When I went to Taiwan for the Pacific Sciences Congress, I was able to share “The Jessica Effect” as part of a session that was sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). I discussed several issues related to the importance of including and supporting women in STEM, but my opening and closing brackets were based on valuing life over death. Since Jessica is no longer with us here on earth, we uphold her memory by discussing issues of inclusion and the importance of the value of humans, the value of life. While in Taiwan, I talked about ways that we, as scientists and engineers, often focus on our science, and how we can easily forget about the human beings who are conducting the science.
I hope that my talk inspired some to re-think how they conduct science, and that it helps them to consider the scientist, along with the scientific outcomes. This discussion was particularly directed toward researchers who have not thought about important issues related to a person’s life, such as ways that women are treated in the lab, disrespect that can run rampant, gender-based insults, etc.
To bring attention to my point, I discussed the exciting research of Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro, director of the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory, part of the Department of Systems Innovation in the Graduate School of Engineering Science at Osaka University, Japan. Dr. Ishiguro’s research is, in a word, FASCINATING. He has made a gemenoid, also known as his remote-control doppelganger droid. In other words, it is a robot that looks exactly like him, and that can interact with him. (The gemenoid is so real, that I almost referred to it as a person, even while writing this post.)
Humanoids cannot trump humans
My point was that while we are creating and innovating, we must also remember the human condition. While we are developing robots that can “care” and emote, we must not forget the emotions of humans … ours and those of others. We must remember to care about and for one another. We can’t retreat into a box (a lab, our computers) and pretend that we only exist to produce new results. We, all of us in STEM, have to be bold enough respect feelings, to respect all of the rights that are afforded to all people, for no other reason other than that they are human.
Here is the slide from my presentation:
My initial abstract:
Cultivating Inclusive Excellence within Science, Engineering, and Technology
As science, engineering, and technology organizations and academic departments seek to open more conversations about human diversity and inclusion, it is important to be sure that leaders find ways to introduce topics that are difficult to discuss. Such topics include providing a respectful work environment that honors both men and women, promoting understanding of physical and cultural differences, and challenging existing norms that have not traditionally included women and people from a variety of cultural backgrounds. Recognizing and appreciating differences can be a conversation that is held in the open. In light of “The Jessica Effect,” a paradigm shift in STEM professional development training for PROMISE, the National Science Foundation’s Maryland Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) program in the United States, following the death of an engineering student at the hands of her husband, this session will also briefly address the very real issues of domestic violence, physical abuse and emotional abuse that must neither be ignored within the household, nor in academic settings. This talk will highlight some of the inter-generational discussions that have been taking place about women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in South America, the Caribbean, the United States, India, the Middle East, and Europe. How are women perceived in the academy? Are there expectations that do not include seeing them as contributors and leaders of technical innovation? How are young men being trained to view their female peers on engineering teams? Are women who are professors being treated in a respectful way in the classroom? Are families supporting their young girls who want to be scientists, or the wives who are conducting experiments in the laboratory? These are some of the questions that we will address, and we invite an invigorating discussion.
Final program session
The group from our session is shown here, along with prominent philosopher, Dr. Sandra Harding, and the first female president of the Pacific Sciences Association, Dr. Nancy Lewis.
As most know, breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, such that I make as many breakfast meetings as possible, I decided to post a photo of breakfast, and one of lunch. It’s fair to say that I ate extremely well while I was there! I enjoyed my time in Taiwan, and must make mention that I especially enjoyed meeting and talking with the women who worked so hard to make sure that the conference was a success.