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Can Computer Programs Be Racist And Sexist?
Last summer, Jacky Alcine learned just how biased computers can be. Alcine, who is African-American, took a bunch of pictures with friends at a concert. Later he loaded them into Google Photos, which stores and automatically organizes images. Google's software is able to group together pictures of a particular friend, or pictures of dogs, cats, etc. But when it labeled a picture of one of Alcine's friends, who is also African-American, it left him speechless. "It labeled it as something else. It labeled her as a different species or creature," says a horrified Alcine. Because it's so cliche he doesn't even want to say what creature it was. "I kind of refuse to. By saying that, I kind of reinforce the idea of it." I'm not going to reveal which animal it labeled his friend. But it also happened to others with dark skin. Alcine isn't buying that it's just some weird technical glitch. "One could say, 'Oh, it's a computer,' I'm like, OK ... a computer built by whom? A computer designed by whom? A computer trained by whom?" Alcine's conclusion is that there probably weren't any black people on the team that designed Google Photos. Google says it did test the product on employees of different races and ethnicities and it has apologized for what happened. The company says it's still early days for image labeling technology, and it's working to improve it. Alcine's experience is one of many strange biases that turn up in computer algorithms, which sift through data for patterns.
Posted on 21 Mar 2016
Why virtual reality gaming needs women developers
Virtual reality is the next big thing in video gaming, and the women who've made an early start in this burgeoning technology say they want to lead its growth. The technology industry has had a poor track record attracting and retaining women, especially in technical jobs. Video game development faces particular challenges: the raw conversation on video game culture that's mushroomed on the Internet has targeted female game developers critical of violent or sexist portrayals of women in games.
Posted on 21 Mar 2016
Women In Action
Photos of Women Meteorologists, Hydrologists, Oceanographers, Climate Scientists, dedicated to celebration of Women's day.
Posted on 15 Mar 2016
How Paid Re-Entry Programs Can Get More Women In Tech
Seven global engineering and tech companies (IBM, Intel, General Motors, Booz Allen Hamilton, Cummins, Caterpillar, and Johnson Controls) are piloting re-entry, paid internship programs for people who have taken career breaks of two years or longer. These organizations plan to offer some of these interns permanent positions when the 12-week program ends.
Posted on 01 Mar 2016
NSF launches long-awaited diversity initiative
NSF announced its intention to hand out small grants later this year to dozens of institutions to test novel ways of broadening participation in science and engineering. Winners of the 2-year, $300,000 pilot grants will be eligible to compete next year for up to five, $12.5 million awards over 5 years. NSF is calling the program INCLUDES. (The acronym stands for a real jaw-breaker: inclusion across the nation of communities of learners of underrepresented discoverers in engineering and science.) The underrepresentation of women and minorities in the scientific workforce is a problem that has persisted for decades despite many well-meaning federal initiatives. NSF Director France Cordova has spoken repeatedly about her intention of moving the needle on the issue since taking office in March 2014. And this initiative, totaling roughly $75 million, could well be the signature program of her 6-year term.
Posted on 01 Mar 2016
Can Our Brain Type Explain the Gender Gap in STEM Subjects and Careers?
It's no secret that far fewer females enter into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) professions and fields such as engineering struggle to recruit women. There have been a number of ineffective and stereotypical attempts to encourage girls into engineering which have failed to have a positive impact. Katie Klavenes, Research Assistant & Resource Developer at the Department's Engineering Design Centre (EDC), argues that it is a brain type rather than a gender issue that encourages males into STEM fields. Rather than seeing gender per se as being the dividing factor, Klavenes sees that it's one's ability to empathise and systemise that attracts or repels people from entering into STEM subjects and embarking on careers in this domain. It is true that many more females are categorised as empathisers and many more males as systemisers, which may explain the gender disparity. Empathising is the internal drive to identify with another person's emotions and thoughts, and respond to them with appropriate emotions and actions; systemising is the cognitive ability to identify the underlying rules that govern the behaviours of a system. Klavenes conducted a small scale research study in order to better understand the causes of this gender
Posted on 01 Mar 2016
Is there still a problem? What social science can tell us about gender issues in engineering - Webinar
Presented by the authors of SWE's annual Literature Review, this webinar will address what social science can tell us about gender issues in engineering. In addition to providing statistics on women engineers in education and the workforce, major explanations for the continued small number of women in engineering will be covered, as well as why the language used to describe the experiences of women engineers plays a major part in how those experiences are perceived and understood. Moving beyond headlines in the popular press that are potentially misleading or overly hyped, this webinar will provide tools to discuss the status of women in engineering and why it matters. This webinar provides essential background both for participants in SWE's Capitol Hill Day event and any additional advocacy efforts in the workplace or on the local level.
Posted on 21 Feb 2016
Virtual reality could be a solution to sexism in tech
A new study of software developers has confirmed what women already know too well: Gender bias has big consequences in the workplace. The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, looked at acceptance rates for code written by women and men on the massive code repository Github. Developers accepted 71.8% of code written by women when they didn't know their gender. But when gender was made public, acceptance rates for women dipped to just over 62%. These results are infuriating - but they're not surprising. Another recent experiment gave scientists at Yale University the exact same resumes, topped by masculine and feminine names. Scientists extended more job offers, and higher salaries, to the job applicants they thought were men.
Posted on 21 Feb 2016
This Study Shows That Boys Think Boys Are Smarter Than Girls in Science Classes
Thanks to initiatives like Google's Made With Code and the Technovation Challenge, there are more college girls pursuing STEM fields than ever before. But thanks to unequal treatment in the classroom, those same students are more likely to quit the sciences than their male counterparts. A study published last week in PLOS ONE explains that faculty members are biased towards male STEM students - guys receive more mentorship time, more email responses from professors, and more attention in class. If that wasn't bad enough, guys think their male peers are smarter than the female students in their classes - even if they're not.
Posted on 21 Feb 2016
FIRST Announces 2016 STEM Equity Community Innovation Grant
MANCHESTER, N.H. - (BUSINESS WIRE) - FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) announced the launch of the 2016 FIRST STEM Equity Community Innovation Grant, adding to its commitment to address the inequities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) among underrepresented and underserved students. This grant is designed to help ensure that more of these students, and their communities, are exposed to creative problem solving and hands-on learning, and are educated about future career opportunities available to them.
Posted on 21 Feb 2016

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