This might be one of the most inspiring sessions I’ve attended so far. The women on the panel were:
Cecilia Aragon, Lawrence Berkeley Lab & U Washington
Patty Lopez, Intel
Sandra Johnson, IBM
Loretta Moore, Jackson State U
All of these women had wonderful stories. Sandra Johnson said she believes she was the first African American woman to get a PhD in Electrical Engineering! She is also the only African American woman who is an IEEE fellow. Cecilia Aragon left with a MS, took time off and then went back for the PhD and was still able to not only work in a National Lab, but to then get 6 offers for faculty positions and to accept an offer as a tenured professor. Patty Lopez took a risk after working at HP for almost 20 years and moved to Intel. Patty Lopez didn’t make the cheerleading squad (she couldn’t do cartwheels, like myself!) and decided instead to compete with the boy in class who thought he was smarter than her (haven’t we all?). Loretta More told a lovely story about how she decided that Chemistry was rather unforgiving to mistakes (the story involved an explosion!) and switched to Computer Science.
Here’s an interesting thought. Someone asked about dealing with people saying that you only got a position or an award because you’re female or a minority. The consensus from the panel was to know that you got where you are because you’re qualified, but Sandra Johnson mentioned that for years men actually got positions without being qualified!
My personal question was about carrying the burden of representing my race. Patty Lopez had a great insight, in a book on corporate tribalism, it was shown that white males see themselves as individuals but tend to see minorities as groups. So I need to work on separating myself from the group and stop seeing myself as a representative of all women, all Jamaican women, all Women of Color.