Dr Lorena Barba Speaks from the Heart

Dr. Barba visited Virginia Tech last October, 2017, for a series of 3 speaking events. This post is about the third event.

“Gender and Diversity in Engineering”

Student Feedback Forwarded from Susan Arnold-Christian, Associate Director – Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity at Virginia Tech, College of Engineering

Lorena’s third event was not only well attended, it was moving. In the student comments below, although result-oriented (as one would expect from VT engineers), one detects the emotional impact Lorena had on the students. I was there and observed her effective teaching through some serious moments of emotional student engagement that revealed her compassion for her students and mastery of the classroom learning environment. It was clear to all that Dr Lorena Barba speaks from the heart.

  • This event enhanced… my knowledge on how women engineers in real life are impacted by gender bias… I immensely enjoyed my experience, so much so I stayed around with the speaker and graduate students about thirty minutes after everything was over. Thank you for reaching out to me and have a great day.
  • This impacts me as an engineer because in the field of engineering [there] is a huge difference between men and women. Women have to work to get a higher post while men have it much easier because they look like stereotypical engineer. This discussion overall brought to my attention that women are not the only people that are suppressed in the engineering field. People of color are often not thought about and need to be thought of when creating new innovations.
  • This event will help me… remember to think of any biases I have before interacting with other members in a team project, so that hopefully I won’t act based on those biases.
  • I found Dr. Barba’s event to be very interesting and pertinent to my professional development as an engineer. Being a female, many of the topics that Dr. Barba spoke about, such as walking a tightrope between being assertive and remaining feminine really struck a chord with me… Understanding the inequalities that Dr. Barba spoke of, being a female in a male-dominant work place, better prepares me to be confident and assertive in my professional work. I also was inspired to persevere despite any hardships that may come my way and professionalism comes with allying with one and other to get rid of these inequalities.
  • I very much enjoyed hearing Dr. Barba speak and thought this was a good event. The reason that I think this event helps my professional development is I know what other women in my career are facing and what I may have to be prepared for. This impacts me because women and minorities are treated differently in the workplace and I need to stick up for myself and everyone else who is discriminated against or nothing will change.
  • It was very interesting to hear from Dr. Barba and others about their points of view on the topic. The topic of gender equality in the work place is very important because we are woefully uneducated about it and try to avoid conversation on the subject whenever possible… what Dr. Barba said about needing a few strong willed men to step up and challenge the gender biases that are present… was interesting… [and] that not only are human[s] biased in the way they look at people, but they are inadvertently training AI to think the same way. It is horrifying and enlightening that these things are occurring and we need to be educated more on ways to prevent our natural social biases. When researching some more about hidden biases, I found a website created by a group called Project Implicit. This site asks you a series of question as well as flashes symbols and word[s] across the screen to determine your hidden biases.
  • I am really glad I attended this event, as it taught me about the importance of reaching out and being inclusive with everyone. Moving forward in life as a colored woman in engineering, I will be mindful of those who are affected by the same problems as well as those who can help make a change to the problems.
  • I think this event will help my professional development because I am now aware of how important allies are in improving the workplace environment concerning diversity. A more inclusive and diverse work environment will yield better results, especially in engineering.
  • How and why this event impacts me academically is that it teaches me how to work with other students who may not be exactly like me. This event also helped me realize what types of bias on women in engineering there are and how to either stop them or even help tell others that what they are saying to someone else is wrong. This event does resonate with a lot of the female engineers or even international students because we are the minority. It is obvious we were all intelligent enough since we all got into VT. 
  • I think the biggest way it will help me is having a better understanding of these topics, allowing me to be more aware of what is happening around me. I will also now take the time to try and focus and notice when I am biased. The discussion really made me reflect on what I see around me and how I handle my own day to day situations. That same day after the talk I went to my friends and shared what I learned. It is definitely a great conversation starter into a more difficult topic.
  • I think this event impacts my professional development by learning and understanding what challenges I can face as a woman in the workplace, and to [beware] of that. This topic affects my professional development because these are issues that affect everyone that isn’t a straight white male, and it’s important to realize the value of diversity in engineering.
  • I think this topic impacts [me] as an engineer because many of my peers are women/minorities and one needs to be able to understand things from their perspective. This will also impact it by having knowledge on the subject, I can have conversations with them about topics like sexual harassment and misogyny which they might face in the future.
  • I completely side with Dr. Barba on the fact that this whole Gender and Diversity in the workplace topic and the problems associated with it aren’t just a women’s issue; it’s a world issue and as such, we should all, men and women, strive to find solutions by being vocal and exposing acts of racial and gender-based harassment (or any type of harassment). This will directly impact me as I am someone who in no way fits the ‘ideal’ stereotypical picture of an engineer. Not only am I [a] woman, I am also an Arab, veiled, Muslim woman. And so in my professional career, I am likely going to experience some sort of judgment based on bias. However, this discussion made me more aware of my own biases as well. It also encouraged me to address and expose these issues whenever I encounter them,  for example, I was inspired by… Dr. Barba’s [story about when she] confronted her director about even thinking of linking the word ‘flattery’ with her sexual harassment incident. Further, as a professional in the field of engineering, I plan to take into account how diverse our planet is and so when designing products, I will make sure that it meets the demands and is fit for the entire consumer base and not just [for] one specific category and neglect the rest (unlike the Apple Watch as discussed today). 
  • This event helped to broaden my understanding of the situations and emotions others face that I am unfamiliar with. This will help me to better interact and work with my peers as I continue my academic career.
  • Though I had to leave early for class, I thoroughly enjoyed this discussion-style event today with Dr. Barba because I learned very valuable information about the world around me in terms of gender and diversity issues like inequality and biased behavior. I was most intrigued by the comments made in the discussion around the room by my peers because they brought in facts and accounted experiences that I have never taken the time to learn or think of myself. I see what I learned from this event as Academic Support for my future as an engineer because it not only teaches me about the business world around me but also pushes me to work harder in the classroom, empowering me to prove myself as a capable student to my classmates no matter what race or gender I am.
  • The concept of diversity in engineering is a big one. I think its important to hold everyone [to] the same standards, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. This impacts my pro dev as an engineer by helping me respect everyone in and out of the workplace because it’s solely the right thing to do. I look forward to using the things I learned at today’s seminar to help me be a better engineer and a more accepting engineer.
  • Attending this event truly did impact me and I enjoyed discussing with Dr. Barba and the other Engineering students about the Gender and Diversity Issues in engineering. Being a minority in the Engineering area is definitely something I realize, and there are some days where the fact of me being a minority stands out more than others. I think the topic of Gender and Diversity Issues impacts my professional development as an engineer because it does have the impact of determining how you work as an engineer, whether you are accepted as a minority or not or discriminated against. I think it is very important to vocalize the issues with diversity and gender issues in engineering because everyone who wants to do engineering, or any other career in fact, should have the same fair advantage as the “majority.”
  • I believe the topic of Gender and Diversity helps [me] as an engineer because it better equips me to handle situations where I am working with people who are different from myself. This event gave me a better understanding of how to support people who are different from me, and, after attending, I feel more confident in my ability to handle a situation where I may be discriminated against.
  • As far as academic support, the topic of gender diversity (and general diversity because that came up a lot this morning as well) is important because it is almost impossible to work and be stressful in a highly stressful environment, like the one that is created when people are insensitive to issues and situations that arise surrounding those topics. You can’t learn if you can’t focus on learning. It was nice to [be] reminded that I’m not the only woman in engineering who walks into a room full of engineers and thinks about this, and that there are men, [although they are in the majority], who see it and will try to speak up.
  • I think this topic impacts m[me] as an engineer through knowing and understanding factors influencing women and minorities in engineering. It is important for everyone to recognize that different people come from different backgrounds and have different experiences, and one should think about how others will perceive things that they do in a professional environment, and be aware of others’ point of view.
  • WOW! I hope you enjoyed this event as much as I did. It was really eye opening to hear other people’s perspectives and listen to how small, overlooked details can largely impact people in society. I think this event aided [me] as an engineer because it covered Gender Discrimination in a classroom setting and how to deal with this problem. Mrs. Barba did a wonderful job doing this by sharing ideas on how to interact with people who may be a little judgmental based solely on being a woman. Also, I gained a valuable tip that men are part of the solution to greater women involvement in engineering. I know this event will help me both share my experiences with others to educate them and personally aid in my academic development by supplying me with these interactive skills.

 Thanks to the following folks who made it possible for Lorena to touch the lives of our students:

  • The DAGGS Collaboration
    • Pamplin College of Business: Gina French, Svetlana Filatreau, Jennifer Clevenger
    • University Libraries:
      • DAGGS Committee: Gail McMillan, Yi Shen, Jonathan Petters, Peter Potter, Paul Hover
      • Scholarly Communications: Anita Walz, Philip Young
      • DSO: Elizabeth McVoy, Trevor Finney, Alec Masella
      • Ellen Krupar, Sita Williams, Brian Mathews, Robert Sebek, Larry Thompson, Carol Sinclair (and many more)
  • College of Engineering: Glenda Scales, Kim Lester, Susan Arnold-Christian
  • OIRED Women and Gender in International Development: Maria Elisa Christie
  • University Relations: Tracy Vosburgh