Dr. Kimberly Hambuchen is a robotics engineer in the Software, Robotics and Simulation division at NASA Johnson Space Center. On Wednesday, October 8 she gave a talk about “Exploring Space with Robots: Do We Need People?” to the Fall 2014 Lennox Seminar Women and Technology class at Trinity University.
Young Women Programmers Panel: Starting out in Tech
(0:02) How do you increase student knowledge about this lack of diversity and the importance of closing the gap, (specifically students who might not be privy to these kinds of lectures and aware of this gender gap)?
So I think one of the most important things is to talk about it. It’s really surprising that this is the only discipline where participation by women has declined. So talking about how unusual it is that you have these great jobs, and not enough people for them, and that women could do really well in computer science, and they’re not doing it. So you know, I actually I mean there have been articles in the press, there are blogs about it, there’s tv and radio. But I actually I think among student communities [you should] put it on your Facebook page, share it with your friends, encourage your friends to make it go viral.
(1:07) Do you have any advice for girls or minorities who are at universities where they are especially underrepresented, somewhere where they’re not as fortunate as we are at Trinity to kind of have equal footing? Or places where the “bro-culture” is very prevalent?
I think one of the really important things is to talk to the department chair. In my experience, the place that most change comes from is from the department chair. It’s also really important and it sounds terrible but, whining is not usually the right approach. Usually being constructive and optimistic and saying ‘I’d love to work with you to change this’ and ‘here are some of the ideas I have’. You can look at things like the Anita Borg Institute, NCWIT (National Center for Women & Information Technology), there’s a variety of organizations that basically give you a bunch of tools to make change. So going to your department chair with enthusiasm and preferably a couple of you so it’s not so scary, and saying we’d really love to help make this a place where women have a great experience. We’ve looked up all of these resources and here are the kinds of things that make a difference, and we’d like to work with you to make it happen. I think most faculty members, particularly department chairs, when they have a couple of energetic and enthusiastic young women coming and saying we want to help you change the culture, they embrace it. The second thing is, if you try that, and you basically get a department chair who is sort of too tired, go to the department administrator or the secretary and ask who the most friendly or the person most likely to follow to be interested in this, and then follow that advice. So start with the chair because it’s always best to start there, but then if you get pushed back or if you just don’t get a lot of enthusiasm with them saying, “I’m really too busy to take this on”, then you talk to the secretary or administrator, because she will always know, it’s almost always a she, and she will know who cares about this issue.