Friday, March 20, 2015

Update on Science and Fashion, aka: Why can't we have nice things?

The latest news about Lego reminded me of this article about “Unclaimed Treasures of Science”: Even during the Cold War, these women brought feminism to STEM, although one must keep in mind that many of these STEM women would not have claimed the term "feminist."
"Women argued over the need to convince skeptical onlookers that a person could be both feminine-looking and interested in STEM. For the Society of Women Engineers” in particular, Puaca writes, “projecting a positive image of women engineers required accepting, on the surface at least, dominant notions of femininity.” Some members made sure to wear dresses, heels, and lipstick for presentations, reassuring people that professionalism and the standard beauty code of Cold War womanhood were not mutually exclusive."" [Unclaimed Treasures of Science]
I keep writing about Kimberle Crenshaw's Intersectionality. I wrote during Wedding Week about GLBT issues, but because I am neither a lesbian nor transgender, it hasn't been a frequent topic on my blog.

One of the concepts that the GLBT community in particular brings to intersectional feminism, is that gender is a spectrum, and the gender binary is a social construct.  If gender is a spectrum, then that means femininity and masculinity each have a range of behaviors that can overlap, in a range from Femme to Butch and anywhere in-between.

In a perfect world, should a person wear whatever they want?

There's a discussion on LinkedIn, pondering whether Sheryl Sandberg would wear a hoodie, like her boss Mark Zuckerberg.

The Seattle Times even published "Guest: The most common question from young women engineers? What to wear."

Quite frankly, if we could FIND more STEM-related fashion like May Britt Moser's lovely Neuron dress that she wore to accept her Nobel prize, these decisions might be easier. But over and over again, we find that the cool STEM / geeky things are coded as masculine.

It's a good question, because in truth, there are geek women who would prefer to wear the t-shirt or hoodie.

It's enough that the Geek Feminism Blog has had a series of posts under "Ask a Geek Feminist" about the subject:

Thursday, March 19, 2015

MOOCs and Planning my Year

I received my C++ Developer certificate in the mail yesterday, from the classes I had been taking through UAH.

I also made a video this month for YouTube, demonstrating my Lego Mindstorms bumpbot. I've received feedback that I plan to incorporate into a re-do. I'm considering a series of these videos, with Mindstorms robots, then Arduino projects, and then Raspberry Pi, as STEM outreach.

I went back to Codecademy and finished up their Python training. The discussion board listed several MOOCs that we could take to continue that work, so next I went over to Coursera and EdX. I found a number of programming and tech-related courses to sign up for and brush up on skills.

Since most of the MOOCs didn't start right away, I've moved on to Java on Codecademy. I figure if I do one segment per day of Codecademy, and one section of the MOOCs, I should be able to get the work done.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Global Design

A few years after earning my M.A., I ended up leaving Houston to move to Alabama.

In the process, somebody asked me why my M.A. wasn't an M.B.A.. So, after I moved here, I set out in search of a degree that would be more applicable to my work in engineering. I looked into MBA programs, I looked into Engineering programs. Eventually, I looked back at my alma mater, at Purdue.

Purdue has an M.S.E. in Interdisciplinary Engineering, and one of the options is Engineering Management & Leadership. At the time I took the program, the business courses were offered in partnership with Thunderbird School of Global Management, leading to a Certificate in Global Management, and I decided that was what would work best for me.

Last fall I attended WE14, the Annual Conference for the Society of Women Engineers. This year was different, because it was held in conjunction with ICWES16, the International Conference on Women Engineers and Scientists.

I made a point on Saturday to go to some of the ICWES sessions. I don't see my notes, I think it was related to startup Technologies and Apps in Africa. There were a variety of attendees, including a diasporic student, studying engineering here in the United States (she asked about returning home, and was told that she would have to integrate her knowledge, to make what she learned here appropriate for life at home).

There were at least two other white women, I'm guessing undergraduate students or early career, who late in the Q&A portion asked about what they needed to know to write an App for Africa. After the speaker struggled to answer for a while, I spoke up.

Design, also, connects to culture. I've written about taking Globalization & Engineering. Another textbook for that course was From Global to Metanational: How Companies Win in the Knowledge Economy.  It described how a company in Detroit attempted to design an appliance (a washing machine, perhaps) for the Asian market, IIRC Singapore. A group of engineers from Singapore were brought to Detroit to help with the effort... but their efforts were not sufficient. The appliance was designed, exported, and failed in the market.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Language Learning

I've always been fascinated by languages.

I can remember thinking about the Biblical Tower of Babel, and wondering what the first language was. So over the years, when I came across a newspaper article about linguistics, languages, or the human brain, I've usually read them.

The space station program became international very soon after it was begun, as the European Space Agency  and the Japanese were invited to participate with their own modules. So, for me, studying languages became closely tied to my fascination with spaceflight and my awareness of globalization.

The Base library proved an excellent resource for that fascination, as I could check out books attempting to teach myself a dozen different languages at once. Of course I bit off more than I could chew, I would have done better to focus on one at a time. The one I went farthest in, was reading and writing Finnish, as I found a good resource. But I've forgotten most of it since then.

When I finally had the opportunity to learn a language (Spanish) in school, I took it. One Valentine's Day, the teacher handed us a worksheet and asked us to match the translation of "I love you" to the appropriate language.

While my language reading hadn't taught me the language, per se, I had a pretty good feel for "this looks like the Chinese symbols," and "this looks like German", so that I had the most accurate answers.

Why does all of this matter?

Language is another key component to culture, that American culture likes to... overlook? ignore? criticize? A Host of Tongues describes how people in the United States inherited the British tendency to just speak louder when confronted with someone who doesn't speak English. It's a fascinating book, if you're interested in the history of languages and attitudes toward language in this country.

I knew from an early age that I did not want to be one of those "ugly Americans" who travel overseas and then wonder why the locals don't speak English.

I know from Found in Translation: How Language Shapes Our Lives and Transforms the World and my own experiences, that because my primary responsibility is to the technical design, I will most likely need a professional translator for business. As much as I enjoy language learning, what I have had time to learn has tended to be needs-focused.

There are several apps that break vocabulary down, and travelers phrasebooks. Any one can learn a few phrases, if not well before the trip, then at least on the airplane. If you only have time for 20 words or phrases, learn:

Monday, March 16, 2015

Continuous Learning

This is a very old song that had a major impact on me when I was very young. One of the reasons I have learned as many different things that I have, is because I'm always looking for new ways to grow.

Forbes: Why The Best Leaders Are Full-Time Learners

Here are some ways to continue learning for free or cheap, using online resources: