Media Labs hosted the No Permission, No Apology conference in which Megan Smith, MIT grad and United States’ Chief Technology Officer, spoke about diversity in STEM. Smith’s speech focused on the unconscious bias within the industry and how the next generation of diverse graduates can create change within the industry.
Unfortunately the 250 attendees (made up of mostly women) have an uphill battle. According to “recent research by Change the Equation, a coalition of Fortune 500 firms, and the 2016 US News/Raytheon STEM Index”, the field of STEM today is as diverse as it was 15 years ago. Like Smith alluded too, unconscious bias plays a heavy role in STEM’s diversity problem. People hire who they know, and most white males know other white males.
Still the upsides are there. With recent initiatives geared towards improving diversity in the STEM fields, the Media Labs conference is another great opportunity to expand the pool of qualified applicants. “I was very inspired to hear about the work that other women have done in the past.“ Aliyah Smith, a UMBC sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering, said after hearing Megan Smith speech. "It’s always good to remember that women have not all of a sudden become interested in technology; we just haven’t been acknowledged.”