We Need More Women in Technology. Period.
LinkedIn
Emma Yang outdoors wearing a black and gold long sleeved sweater that says full schedule

Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg – there are so many male leaders in tech. But what about Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, Susan Wojcicki, Sheryl Sandberg and the decades of further women technologists?

Women are making an impact in technology, but the statistics are still shocking. According to the Women and Technology Study conducted for PwC in 2017, only 3 percent of women say a career in technology is their first choice, 78 percent of students can’t name a famous woman working in technology, and only 5 percent of jobs in the technology industry are held by women.

Luckily, times are changing, and more women are being encouraged to join the ranks of innovators and creators driving remarkable technological innovations for our world.

Tech is a very cool industry for women to work

So why should women choose to work in technology?

Technology is a modern industry with a modern workplace culture. Think of all the perks at tech giant Google—free food, on-site massage therapists, dedicated volunteering time, and dog-friendly offices. But it’s not just about the physical benefits.

Emma Yang, CEO and founder of the mobile app Timeless

A career in technology means working with diverse people who are some of the brightest and most innovative minds in the world.

Working in the technology sector can mean working on some totally out-of-this-world, near-on futuristic projects that can help millions of people globally. Being part of something bigger and making a long-lasting and tangible difference to society is very appealing.

Of course, one of the biggest reasons why the technology sector can be so luring is its rapid rate of growth. With every new and exciting development comes many opportunities for women to get involved.

The technology sector is always hiring, and here are some of the key types of projects you could work on:

Robotic intelligence

Ever dreamed of a robot cooking you dinner? Time to wake up into this reality: robots are becoming more intelligent, more dexterous, and more adaptable to their environment.

Dactyl is a robot created by OpenAI – non-profit brainchild of tech leader Elon Musk – who can hold things with its fingers and learn to do tasks beyond its programming.

Brain-computer interface

Watching a series on the computer can even see the effort of reaching for the mouse to click the next episode an aspect of the past.

Development of a brain-computer interface is underway – a very futuristic but very possible technological development where thoughts can control the computer.

Another Elon Musk startup, Neuralink, has already developed a system where a monkey has successfully controlled a computer with its brain. The company has been considering rolling out the system for humans to help with brain and spinal cord injuries.

High-speed internet

Internet has become a staple part of many people’s lives, which means we’re expecting more and more from it. One frustration is slow internet, but innovators are solving that problem too with 5G. High-speed internet is great for individuals, and for the economy also via boosting businesses, increasing working efficiency, and making communication easier and more reliable – particularly for remote workers.

Driverless cars

So, it’s not quite the sci-fi utopia of flying cars, but technology companies are developing driverless cars powered by artificial intelligence.

It’s a mammoth task to take on – mimicking complex human actions and reactions, scaling the product to make it affordable to the mass-market – but many technology companies are determined to bring this to streets of the future.

Plant-based, meat-free food

Technology is often mainly associated with computers, devices and further hardware but technological progress can also be seen in other types of products – and can even impact of people’s lives, such as their diets. Thankfully, many people have become far more environmentally conscious and the technology industry is responding to this via a wide range of plant-based, meat-free options that are lab-grown or even 3D printed.

What’s more, plant-based meat-free alternatives can be very nutritionally optimized and personalized through technology so as to suit the health needs of individuals, and products can be mass-produced without a huge environmental impact – a big step towards alleviating the food crisis worldwide. Better for health, and better for the planet.

Personalized cancer vaccines

As well as food, technology can also revolutionize health. One incredible leap forward for human progress is custom cancer vaccines where treatment triggers someone’s immune system to find and destroy the cancer itself.

This is truly what working in technology is all about – developing new innovations that can save lives and change the world for the better.

Two women who are leading the way in creating these sorts of pioneering technological innovations are:

Stephanie Lampkin, founder and CEO of Blendoor, pictured in a red dress and black blazer
Stephanie Lampkin, founder
and CEO of Blendoor

Stephanie Lampkin, founder and CEO of Blendoor – a mobile job matching app that uses a blind recruiting strategy to overcome unconscious bias and diversify recruiting in tech companies. A 13-year career with technology companies like Lockheed, Microsoft, and TripAdvisor has familiarized Lampkin with the difficulties of ‘looking different.’ With the help of technology and data, her aim is to prove that diversifying the tech talent pipeline will add, rather than remove, value to the industry.

And Emma Yang, CEO and founder of Timeless, a mobile app that helps Alzheimer’s patients stay engaged and connected to loved ones. She is a keen coder and an advocate for women in STEM. Through her work, she wants to encourage further young women like her to pursue careers in the technology industry and use their talents to make the world a better place.

Making space for women in STEM

With such rising demand for new technology, there is a significant need for women to be better supported in pursuing a career in STEM. Educators, businesses and individual mindsets must be broadened if barriers are going to be broken, stereotypes challenged and obstacles overcome to regarding women’s participation in and contribution to innovation.

We need more coding clubs in schools. We need more female role models and mentors. We need to overcome gender bias in the workplace. Companies also need to provide a more flexible work environment for women, such as programs to support women returners or better maternity leave policies.

We need more women in technology. Period.

Source: internationalwomensday.com

Google’s time crystal discovery is so big, we can’t fully comprehend it
LinkedIn
Google corporate office. Google recently found time crystals that can change the computer world

By , BGR

Forget Google Search and Fuchsia. Researchers from Google, Stanford, Princeton, and other universities might have made a computer discovery so big we can’t fully comprehend it yet. Even Google researchers aren’t entirely sure that their time crystal discovery is valid. But if it turns out to be accurate, then Google might be one of the first companies to give the world a crucial technological advancement for the future. Time crystals will be an essential building block in quantum computers, the kind of computers that can solve complex problems with incredible speed and power technologies that aren’t even invented.

What is a quantum computer?
Google isn’t the only company building quantum computers, and these types of machines keep popping up in the news with regularity. Quantum computers won’t reach your phone, and they’re not going to play games. Even if they did, Nintendo will totally ignore the latest computer technology when designing future consoles.

As The Next Web explains, we plan on using quantum computers for challenging problems. Examples include warp drives that could make fast interstellar travel possible. And medical technology that could cure virtually any disease.

But quantum computers are really hard to build, maintain, and even use. That’s where Google’s time crystals might come into play. As it stands now, quantum computers feature qubits, computer bits in the quantum world. These qubits act differently when someone observes them than when they’re left alone. That’s what makes it difficult to measure qubit states. And that instability makes using a quantum computer problematic. That’s where time crystals come in.

Google’s time crystals
Theorized in 2012, the time crystal concept is a new phase of matter. The Next Web explains that time crystals contradict one of Sir Isaac Newton’s famous laws. The first law of motion says that “an object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion.”

In our universe, there’s something called high entropy (disorder). Something always happens thanks to energy exchanges. Entropy remains the same if there are no processes but increases in their presence. But that’s not valid for time crystals. They can maintain entropy even when they’re used in a process.

To understand Google’s time crystals, The Next Web offers a great analogy with snowflakes. They have unique designs, as the atoms are arranged in specific ways. Snow falls, melts, water evaporates, and then it’ll eventually become snow again. All these processes involve energy exchanges. A time crystal would be like having a snowflake that can change between two configurations back and forth with no energy usage or energy loss. Time crystals can have their cake and eat it too, and they can do it perpetually.

Click here to read the full article on BGR.

We Must Include More Women in Physics – It Would Help the Whole of Humanity
LinkedIn
Woman writing physics equations on a white board

By , The Wire

All around the world, there is an extreme gender imbalance in physics, in both academia and industry.

Examples are all too easy to find. In Burkina Faso’s largest university, the University of Ouagadougou, 99% of physics students are men. In Germany, women comprise only 24% of physics PhD graduates – creeping up from 21% in 2017. No women graduated in physical sciences at the University of El Salvador between 2017 and 2020.

Australia fares little better. Australian National University Professor Lisa Kewley forecasts that on current settings, it will take 60 years for women to comprise just a third of professional astronomers.

And the hits keep coming. A survey by the UK Royal Astronomical Society, published last week, found women and non-binary people in the field are 50% more likely than men to be bullied and harassed, and that 50% of LGBQ astronomers have suffered bullying in the past 12 months.

There are occasional glimmers in the gloom. In India, for instance, women now comprise 43% of those with a degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM). But that figure is much lower in physics and in the higher echelons of academia.

Clearly, this gender imbalance urgently needs to be fixed. This is not simply a matter of principle: around the world, many of our best and brightest minds are excluded, to everyone’s detriment.

This month, the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) held its seventh conference focused on the roles and prospects of women in the discipline. Held online, but hubbed in Melbourne, the five-day event was attended by more than 300 scientists from more than 50 countries.

We met many women who showed strength, leadership and commitment to progress physics in their countries, sometimes under very difficult circumstances. As the conference progressed, some distinct targets for action emerged.

Dissolving barriers

One priority is the need to overcome the barriers that prompt many women to leave physics before reaching its most senior levels. This happens for many reasons, including uncertainty in gaining long-term employment and the associated doubts about ever achieving senior positions, but research shows the effect is felt disproportionately by women.

Kewley’s analysis found that in Australian astronomy, 62% of women, compared with 17% of men, leave between postdoc and assistant professor level. A further 48% of women (and 28% of men) leave before the associate professor level.

Similar results are found in the UK, where the Royal Astronomical Society reported that women make up 29% of astronomy lecturers but only 12% of astronomy professors.

Collaborating with industry

Mentoring women to become entrepreneurs and commercial leaders is a key strategy for underpinning independence, well-being and social standing for women physicists.

“Entrepreneurship isn’t common in many developing countries, particularly not among women physicists, where social and economic conditions impede innovation and collaboration with industry,” Associate Professor Rayda Gammag, from Mapúa University in the Philippines, told the conference.

Another participant, Professor Mmantsae Moche Diale, a senior physicist at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, reflected that many people don’t know how to translate their research ideas into business.

“It is important that you get guidance on how to navigate challenging situations to translate your research into a product you can sell,” she said.

Helping women physicists in developing countries

In some countries, social, cultural, economic and religious norms mean there is little support for women physicists. This can be deep-rooted, with discrimination at the earliest levels of education. University-educated women often find themselves blocked from research funding or leadership positions.

IUPAP has an important role to play here, through connecting women physicists in developing countries with their global colleagues, developing codes of conduct to combat discrimination and aggression, and reaching out through our regional chapters.

“Some countries have so few women that they’d benefit from joining a network with others in a similar situation,” Adjunct Professor Igle Gledhill from the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa told the conference.

Showing the way

Despite the deeply ingrained challenges, there are some signs of progress. Two standout nations are Iran and India.

In Iran, women make up 55% of physics PhD candidates and high-school science teachers, Azam Iraji zad of the Physics Society of Iran told the conference. It was also revealed that the proportion of women in STEM education in India is larger than in the UK, the United States or France.

Nevertheless, the conference heard stark evidence that action to remove gender barriers in physics around the world will often be met not just with resistance but sometimes violence.

One of us (Prajval Shastri) led a workshop that delivered powerful and practical recommendations on how to ensure no one is left behind. Physicists have multiple identities beyond gender, such as race, class, caste and abled-ness, creating a complex pattern of disadvantage and privilege.

Ultimately, the physics enterprise should learn from the gender gap but go beyond it and aim to centre itself on the interests of its most vulnerable members. That way, it will emerge as a better and more inclusive profession for everybody.

This needs to happen everywhere from the classroom to the lab, to conferences, industry networking and public science communication. Boys and girls alike deserve to see more role models from all marginalised groups doing physics.

Click here to read the full article on Forbes.

Visual representation of darker skin is key
LinkedIn
doctor showing a darker skinned patient some information on a digital tablet

MNT spoke with Dr. Nada Elbuluk, a dermatologist specializing in skin of color, about education, trust, and the underrepresentation of People of Color in research.

Disparities and inequities pervade every area of health, and dermatology is no exception. In fact, insufficient visual representation of conditions that affect darker skin, coupled with many other inequities in healthcare, has led to particularly stark disparities in health outcomes for People of Color.

Although skin cancer tends to affect more non-Hispanic white people than non-Hispanic Black or Asian people, when it does affect People of Color, doctors tend to diagnose it at a much later stage.

For example, doctors diagnose around one-quarter of melanoma cases in African American people when the cancer has already spread to nearby lymph nodes. This is according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

The condition is harder to treat at these later stages, resulting in poorer outcomes for People of Color. The 5-year survival rate for people with skin cancer that has not spread to the lymph nodes is 99%, but this drops to 66% if it does spread.

According to the most recent statistics from the American Cancer Society, white adults in the United States with melanoma have a 5-year survival rate of 92%, while this rate drops to just 67% for African American people.

Systemic discrimination and the bias that the medical community displays toward white skin also mean that white people are twice as likely to see a dermatologist, for example, than Black and Hispanic individuals. This is according to a study from 2018.

Furthermore, the current pandemic has made cancer screenings even more infrequent, which could exacerbate these disparities. For instance, diagnoses of melanoma dropped by more than 67% in 2020 as a result of COVID-19.

In this context, Medical News Today spoke with Dr. Nada Elbuluk — a skin of color expert, practicing dermatologist, and dermatology professor at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles — about the causes of health disparities in dermatology and how to remedy them.

We also spoke with Dr. Elbuluk about Project IMPACT. This is a global initiative that she helped launch to reduce racial disparities and bias in dermatology education and medical practice. Dr. Elbuluk is Project IMPACT’s director of clinical impact.

Continue on to Medical News Today to read the complete article.

Lyft ditches Google Maps for Here, partners with Argo AI
LinkedIn
Argo AI's fourth-generation autonomous vehicle, built using the Ford Escape Hybrid.

By , Ars Technica,

The ride-hailing company Lyft is changing up its search data and places provider, which until now have been powered by Google. Lyft will now use Here instead. Lyft says the switch will mean a better search database for places and addresses as well as more accurate predicted arrival times—two important things for a ride-hailing company to get right.

“Over the past six months, we have worked in collaboration with Lyft to implement and test our robust destination catalog that helps riders get to more destinations in cities across North America. Our services are now enriching the Lyft network, spearheading innovation in the rideshare industry,” said Here CEO Edzard Overbeek.

There may be other motivations for the switch. According to Lyft’s head of rideshare, Ashwin Raj, the switch will “improve the efficiency of our marketplace,” but the press release also explicitly mentions keeping user data private.

Lyft also has a new driverless tech partner. In the past, the company has dabbled in developing an in-house capability, but in April, Lyft sold off its internal self-driving division to a subsidiary of Toyota.

Working with external autonomous driving partners seems to be going better, though, as Lyft provides the necessary ride-hailing component to find people to ride in robotaxis being developed by other companies. Lyft worked with Aptiv and Motional in Las Vegas, with plans to launch a robotaxi service using electric Hyundai Ioniq 5s in the city in 2023. And Lyft has helped Waymo begin actual commercial operations in Arizona.

Click here to read the full article on Ars Technica.

Tech Education Financing for Black Communities
LinkedIn
diverse students looking at computer screen in a college classroom environment

There are two ways of learning tech skills – one approach is the use of free courses, guides and other online resources and the second is by enrolling in schools that offer tech programs and education.

According to Brookings, members of the black and hispanic communities are still underrepresented in the tech sector despite increasing numbers. This means that if you want the numbers to continue to change, you’ll have to step up to the challenge.

If you do decide to learn tech skills alone, you won’t get a degree or a certificate, but this very much still a viable option to get your foot in the door. Know that employers are willing to hire someone without a tech degree if you can prove your worth but getting a diploma, certificate or degree can greatly boost your chance of being hired.

If acquiring certification is the path you’re willing to take, consider enrolling in a course hosted by reputable education companies. Know that tech education can be expensive, up to $25,000 even for certificates, but it is worth it. These schools often offer financing options and post-graduation employment support benefits.

With that in mind, here some aspects we should consider in order to get financing for tech education.

Apply for ‘Academy’ Organization Jobs

Tech skills are highly demanded these days, and employers know it. For that reason, if you are already in the tech field and you want to get additional education, you can get it by applying for jobs where companies can pay for your professional growth.

By doing so, you will be able to update your skills to stay current. An excellent example is Google. The company helps its employees get the education they need to take the company to the next level. Google invests vast amounts of money in new technologies like machine learning to provide better services and develop better products for customers.

So, if you are looking to learn machine learning skills, you should consider applying for Google’s vacancies. At Google, you will not only be able to learn new skills but also will be able to earn a good salary and have great benefits.

There are also companies like Facebook that are investing huge amounts of money in web development as they know that websites are revolutionizing the market. In effect, websites are increasing company brand recognition as well as customers’ reach. Through websites, companies can interact with customers all around the world. For that reason, eCommerce is playing a pivotal role in digital marketing. Also, websites help companies to collect valuable data to set new standards and meet new customers’ requirements. Given these points, doubtlessly web development skills are required these days, and for that reason, Facebook is willing to invest money in its employees’ education.

Enroll in Coding Bootcamps with Scholarship Opportunities

Some educational companies think about the future. In effect, they want their tech aspirants to prepare for next world challenges. For that reason, as getting an education can be expensive, they offer several financing options for students who want to join their programs. With this in mind, Flatiron is a company that provides scholarships to students. With the program, students can receive up to $1,500 per month to pay for tuition. The company offers several programs in software engineering, full-stack development, data science, and other in-demand subjects. Also, the company is committed to students’ success, and for that reason, they receive help from a support career team that allows students to receive help from experts in the field.

In like manner, Thinkful is a company that thinks of its students. For that reason, they also offer financing options to students to help them cover education costs. It is vital to mention that the company offers a tuition guarantee to students. Given that, students will receive their money back if they don’t get a qualifying job within six months after program completion. Also, Thinkful offers other financing options that include living stipends, income-share agreements, and discounts to help reduce students’ financial stress.

As can be seen, there is no doubt that if you want to change careers or you want to start a new tech career joining Thinkful’s team is the right option to take.

Amazon Gets the Go-Ahead to Track Your Sleep With Radar
LinkedIn
amazon logo

By Shoshana Wodinsky, Gizmodo

On Friday, the Federal Communications Commission gave the e-commerce giant clearance to create bedside radar devices meant to track how we toss and turn at night. And while Amazon’s putting the best face possible on the innovation, it’s still all about those ad dollars.

Bloomberg was first to notice the agency had quietly filed a memo that authorized the eCommerce giant to develop and deploy an “unlicensed radar device” meant to track any nearby movement. This was in response to an initial request that Amazon filed with the agency nearly three weeks ago, where the company described its vision for “Radar Sensors”. These devices, Amazon said, would fire high-frequency radio waves to map out movements from anyone nearby.

And because the FCC is the federal body responsible for policing the airwaves, Amazon was legally obligated to get their go-ahead before they began marketing this yet-to-be-licensed radar device.

“By capturing motion in a three-dimensional space, a Radar Sensor can capture data in a manner that enables touchless device control,” Amazon wrote. “As a result, users can engage with a device and control its features through simple gestures and movements.”

This kind of touchless device control, Amazon went on to explain, could be a godsend for disabled or elderly customers who can’t use the company’s bevy of voice-powered assistants because they’re unable to speak. And Amazon’s absolutely right. Despite the ever-growing list of privacy and security concerns packaged with Echos and Alexas, we’ve already seen that these devices can be life-changing for people who are blind or wheelchair-bound. Amazon’s done its best to make these devices just as accessible for folks that are deaf or speech impaired, but there’s only so much you can do when these tools are based on voice.

Thanks to this grant, Amazon has free rein to roll out a new version of the Echo that will let you set your alarms or turn off your TV using a nod or a hand wave or—maybe! hopefully!—sign language. It’s an objectively awesome idea! Less awesome was the other reason Amazon wanted this grant: contactless sleep tracking.

“These devices would enable users to estimate sleep quality based on movement patterns,” Amazon wrote in the initial filing. “The use of Radar Sensors in sleep tracking could improve awareness and management of sleep hygiene, which in turn could produce significant health benefits for many Americans.”

Amazon’s pitch sounds nearly identical to those from the countless sleepy startups with names like Beddit or SleepScore that traffic in the realm of “nearables.” As you can probably guess from the name, these are the sorts of sleep trackers that sit on your bedside table or your pillow while you’re sleeping (instead of on your wrist) and monitor your mid-sleep movements to see how ~restful~ your rest actually was. It makes sense in theory, but extrapolating someone’s sleep quality from their general movements is super controversial among die-hards in the sleep research community. Critics will point out that data pulled by nearby radars can be inconsistent—or completely wrong in some cases—and those working in the field will openly agree that the sleep-tech industry needs to standardize its scoring systems.

Click here to read the full article on Gizmodo.

Flying car with BMW engine completes 1st inter-city test flight
LinkedIn
The hybrid car-aircraft with bmw engine, called AirCar, is pictured during a 35-minute flight on June 28, 2021, between international airports in Nitra and Bratislava, Slovakia. (Photo credit: Provided / Klein Vision)

By Kelly Hayes, Fox 11 Los Angeles

A prototype flying car completed a 35-minute flight this week between international airports in Slovakia, fulfilling what developers called “a key milestone” in moving toward production. The dual-mode car-aircraft, called AirCar, flew on Monday between international airports in Nitra and Bratislava. It was AirCar’s first inter-city flight and 142nd successful landing, according to Klein Vision, the company behind its development.

It takes less than three minutes to transform from a road vehicle into an aircraft — and vice versa. Upon landing, a video shows the aircraft’s narrow wings fold down along the sides of the car and become ready for the roadway.

“The automated transition from road vehicle into an air vehicle and vice versa, deploying/retracting wings and tail is not only the result of pioneering enthusiasm, innovative spirit and courage; it is an outcome of excellent engineering and professional knowledge,” Dr. Branko Sarh, Boeing Co. Senior Technical Fellow, said in a statement.

The AirCar’s first prototype is equipped with a BMW engine with a fixed-propeller and ballistic parachute.

The hybrid car-aircraft has logged more than 40 hours of test flights, including steep 45 degree turns and stability and maneuverability testing, the company said.

It has flown at a height of 8,200 feet with a range of about 600 miles (1,000 km), according to Klein Vision.

The prototype was the decades-long dream of Professor Stefan Klein, who “devoted the last twenty years converting his flying-car dream into reality.” The AirCar model took about two years to develop and cost “less than 2 million euros” to develop, the company told the BBC.

Klein Vision sees the flying car as having a “huge market,” with a goal of attracting even a small percentage of the global airline and taxi sales.

“There are about 40,000 orders of aircraft in the United States alone,” Anton Zajac, Klein Vision’s co-founder, investor and pilot, told the BBC. “And if we convert 5% of those, to change the aircraft for the flying car – we have a huge market.”

Klein Vision said the second AirCar prototype, the pre-production model, would be equipped with a 300 horsepower engine and receive the EASA CS-23 aircraft certification with an M1 road permit.

Click here to read the full article on Fox 11 Los Angeles.

Seeing is Believing — A Letter from the Editor
LinkedIn
Diversity in STEAM Magazine Cover featuring Geena Davis in dark blue bless smiling

As children, we all had dreams of what we wanted to be when we grew up — be it a fireman, astronaut, ballerina or race car driver. Oftentimes, our first exposure to these figures was in a movie or on television, where we would watch how they acted so we could emulate and dream that one day, “that will be me.”

But what if you rarely saw the you of your dreams in the media? Or worse yet, it never occurred to you that you could one day grow up to be that very thing? This is why representation in the media — particularly when it comes to girls and women in STEAM — is so important. Actor and Academy Award and Golden Globe winner Geena Davis understands this all too well.

Our cover story this month is about a devoted advocate for gender equality, particularly in STEAM roles. In fact, she created her own non-profit research organization that focuses on gender representation in family media and entertainment. “When my daughter was a toddler, I began watching children’s TV with her, and I was stunned to notice what seemed to be a huge gender disparity in entertainment made for young kids,” says Davis. “It occurred to me that this was a very unhealthy message to send to kids in the 21st century, which led me to create the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.”

Read more on how Davis is standing up for girls and women in the media and elsewhere on page 24.

To that effect, see how Asian women leaders are leaving their own mark in the STEAM industry on page 44. Learn on page 106 why we need more women in technology — period. Not to mention the 5 ways in which the U.S. Agency for International Development is empowering women in the fight against climate change on page 110.

Kat Catagnoli headshotAnd finally, find out why 130,000 flocked to the University of South Florida to sign up for its Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Certificate program on page 96.

Be it a scientist, engineer or astronaut, we support giving girls and women the role models they can emulate and dream to become. Because, “if she can see it, she can be it.”

Kat Castagnoli
Editor, Diversity in STEAM

Geena Davis: Standing Up for Gender & STEM
LinkedIn
Geena Davis collage of pictures including the Diversity in STEAM Magazine Cover

By Sarah Mosqueda

Geena Davis has played several complex characters, but the actress, gender and STEM advocate, producer and model is hesitant to call them role models.

For example, take Thelma Dickinson from the iconic 1991 movie, Thelma & Louise. She was characterized as the ditzy wife of an insensitive, bullying, unfaithful carpet salesman.

But it wasn’t until after the Golden Globe and Academy Award-winning actress portrayed this role that she began to consider how women in the audience might feel about it. She also realized the limited opportunities women have to feel empowered or excited about female characters.

And when Davis became a mother, that realization hit hard.

‘If she can see it, she can be it.’

“When my daughter was a toddler, I began watching children’s TV with her, and I was stunned to notice what seemed to be a huge gender disparity in entertainment made for young kids,” says Davis, “It occurred to me that this was a very unhealthy message to send to kids in the 21st century, which led me to create the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.”

Motivated by these imbalances, Davis founded her non-profit research organization in 2004. The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media (GDIGM) researches gender representation in media and advocates for equal representation of women. The organization works collaboratively within the entertainment industry, thanks in large part to Davis’ connections, and aims to create gender balance, foster inclusion and reduce negative stereotyping in family entertainment media.

Currently headquartered in Los Angeles, GDIGM has collected the largest body of research on gender prevalence in family entertainment, with children’s entertainment being a primary focus.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – OCTOBER 03: Actor Geena Davis speaks during The Power Of Inclusion Summit 2019 at Aotea Centre. (Photo by Michael Bradley/Getty Images for New Zealand Film Commission)

“My Institute has conducted numerous studies over the years showing that diverse and high-quality portrayals of women and girls are quite simply missing from children’s media,” Davis says.

Youth ages 8-18-years-old are engaging with media more than 7 hours a day, according to GDIGM. And although women and girls are 51 percent of the population, entertainment media does a poor job of reflecting that with the ratio of approximately 3:1 male to female characters.

“This has a real impact on young viewers’ ideas about themselves and the occupations they pursue,” Davis says. Disparities are most apparent in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM fields), where only one-quarter of scientists and engineers in the United States are female.

According to Davis, media plays a contributing role to the dismal numbers. She points to a 2012 GDIGM study that found low representation of female STEM characters. The study analyzed occupations in children’s media and found that, for every 15 male characters shown in STEM jobs, there was only one female character portrayed in a STEM profession.

“STEM characters were rarely featured in leading roles, and when they were, men STEM characters were moderately (but significantly) more likely than women STEM characters to be leads,” says Davis. However, when girls do see women in STEM in media, it has a significant impact.

In a 2018 study titled, “The Scully Effect,” GDIGM looked at the influence of “The X-Files’” protagonist Dana Scully on girls and women entering the STEM field.

“Nearly two-thirds of women working in STEM today say that Scully served as their personal role model and increased their confidence to excel in a male-dominated profession,” Davis says, “In other words, as we say, ‘If she can see it, she can be it.’”

An Actress & Advocate
Born Virginia Elizabeth Davis in Wareham, Mass., Davis’ mother, a teacher’s assistant, and her father, a civil engineer and church deacon, were both from small towns in Vermont. Davis also has an older brother named Danforth “Dan.”

At an early age, she became interested in music. Davis learned piano and the flute and played organ well enough as a teenager to serve as an organist at her Congregationalist church in Wareham. She went on to attend Wareham High School and was an exchange student in Sandiviken, Sweden, becoming fluent in Swedish.

Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis taking a Polaroid of themselves in a scene from the film ‘Thelma & Louise’, 1991. (Photo by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images)

It’s been said that she actually adopted the nickname, Geena, after seeing shows with the characters Cheburashka and Gena the Crocodile, which aired as a children’s segment in a national television show in Sweden in the late 1970s.

Davis attended New England College before earning her bachelor’s degree in drama from Boston University in 1979. Following her education, she served as a window mannequin for clothing retailer Ann Taylor until signing with New York’s Zoli modeling agency.

Davis made her acting debut in the 1982 film, Tootsie. In 1986, she starred in the iconic thriller, The Fly, which proved to be one of her first box office hits. While the fantasy comedy, Bettlejuice, brought her to international acclaim, it was the drama, The Accidental Tourist, in 1988 that earned her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She cemented her leading actress status with her performance in Thelma & Louise, receiving a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress.

Later, she starred in A League of Their Own in 1992, which provide to be a critical and box office success, earning her a Golden Globe Award nomination.

Through her work with the Geena Davis Institute and focus on gender in the media, Davis has launched the annual Bentonville Film Festival and executive produced the documentary, This Changes Everything, in 2018. She also received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for all she has done to fight gender bias on and off the screen in Hollywood.

Changing Tomorrow — Today
While areas of gross gender inequality remain, Davis insists the one category where the underrepresentation of women can be fixed overnight is on screen. “The very next project somebody makes, the next movie, TV show, can be gender-balanced,” she says. Which is why the purpose of the research done by GDIGM is not to educate the public, but to take the data directly to the creators of children’s media and share it in a private, collegial way. Since its inspection, GDIGM has prompted a significant change in messaging at major networks and studios. The institute has conducted custom educational workshops and presentations for industry leaders, like the Cartoon Network, CBS, DreamWorks, FOX Feature Animation, PBS, Sesame Workshop, Universal Pictures, The Walt Disney Company and Warner Bros. The GDIGM website (seejane.org) sites its influence over gender portrayal in content like Inside Out, Hotel Transylvania, Monsters University, The Dark Crystal and DocMcStuffins.

“We are seeing a concerted effort on the part of content creators to strive for greater diversity, equity and inclusion in their stories,” Davis says, “They have embraced our data, and are applying it along with our research tools.”

Geena Davis and team at screening of “Mission Unstoppable.” Photo by Geena Davis Institute

In addition to getting data into the hands of content creators, Davis has also taken the initiative to create content herself. Davis is the Executive Producer of Mission Unstoppable on CBS. The educational television series from Litton Entertainment is hosted by Miranda Cosgrove and centers on diverse, female STEM professionals. Yet, the engagement of the show goes beyond TV. It’s a social media movement, meeting young girls in the places they’re most drawn to, such as Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and Twitch. The content ranges from meet and greets with women role models in STEM, to how scientists use hormones to be able to tell if someone is in love.

Davis says the visibility of unique, intersectional, female characters in entertainment and media is essential to challenging negative stereotypes.

“That’s why shows like Mission Unstoppable are so important,” Davis says, “Increasing media depictions of women in STEM is easy to do, and provides a big bang for the buck.”

And it would seem critics agree. Mission Unstoppable was nominated for two Daytime Emmys in 2020, including outstanding entertainment/educational series.

Davis has also helped champion an AI called, “GD-IQ: Spellcheck for Bias,” that leverages patented learning technology to analyze scripts for unconscious bias and discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disabilities.

“We launched our first ML tool in 2015, GD-IQ, which uses ML along with Human Expert coding,” Davis says, “Which has now gone well beyond just measuring gender which has been used to analyze video for ads, movies and TV shows.”

Davis says her team worked to develop another tool that could be used in the pre-production phase of content development in order to review and improve diversity and inclusion before content went into casting and production.

“This is how Spellcheck for Bias was developed and built utilizing some of USC Viterbi’s patented text IP, which we are currently using to analyze text in scripts, books etc.,” she says, “We’re already testing it with major studios like The Walt Disney company and NBC Universal.”

BURBANK, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 22: (L-R) Dr. Erin Macdonald, Geena Davis and Mayim Bialik speak onstage during ‘The Scully Effect – I Want to Believe in STEM’ panel at AT&T SHAPE at Warner Bros. Studios. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for AT&T)

The new tool can rapidly analyze a script to determine the ratio of male and female characters and how accurately they represent the real population at large. The technology also can discern the numbers of characters who are people of color, LGBTQI, possess disabilities or belong to other groups typically underrepresented in mainstream media.

In the decade since she started GDIGM, Davis has used her influence to move the needle. And slowly but surely, the needle has moved.

In family films, the percentage of lead characters who are female has doubled from 2007 (24 percent) to 2019 (48 percent) and the percentage of leading female characters in children’s television was 42 percent in 2008; that rose to 52 percent by 2018.

“We are beyond thrilled to see one of the most important goals we set [on-screen parity] has been reached during the time we’ve been advocating for it,” Davis says.

Though she is quick to add there is still work to be done.

The Road Ahead…Doing Your Part
“When it comes to intersectionality of gender and the other dimensions, we measure such as race, LGBTQ+, age, abilities, body type…those haven’t budged yet, but we’re very confident that on-screen representation will improve significantly within the next 5 years.”

BENTONVILLE, ARKANSAS – MAY 07: Geena Davis speaks at the Bentonville Film Fest at the Filmmakers retreat. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Bentonville Film Festival)

As a viewer, Davis says there is actually a lot you can do to encourage programming that is diverse, equitable and inclusive.
“Viewers can use the power of their voice via social media to support and challenge what they see in media and entertainment,” says Davis, “Secondly, they can choose what they decide to watch and view with their families. Third, consumers who have children, can use their media consumption as a way to engage in a dialogue with their children around what messages they are receiving and guide them on how to interpret it.”

At the very least, Davis says we can think critically about the content we consume.

“I encourage you to think like a content creator and explore what a gender review might look like on the show you just viewed… Could a female portray a male character?” she asks, “Was the language used by girls equally empowering to that of male characters? Did the portrayal of characters bolster or shatter stereotypes?”

When we take the time to ask these questions, we will see the value of parity in programming.

“Together, we can introduce positive role models onscreen that our children can learn from and emulate in real life,” Davis says.

So, while Geena Davis’ characters are not all role models, as a champion for gender diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM-related industries, she certainly is.

Scientists Partially Restored a Blind Man’s Sight With New Gene Therapy
LinkedIn
In previous studies, researchers have been able to treat a genetic form of blind ness called Leber congenital amaurosis, by fixing a faulty gene that would otherwise cause photoreceptors to gradually degenerate.

By Carl Zimmer, Yahoo! News

A team of scientists announced Monday that they had partially restored the sight of a blind man by building light-catching proteins in one of his eyes. Their report, which appeared in the journal Nature Medicine, is the first published study to describe the successful use of this treatment. “Seeing for the first time that it did work — even if only in one patient and in one eye — is exciting,” said Ehud Isacoff, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved in the study.

The procedure is a far cry from full vision. The volunteer, a 58-year-old man who lives in France, had to wear special goggles that gave him the ghostly perception of objects in a narrow field of view. But the authors of the report say that the trial — the result of 13 years of work — is a proof of concept for more effective treatments to come.

“It’s obviously not the end of the road, but it’s a major milestone,” said José-Alain Sahel, an ophthalmologist who splits his time between the University of Pittsburgh and the Sorbonne in Paris.

Sahel and other scientists have tried for decades to find a cure for inherited forms of blindness. These genetic disorders rob the eyes of essential proteins required for vision.

When light enters the eye, it is captured by photoreceptor cells. The photoreceptors then send an electrical signal to their neighbors, called ganglion cells, which can identify important features like motion. They then send signals of their own to the optic nerve, which delivers the information to the brain.

In previous studies, researchers have been able to treat a genetic form of blindness called Leber congenital amaurosis, by fixing a faulty gene that would otherwise cause photoreceptors to gradually degenerate.

But other forms of blindness cannot be treated so simply, because their victims lose their photoreceptors completely.

“Once the cells are dead, you cannot repair the gene defect,” Sahel said.

For these diseases, Sahel and other researchers have been experimenting with a more radical kind of repair. They are using gene therapy to turn ganglion cells into new photoreceptor cells, even though they don’t normally capture light.

The scientists are taking advantage of proteins derived from algae and other microbes that can make any nerve cell sensitive to light.

In the early 2000s, neuroscientists figured out how to install some of these proteins into the brain cells of mice and other lab animals by injecting viruses carrying their genes. The viruses infected certain types of brain cells, which then used the new gene to build light-sensitive channels.

Originally, researchers developed this technique, called optogenetics, as a way to probe the workings of the brain. By inserting a tiny light into the animal’s brain, they could switch a certain type of brain cell on or off with the flick of a switch. The method has enabled them to discover the circuitry underlying many kinds of behavior.

Click here to read the full article on Yahoo! News.

Air Force Civilian Service

Air Force Civilian Service

Lumen

Lumen

Verizon

Verizon

Leidos

DISM Statement

#Stopasianhate

Upcoming Events

  1. Commercial UAV Expo Americas, Las Vegas
    September 7, 2021 - September 9, 2021
  2. WiCyS 2021 Conference
    September 8, 2021 @ 8:00 am - September 10, 2021 @ 5:00 pm
  3. 2021 ERG & Council Conference
    September 15, 2021 - September 17, 2021
  4. Wonder Women Tech
    October 26, 2021 - October 29, 2021
  5. HACU’s 35th Annual Conference
    October 30, 2021 - November 1, 2021
  6. AEC Next Technology Expo & Conference, International Lidar Mapping Forum, and SPAR 3D Expo & Conference
    February 6, 2022 - February 8, 2022

Upcoming Events

  1. Commercial UAV Expo Americas, Las Vegas
    September 7, 2021 - September 9, 2021
  2. WiCyS 2021 Conference
    September 8, 2021 @ 8:00 am - September 10, 2021 @ 5:00 pm
  3. 2021 ERG & Council Conference
    September 15, 2021 - September 17, 2021
  4. Wonder Women Tech
    October 26, 2021 - October 29, 2021
  5. HACU’s 35th Annual Conference
    October 30, 2021 - November 1, 2021
  6. AEC Next Technology Expo & Conference, International Lidar Mapping Forum, and SPAR 3D Expo & Conference
    February 6, 2022 - February 8, 2022