Closing the Gender and Diversity Gap in Tech: A Conversation with Shireen Mitchell #BlackSTEMLikeMe

I had the pleasure of sitting down with my Geek Diva, tech superwoman, sista friend, Shireen Mitchell to talk about gender equality and diversity in STEM. If you don’t know Shireen, here is your chance to get to know her. If you do know her, here is your chance to get to know her a little better. She is a pioneer in the advancement the STEM for girls, women, PoC and WoC and she always, “keeps it real.”

An American entrepreneur, author, technology analyst and diversity strategist, Shireen Mitchell is the founder of Digital Sisters/Sistas, Inc and Stop Online Violence Against Women. Below she shares our chat about the tech gender gap and digital racial divide.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE A CAREER IN STEM? Good question. I don’t know that I chose STEM. I was gifted with my abilities and a curiosity at a time when people were saying to me “What are you doing?” They were questioning how I knew what I knew and why things came so easy to me. I was a sick kid, so I wanted to become a doctor. Being terrorized by a medical professional, I wanted to make sure other doctors wouldn’t terrorize young kids like myself. The natural state for me was very analytical and technological. So, I started out with video games. Then I started hacking.

WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A GIRL IN TECH? The concept of a girl in tech was far and few between in the 80s. But it was the highest point when women started entering the tech field. Research shows that women made up 36% of the tech fields during that time. Now, in 2017, we are down to 22 – 30% women. That’s not even counting black women and girls.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE WORKING IN TECH? The biggest challenge is in hiring practices and policies. That is where the pipeline breaks. It’s the “I don’t see gender” and “I don’t see color” mentality that is the break in the pipeline. For women of color, both those things are consistent. We are having these conversations about Hidden Figures. What we did during that time was remove those women from the timeline, and we started to believe what was presented to us instead of the data and what the leaders in tech were saying. It was a false narrative, and it still is. It’s an illusion that women and women of color, in particular, don’t have the ability to be leaders in tech. A white 20-something dropout being considered an ideal leader in the tech industry is a completely false narrative. When we talk about Hidden Figures, we know who had the intelligence. We also know who has been removed from the storyline to allow the false narrative to populate.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER BLACKS WHO WANT TO GET INVOLVED IN STEM? They need to know they have the capacity. Learning STEM is the easy part. The part that we haven’t handled is the social part and the bias it perpetuates. I would also tell them not to let anyone tell you that you don’t know what you know. Don’t let anyone deter you from building your base in tech. Create a space for yourself. Use a model that only you have, and you can change the industry by who you are.

What challenges have you overcome in your STEM Career?

This post originally appeared in the NSBE #BlackSTEMLikeMe website

Photo Credit link here.

Introducing #BlackSTEMLikeMe: Reflection of Black Excellence. An Exciting New Campaign from NSBE

Have you heard all the buzz about the movie “Hidden Figures” that hit theaters nationwide on Jan. 6? The movie tells the story of how three African-American Women — Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson — contributed vital math, engineering and computer science work to the early missions of the U.S. space program. “Hidden Figures” (which is up for several awards and was No. 1 at the box office during its first two weekends) is bringing a major focus to the often overlooked contributions of the black STEM community.

Like the “Hidden Figures” movie, NSBE, in partnership with Air Force STEM, is also bringing a major focus to African Americans in science, technology, engineering and math with our new #BlackSTEMLikeMe (#BSLM) campaign. This multimedia campaign will:

  • Encourage black men and women in STEM to share their stories and passions
  • Bring visibility to the important work they are doing
  • Show black boys and girls that a future in STEM is an incredible—and attainable—career path
  • Encourage black students and professionals to consider NSBE for additional support as they pursue their STEM goals
  • Celebrate our unique, wonderful and life-changing community—past and present!

We have great things planned for #BSLM…

Including events during Black History Month and Engineers Week in February, and we are confident it will help us reach our “Be 1 of 10,000” Campaign goal to graduate 10,000 African-American engineers annually, with bachelor’s degrees, by 2025.

We’re so excited about this new campaign and are proud to take a big step toward ensuring that the Katherine’s, Dorothy’s and Mary’s of the future get their due well before they’re overdue!

How Can You Be Part of #BlackSTEMLikeME?

  • Share STEM stories on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or via the blackstemlikeme.nsbe.org website using the #BlackSTEMLikeMe hashtag. The best stories will be entered in our national social media webisode series. More on our webisodes to come!
  • Tweet your STEM story using the #BlackSTEMLikeMe hashtag. Don’t forget to use visuals!
  • Post your STEM story to your Facebook page, tag the NSBE Facebook page using the #BlackSTEMLikeMe hashtag
  • Post your STEM photo or video to your Instagram account, tag @NSBE and use the #BlackSTEMLikeMe hashtag
  • Email your story and video for blog posts to blackstemlikeme@nsbe.org
  • Or, contact me directly with ways you can get involved.

Look for your post that may be featured here.

Learn more about the #BlackSTEMLikeMe campaign, including upcoming events and other ways to get involved, at blackstemlikeme.nsbe.org.

Computers in the Exam Room: A necessity or nuisance?

About a third of doctors are using electronic health records or EHRs. That’s double the number since 2008, says a report in the journal Health Affairs. What we are seeing is an increase of a lot more computers, smartphones and iPads making their way into patient’s exam rooms. But as doctors move more and more toward electronic recording keeping,they face one daunting challenge: How to bring electronic devises into the exam room without losing the human connection with their patients.

EHRs are considered the future of health care for good reason — they can help prevent medical errors.

The promise of these devices to augment the delivery of clinical care is tremendous,says Stanford’s Dr. Clarence Braddock.

Dr. Braddock uses a secure app on his iPad to pull up patient charts if he’s called after hours,no matter where he is. However,doctors must now be aware of their online etiquette and not let the gadgets become a challenge in the intimate exam room. If the doctor spends too much of your 15-minute visit typing or staring at a screen, you have to wonder: What if I have a symptom that just got missed? Is my Doctor even listening to me? I for one have these very notions when I’m sitting, exposed, in my gown, while my doctor or doctor’s assitant seems more interested in entering data into the computer than acutally talking to me about my problem.

Do gadgets have a place in the exam room or do you think they are a distraction?

 

Bridging the Tech Divide… it all starts with an idea.

I had a great day geeking out with the Baltimore New Economy Tech Initiative Collaboration team.  We came together to discover, dream, and rediscover programs that will ultimately drive the citizens of Baltimore on a holistic tech entrepreneurship path. 

The challenge: create a program for 18 – 30-year-olds in the Baltimore, Maryland area that will teach financial literacy and tech entrepreneurship.  The things to consider: the digital divide is not about people who don’t’ have access to technology.  Rather, many in underserved communities do not know how to use the technology they have to create real change. 

The conversation is just getting started, but it was a wonderful day of great ideas, passion and innovation.  Special thanks to the Baltimore Mayor’s Office on Information Technology for pulling us all together.  

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The Progression of Information Technology

This is an amazing video about the progression of information technology.  With research by Karl Fisch, Scott McLeod and Jeff Bronman we find that emerging technology is still evolving at warp speed and Social Media is here to stay.  After watching the video you’ll see that the top 10 in-demands job of 2010 did not exist in 2004. In the US alone, 1 out of 8 couples married last year met online. Bermuda is the #1 ranked country in Broadband Internet penetration; US is ranked 19th and Japan is 22nd. Today we Google 31 billion times every month; in 2006, that was 2.7 billion for the whole year. The first commercial text message was sent in December of 1992; today, the number of text message sent and received everyday exceeds the total population of the planet. Did you know?