Outreach

Women in Technology

I have been active in promoting the benefits of having women in technology, and in representing the sometimes special needs of women in heavily male-dominated fields and organizations.

While I was at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, I co-chaired the Women's Diversity Working Group. We organized scientific talks by women from within the Lab and the broader scientific community, organized events to celebrate Women's History month, and recognized mentors (male or female) that supported women's careers in an annual awards ceremony. We also initiated the "LANL Star" award, to recognize women who “go above and beyond the call of duty in the performance of their job functions, women who have achieved scientific or technical success, and women who make important contributions to the community.”

I am a big fan of the Grace Hopper Conference, a "celebration of women in computing". I will never forget the exhilaration I felt walking around a computing conference attended largely by women. Shining the spotlight on the contributions women are making in technology is amazingly inspiring.

Here are some resources:

 

The next generation: attracting kids to technology

I have also been involved with trying to get kids excited about technology. I taught an enrichment course at my oldest daughter's school using the Computer Science Unplugged curriculum (also using some of the adaptations in the NCWIT version, Computer Science In a Box). The materials aim to teach "how computers work, while addressing critical mathematics and science concepts such as number systems, algorithms, and manipulating variables and logic" to children ages 9-14. I was even able to adapt a few of the lessons for my younger daughter's Kindergarten class!

In Australia, NICTA (my employer) is one of the organizers of the "National Computer Science School" in Sydney. They also run a Girls' Programming Network, specifically aimed at girls interested in ICT.

There are now some visual programming environments that seem to be excellent for getting kids excited about programming. I have personal experience with the MIT tool Scratch since my daughter and I took a class on it together, but there are a few options:

  • Scratch
  • The Scratch offshot BYOB, which adds recursion, first class functions, and first class lists
  • Alice
  • I haven't had the chance to try the Lego Mindstorms kits yet, but would love to some day

So you're working on a PhD ... then what?

I have had a varied enough career -- encompassing the start-up world, government (a national lab), and academia -- to know that there are many options for what to do after your PhD. These days, considering those options carefully seems to be more important than ever.