly, through his own experiences of interacting with many such black customers, Dreystadt learned that black people routinely paid a white person (i.e., a front man) a fee to go into a dealership and purchase the Cadillac of choice for them. Thus, determined to make his point and show what could happen if GM abandoned their discriminatory policy, Dreystadt was successful at implementing a new diversity marketing approach, which increased sales of Cadillacs by 68%, and helped to make the brand profitable within 18 months. His same strategy was later adopted by Mercedes Benz to include black people and increased sales of their once-struggling brand too.

Still not convinced that diversity makes a huge difference in the world? Then consider the story of Nathan “Uncle Nearest” Green and how he revolutionized whiskey. Green, a former slave in Lynchburg, Tennessee was the first black master distiller in America who taught Jack Daniel how to make the liquid gold. For more than a century, Nathan “Nearest” Green’s name was purposely left out of history books and absent from most conversations which tied him to the Jack Daniel’s brand. It would have likely remained that way had it not been for the relentless curiosity of Fawn Weaver, a California businesswoman, who in 2017 spearheaded the launching of what is now known as the Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey brand in an industry that generates $3 billion dollars annually.

If those two examples are not enough proof that the creative (yet often unwisely ignored) potential of black and brown people continue to be a legitimate factor to consider throughout every sector of business, then consider other little-known facts that prove minorities are capable of being far more than the brawn behind an endeavor, they can also be the brains too.

Did any of the schools you ever attended teach you that Dr. Domingo Liotta – a South American native – was the person responsible for creating the first artificial heart that was successfully transplanted into a human being? Did they teach you that Dr. Alejandro Zaffaroni – who was born in Uruguay – not only invented a bandage that administers medicinal drugs through a patient’s skin, but he was also responsible for helping to develop several other widely used products for the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, including the nicotine patch used to aid smokers in breaking their nasty habit? Were you ever informed that it was an enormously intelligent medical doctor – Julio Palmaz, who was born in Argentina – that invented the balloon-expandable stent frequently used to treat one of the most common health conditions (cardiovascular disease)?

Do your research on Dr. Thomas O. Mensah, the engineer and genius inventor who played a critical role in the development of fiber optics and nanotechnology. While you’re at it, take a few moments to delve into the impressive educational program known as ‘Make Music Count,’ created by Marcus Blackwell which aims to eliminate the fear of math and simultaneously teach children between the 3rd grade and 12th grade how to perform better mathematically while enjoying culturally relevant lessons through music.

Explore the insightful exploration of incredible thinkers like Elijah McCoy, Granville T. Woods, Patricia E. Bath, Frederick McKinley Jones, Jessica O. Matthews, Jasmine Crowe, Diishan Imira and countless others.

Then, imagine what could be accomplished if people of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds throughout America and around the world were to put our heads together and entertain the thought of what has yet to be discovered? Quite possibly, that could include creating a cure for most (if not all) chronic diseases and health ailments. Maybe finding the answer to eradicate poverty, homelessness, and world hunger. Perhaps devise better public policy solutions focused on bringing people together instead of fanning insignificant flames which have only kept us apart.

Whatever the case and despite our achievements as segmented human beings, it’s not difficult to debate that we have only scratched the surface of everything that can be accomplished – if we will commit our hearts and minds to doing it together.

Santura Pegram is a freelance writer and socially conscious business professional. A former protégé-aide to the “Political Matriarch of the State of Florida” – the Honorable M. Athalie Range – Santura often writes on topics ranging from socially relevant issues to international business to politics. He can be reached at: santura.pegram@yahoo.com

Who Said Woman Was Not Meant to Fly?
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Bronwyn Morgan pictured smiling sitting at a table

By Laurie Dowling, National Utilities Diversity Council

What do you get when a serial innovator merges her vocation and her avocation? You get Bronwyn Morgan, founder of Xeo Air, an outsourced AI-based drone services and data analytics company, and Airversity Drone Academy & Consulting.

Founded in 2019, Xeo Air is the next step in a management and entrepreneurial journey that has taken Bronwyn from strategic visioning at Fortune 100 companies like Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola, to media, academia and now aerospace futuring.

For those of us whose knowledge of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV – drones) has mostly been garnered from adventure movies, it may come as a surprise that in the next two years the commercial drone industry in the US is expected to reach $100 billion. In the four years since the Federal Aviation Administration granted more operations exemptions and flight regulations for professional drone services, they have increasingly become a part of business and civilian life, even if we aren’t always aware of them. They do and will perform functions ranging from mapping and data collection to delivery, crop fertilizing and facility disinfecting.

Xeo Air focuses on business to business solutions with inspection and mapping services with high definition video, thermography, LIDAR and infrared, for industries including civil infrastructure, oil and gas, wind, solar, utilities, construction, telecommunications, disaster response and government. Xeo Air is a young startup with an administrative team of four and 20 FAA part 107 certified pilots, and Bronwyn and her backers see it poised for growth as companies continue to embrace this game-changing geospatial data collection tool that saves businesses time and money so they can make decisions more quickly.

Additionally, to serve the growing need in public safety and corporations that need in-house capacity in unmanned aerial vehicles, a year ago, Bronwyn created a training company – Airversity Drone Academy and Consulting – which fields a team of FAA 107 certified instructors (pilots) based around the US who provide FAA exam prep and flight training.

A few questions for Bronwyn:

Are there a lot of drone companies owned by women?

I am part of a small but growing segment of the industry owned by women. Less than 10 percent of drone companies are owned by women, but the numbers are increasing, and there are more women in senior positions in larger companies as well.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced with your company so far?

Scaling up. It takes resources and time to grow your client base and to source talent, and you must sharpen your business model as the environment changes in this young industry. We also have limitations based on regulations and equipment innovation, but that is changing rapidly.

Have you had to educate potential customers on drone services because of misperceptions?

Absolutely. What most people know of drones is primarily their military usage. Our UAVs are very different and our business is different. We have to educate our potential clients about how drones can help their businesses and how we can help them make decisions faster, safer and at a lower price point than traditional services. And when you put it together with machine learning and artificial intelligence, the data becomes more actualized. There are so many uses for our services. Example: We’re able to get up and down a tower for routine inspection within an hour and capture significant data critical to immediate maintenance requirements. We can also assess damage to critical infrastructure after disasters, which can mean life and death in emergency response. Additionally, our capabilities can provide streaming information that allows customers to see real time the status of any asset. The use cases are endless.

What do you think is your competitive advantage?

We’re building an end-to-end product. We can collect data; keep you informed digitally through the processes and analyze the information for immediate use. We’re able to take care of customers end to end. And we can do it securely, with a high level of customer service. We treat our clients’ business as if it were our own.

What is in your future?

I’m working on solutions with flying passenger vehicles, to be announced soon. This is the future of aeronautics. It’s a dream job. When I was in high school, I wanted to fly fighter planes, which they didn’t allow women to do. I think my job is better!

We agree. In fact, please forgive the pun, but we think Bronwyn is soaring.

For more information on Xeo Air and Airversity, please visit their web pages: https://xeoair.com/ and www.airversity.com. For more information on NUDC and its free programs to advance diversity, please go to: https://nudc.com/

Meet the first black women to earn a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from their respective colleges
LinkedIn
three black women nuclear engineers seated at table on the grass outside office building

By Amanda Zrebiec

On most days, the corner conference room in Building 26 on the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory’s Laurel, Maryland, campus is indistinguishable from the many quiet work spaces that surround it. But on a gray afternoon in mid-February, the voices, laughter and energy bounding from its occupants differentiate it from the rest.

As Jamie Porter, Mareena Robinson Snowden, and Ciara Sivels gather around the small table inside, the feeling of stumbling onto a gathering of old friends is difficult to shake. Their bonds, though, are forged less through time than their shared experience of being “the first.”

Each one—Porter, APL’s radiation effects lead for NASA’s Europa Clipper mission; Snowden, a senior engineer in the National Security Analysis Department; and Sivels, a nuclear engineer in the Air and Missile Defense Sector—was the first black woman to earn a Doctor of Philosophy in nuclear engineering from their respective colleges: University of Tennessee, 2012; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2018; and University of Michigan, 2018.

Now, Porter, Snowden and Sivels work in three different sectors at APL, dedicating their time and their brains to important challenges facing the nation. Here, they have created a community.

Path to the Ph.D.

“I used to hate physics,” Porter says with a laugh. “Lord, I don’t know how, but now I live in this world.”

Porter arrived in APL’s Space Exploration Sector in 2015. She focuses on radiation hardness assurance for all electric, electrical and electrochemical parts of missions, specifically NASA’s planned Europa Clipper mission to Jupiter’s icy moon. She also manages the sector’s Radiation Analysis and Test section.

Three years before she arrived at APL, Porter was the first black woman to earn a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the University of Tennessee. It’s likely, Porter said, that she was just the second black woman in the country to do so, after J’Tia Hart, who received hers from the University of Illinois and subsequently appeared on Season 28 of the CBS show Survivor.

After completing her undergraduate studies, Porter said her goal was to get a master’s. Her professor and graduate advisor, Lawrence Townsend, told her a Ph.D. was what she needed. Porter credited Townsend for pushing her—from undergraduate classes through her doctorate, and even a postdoctoral fellowship. “He told me, ‘You need to do this for yourself, and you need to do this for other people,’” Porter said.

It wasn’t until Porter was nearing her graduation that Tennessee discovered she’d be their first. They didn’t publicize it at the time—a decision reached through a conversation with Porter, where the school admitted embarrassment that it took until 2012 to reach the milestone. They later acknowledged regret at not celebrating it more publicly.

“I actually got to be the speaker at the hooding ceremony the year after I graduated, and it resonated with a lot of people,” Porter said.

When Snowden became the first black woman to earn a nuclear engineering Ph.D. from MIT in 2018, on the contrary, it was well publicized, particularly after her own Instagram post from graduation day went viral. That doesn’t mean her path to that moment was smooth. In retrospect, it wasn’t even a path she necessarily chose.

“People ask me, ‘How did you pick nuclear engineering?’ and I’m like, ‘Nuclear engineering picked me.’ You get a ticket, you get on the train,” she said.

Snowden credited her father, Bill Robinson, with guiding her into studying physics as an undergraduate at Florida A&M University, a historically black college in Tallahassee. It was a visit with a friend of a friend who worked at the school that started her trajectory.

The mantra of FAMU is they don’t expect you to be the best student on the way in, but you will be the best and most competitive student on the way out. That, Snowden said, was absolutely her experience.

It was acceptance into a summer research program at MIT after her freshman year that set Snowden on a firmer course. “It was the only application I sent out because I just knew I was going to be at FAMU doing research in the lab like normal,” she said. “But they messed around and accepted me. And we celebrated like I got into the Ph.D. program.”

A few years later, she did that, too.

Snowden, whose work at APL leverages her technical training in nuclear engineering on current and future national security challenges, applied to eight graduate schools. She got into one.

That’s where she met Sivels.

Sivels and Snowden first connected when the former was an undergraduate MIT student in nuclear engineering and the latter was working toward her Ph.D. That fact alone would knock a 16-year-old Sivels over with a feather.

Originally wanting to be a chef, Sivels’ chemistry teacher pushed her to explore her options—urging her to take his class (advanced placement chemistry) as a senior, recommending she look into chemical engineering schools, and turning her down time after time as she suggested potential colleges that might be a good fit.

“He kept saying, ‘This isn’t good enough, this isn’t good enough,’” Sivels recalled.

To boost her credentials for engineering school, Sivels enrolled in a local community college physics class that covered the history of the discipline. Fascinated by antimatter, she read about work at the California Institute of Technology. The Virginia native showed that school to her mom, who nixed the idea. But as she researched Caltech further, their rival, MIT, popped up.

“I didn’t know what MIT was, the prestige associated with it, anything,” said Sivels, whose work at APL focuses on how radiation interacts with and changes the properties of various types of materials. “It just came up in the sentence with Caltech, so I took it back to my teacher, Robert Harrell, and he was like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s the kind of school you need to be applying to.’”

Even after she was accepted, Sivels was certain she’d be attending Virginia Commonwealth University. It was a campus visit to MIT—coupled with the release of the movie 21—that helped convince her of the school’s esteemed reputation.

Her undergraduate studies were difficult. Sivels noted, among other setbacks, she failed a class and shed many a tear. She got through it, and knew she wanted to further her impact in the field. That’s when her advisors suggested moving on to Michigan for her graduate education.

And it wasn’t until she went searching for a mentor there—preferably another black woman who’d gone through the program—that Michigan noted she’d be the first.

 The Challenges of Being the First

In many ways, these women know they are the exception, not the rule. They were able to navigate turbulent waters and persevere through biases and other challenges.

It doesn’t mean, however, that just because they did it, black women trying to get nuclear engineering Ph.D.s are suddenly no longer the exception.

“I come from an HBCU [Historically Black Colleges and Universities], and so much of that culture and legacy is about that question of responsibility,” Snowden said. “FAMU was intentional about teaching us the context—about what it meant to be black in America and in professional spaces. I went into my Ph.D. process with that context, so when I came up against a challenge, or a person coming at me sideways, I could leverage that context to help me interpret the situation.”

“Both of my parents went to HBCUs, so I had that training, too,” Sivels added. “My parents didn’t want to jade me, but they knew I was smart, and they knew it was coming…When I used to cry to them at MIT, my parents were like, ‘You’ll get over it. Welcome to the world—something is finally hard for you.’”

Porter, who grew up in Tennessee with a white mother and a black father, said, “There are moments when I am like gosh, I do feel the pressure, because I have to deal with comments or expectations that my counterpart does not. Sometimes I will send out an e-mail that says, ‘This is a learning moment, please do not do this [thing you may not think is offensive, but is offensive],’ and I’ll put it out there because I feel like…”

As Porter trails off, Sivels jumps in. “If you don’t, who will?”

“That’s exactly right,” Porter said. “But it’s hard. You have to pick and choose your battles. You have to think, ‘How is this going to affect me if I react right now?’”

“I read a paper once that talked about that,” Snowden said. “They called it the tax. It’s the tax you have to pay of being ‘one of only’ of an identity. That extra calculation you have to do in your mind of ‘How am I going to be perceived in this environment? How do I respond to this stimulus?’ That’s a tax your counterparts from majority populations don’t have to pay.”

And that, the women noted emphatically, doesn’t even include bouts of impostor syndrome that often lurk just around the corner even as they continue their ascents.

Eyes on the Future

To listen to Porter, Snowden and Sivels, you’d think their trailblazing happened with a shrug of the shoulders—they just put their heads down and did what they thought they were supposed to do. It wasn’t nearly so simple.

They also know the rewards of their perseverance come with a duty to future generations.

“I definitely feel a responsibility,” Porter said. “I am the lead radiation engineer for a billion-dollar flagship NASA mission, and when I do reviews, most often I am the only black person in the room. So, I try really hard to bring people with me.”

They make an effort to mentor those behind them. They work on committees and in outreach programs, like the IF/THEN Ambassador program, of which Sivels is a part.

And they tell their stories. They talk about their journeys so that their shared experiences as “the first” are ultimately just a way to pave the road for those behind them.

“I look at the diversity and inclusion conversation as two sides to one coin,” Snowden said. “You have the recruitment piece, and the second, less-talked-about part, is the retention piece. Once they’ve gotten into these programs, and they’ve gotten their Ph.D.s and they’re STEM professionals, how do we get them to and through mid-career, promoted up to senior levels, given power so they can hire, and all of those types of things that will make an impact?

“Now, I think the mission is to preserve the recruitment momentum but create a new body of momentum on the retention piece, but it’s the harder challenge to me.”

In a way, what Porter, Snowden and Sivels would like is for their accomplishments as “the firsts” to fade. For them to be the firsts of many—and for that to extend through to professional life.

“I love outreach,” Porter said. “It’s telling your story. It’s letting a little girl see what’s possible. [Snowden and Sivels] saw each other [at MIT], but they didn’t really see it was possible until it happened. I didn’t see anybody and it was just like, ‘Well, this is happening.’

“But it all goes back to that responsibility and the fact that now we have that responsibility to put ourselves out there—so other girls can see it’s possible.”

Photo Caption: From left, Jamie Porter, Ciara Sivels, and Mareena Robinson Snowden, who all now work at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, were each the first black woman to earn a Ph.D. from their respective colleges in nuclear engineering.

Credit: Johns Hopkins APL / Craig Weiman

This story is courtesy of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. This is an abridged version. The Applied Physics Laboratory, a not-for-profit division of The Johns Hopkins University, meets critical national challenges through the innovative application of science and technology. For more information, or to read the unabridged story, please visit www.jhuapl.edu.

How to Use Online Networking Now for Future Success
LinkedIn
Smiling girl wearing headphones using laptop, working online

By Alexis Reale

It’s been said that looking for a job is a full-time job in itself. You need to make finding a job the focus of your daily routine, and follow a detailed job search plan to ensure that your time is being used wisely.

While applying for jobs is a large part of your job search, networking remains one of the top ways job seekers find positions, so it pays to build a variety of solid connections. During the pandemic, in-person networking is out of the question, so you need to change your networking tactics to focus on online networking. However, even during “normal” times, creating a strong online network can benefit your job search and career.

How Online Networking Helps Your Job Search

With online networking, you have a wider reach than you would at an in-person event. People from all over the world can meet up in a professional, like-minded group, giving you the opportunity to meet and network with people in your field that you might never meet otherwise.

Creating a Successful Online Networking Strategy

Start with LinkedIn. LinkedIn has become the go-to site for career-related networking. Beyond creating an optimized LinkedIn profile, be sure you’re taking full advantage of all it has to offer. Let LinkedIn automatically make the “easy” connections by sending invites to everyone in your address book. Then, take heed of its periodic suggestions of other members you might know based on your information or background.

Move Beyond LinkedIn

While LinkedIn is the place for all things career-related, don’t limit yourself to one social network. If your work involves a visual component, create a professional Pinterest or Instagram account to highlight that part of your work. You can also use Facebook and Twitter to engage with thought leaders and other professionals in your field. To take your personal branding to the next level, consider building your own website. It’s a great place to collect testimonials about your work, and create an online portfolio of your accomplishments. This should serve as a one-stop shop for people to connect with you and to learn about your background.

Consider Your Existing Network

Before you reach out to possible new networking connections, reach out to your existing connections first. This is a great way to start building your online network.

Starting with current contacts can offer a greater sense of support and connection simply because of the existing relationship. It can also allow you to catch up with former colleagues and peers, and potentially schedule informational interviews. LinkedIn also has a feature that allows your existing connections to introduce you to their connections. This helps you build your network when one of your current connections is connected to someone you want to meet. You can then ask that existing connection to introduce you.

Try Chats and Groups

Eventually, though, you’ll want to expand your network from existing contacts to new contacts. While that can be intimidating, online networking makes it easier and less stressful for people to connect with new networking contacts.

Join social media groups and chats dedicated to your area of interest. Groups can be found on LinkedIn, and chats exist on Twitter. If you’re savvy with social media, you can also find discussions with like-minded individuals through Reddit. You’ll want to find the sub-Reddit that pertains to your profession.

Choose the Right Connections

Before you reach out to any professional, consider if you’re reaching out to the appropriate person. There is often a pecking order of who talks to whom. If you are a mid-level professional trying to reach out to CEO and executive-level professionals exclusively, you may be hurting your chances of forming any valuable connection.

Connect with professionals on a similar career level to you, or who work on a team where they could be your manager (i.e., a senior tax accountant reaching out to a senior tax manager). This way, you will foster relationships with the people that truly matter—the ones who can influence hiring decisions and likely relate most effectively to your experience. In addition to online networking, joining a professional association in your area is a great way to network in your industry.

Slow Down

“Hi, this is Bob, and I would like a job,” is not the best way to introduce yourself to someone. Networking takes time and requires a relationship to develop. As you continue to build your relationship, you can dive into more details about your professional relationship and potential jobs, but jumping in with both feet and asking outright for a job will only hurt your chances of success.

Keep your “cold call” introductions quick, simple, and professional. Don’t ask too many questions and don’t expound on your great accomplishments in this first message. This first message is just an introduction, a hook to get their attention. Once you have their attention and their response is positive, you can take the next step and delve into more detailed networking questions.

Taking these small steps displays your interest in the company, but it also shows your respect for the person you are contacting.

Online Networking Now for Success Later

Networking is one of the most complex aspects of being involved in the professional world. There are endless methods, tools, and platforms associated with networking, and it can be difficult to decide where and how to start.

One constant about networking, however, is that it is about the practice of building relationships over time. Don’t wait until you are out of work to start networking. It’s something you should develop throughout your career. Take the time to successfully network online using the tips above, and the results will be worth the wait.

Source: flexjobs.com

Meet the Latina CEO who Won’t Stop Exceeding Expectations
LinkedIn
Irma Olgui stands smiling with arms folded

Irma Olguin, the tech CEO of Geekwise Academy, is not your typical CEO. Though she lives in California, where many business owners have taken to big cities, such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, Olguin runs her business in Fresno, California, one of the poorest cities in the United States.

She spends her workdays with pink hair, normally wearing T-shirts and jeans, and depended on recycling cans and bottles to afford the transportation fee to the University of Toledo, where she was the first person in her family to earn her degree.

Through her studies, Olguin found her passion for computer science and engineering, a field that is predominately male. Following her graduation in 2004, Olguin had several opportunities to work various tech jobs near her school but ultimately decided to return to Fresno in an attempt to boost the economy. While working with Fresno school districts in both teaching and performing computer programming work, Olguin teamed up with property lawyer Jake Sobreal in 2012. Both being Fresno natives, Olguin and Sobreal decided it was time to teach the natives of their hometown the skills they would need to boost their economy and to better provide for themselves.

In 2013, Geekwise Academy was born, a crash course learning center for coding, technology, and business skills. The academy has given people with a wide variety of backgrounds the inspiration and tools needed to jump back into the workforce. Graduates of the Geekwise Academy have included military veterans, newly released prisoners, and even make up 25% of Shift3 Technologies’ staff.


With the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, Olguin decided to defy the expectations of a potential crashing economy and use the situation to her advantage. In March of 2020, Geekwise Academy went digital where the company received double their usual clientele, despite having opened more locations two years before. Despite the pandemic, Olguin and Sobreal are still working toward opening new locations, despite uncertain real estate numbers.


Given their estimated $27 million in capital backing, $20 million in revenue, and her past of consistently defeating the odds, Olguin’s desire to grow her company, stimulate the economy, and help those desiring a better career, are looking positive. Of her company, Olguin says, “We’ve found a fundamentally different way to rebuild American cities, especially at a time when folks are looking around and saying, ‘What do we do with our economy?’ We think we have the answer to that.”