1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?
Being a perfectionist is a strength masked as a weakness. As a self-proclaimed perfectionist myself, I’ve learned over the course of my career that perfectionist tendencies—when controlled—are something to lean into. It’s a matter of striving to do one’s best, while also accepting that failures along the way are learning opportunities, not signs of weakness or inadequacy.
On Tuesday, September 29th, MIT SOLVE finalists and supporters alike gathered to celebrate the finalists in this year’s SOLVE grant competition. A wide range of speakers and presenters contributed to a fantastic two-hour event, with participants joining from across the globe.
What is MIT Solve?
MIT Solve is an initiative from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that aims to solve the world’s challenges through the lens of healthy competition. Teams of innovators apply to become “Solver teams,” who work together to tackle world problems across the current year’s categories. A panel of judges with expertise in the technology industry select finalists from the teams who submit their pitches online. Then, during the annual MIT Solve Challenge Finals, the finalists present their pitches for a community vote, and the winning teams are revealed at the end of the night.
In the United States, Black, Latinx, and Native American women make up 18% of our population. However, this same group represents only 4% of computing degree recipients. And in an industry that relies so heavily on the holding of degrees and training certificates, these statistics create a major hiring gap for women of color in tech-focused careers.
The Reboot Representation Tech Coalition, a partnership of 17 companies working together to improve representation in the technology industry, aims to increase the number of Black, Latinx, and Native American women employed in tech. This September, Cognizant U.S. Foundation became the next member of the Coalition with a $1.5 million grant–the first step in the Foundation’s announced $5 million commitment to communities of color.
When I was a girl, I used to watch characters like Murphy Brown and Angela Bower from “Who’s The Boss?” on television. I remember seeing these incredible women workplace role models and how tough and tenacious they were. They got the job done, often in fields primarily dominated by men.
But while they made for great businesswomen role models, I did not have those same role models in fields related to science, technology, engineering or math. I was fortunate to have a father who encouraged me to do anything I dreamed of, but many young girls today don’t have the same privilege. Even as television yielded to the internet, giving us new ways to connect, girls still struggle to find support and understand the value they bring to the world, especially in STEM.
Convention cancellations across the world rocked the games industry this year. In the era of COVID-19, gamers and developers alike have had to find new and creative ways of coming together to play games, share their stories, and shine a light on the opportunities the industry has to make positive, collaborative change.
In lieu of PAX West, PAX Australia, and EGX — three of the biggest games conventions in the world, cancelled this year because of COVID-19 — PAX Online offers 12 days of nonstop, 24-hour gaming content, streamed through the PAX website. From September 12 to September 20, the online event provides all the fun of panels, workshops, game demos, competitions, and more, from the comfort of our living rooms instead of the aggressively air conditioned convention halls. Even more exciting, the event is completely free, bringing the convention experience to an enormous international community of gamers, developers, and funders.
Editor’s Note: The following essay is by Stephanie Fine Sasse, founder of The Plenary, Co., a 501(c)3 nonprofit committed to making social and environmental issues more accessible through science, art, and play.
A few years ago, I sat across from twelve dynamic, accomplished, and inspiring women. They were artists, dancers, singers, musicians, gamers, athletes, activists, and moms.
And of course, they were scientists.
I watched their eyes light up as they spoke about the curiosities and purpose behind their work. And I watched their eyes narrow as they reflected on the challenges that they faced. Many of them spoke about the important roles of failure, creativity, and collaboration in the sciences; concepts that are too often missing from the job description. And others shared their favorite parts of their work: discovery, travel, teamwork, writing, or mentoring students.
In the midst of crisis, some foundations are working harder than ever to protect and empower women and girls, particularly in terms of providing funding for women in STEM.
Vodafone Americas Foundation recently announced a $75,000 commitment to MIT Solve’s Learning for Women & Girls challenge, as well as $50,000 in funding for OpenIdeo’s COVID-19 Business Pivot Challenge. This funding reflects the Foundation’s new commitment to empowerment and education for women and girls, as well as the organization’s flexibility in times of crisis.
On International Women’s Day, World Pulse announced the launch of their new digital impact campaign, #SheTransformsTech. In partnership with the Vodafone Americas Foundation, EQUALS, and a network of other sponsors from the philanthropy and technology worlds, this campaign crowdsources ways women can–and do–shape the future of tech.
“Our goal is to support organizations that are empowering women and girls on a global level,” says June Sugiyama, Director of Vodafone Americas Foundation, a charitable arm of one of the world’s leading telecoms and technology service providers. The Foundation fosters social change in global and local communities, with a focus on empowering women and girls. “This World Pulse initiative is a great example of how we can rally voices on this important issue.”
When corporations divert rivers, when governments displace communities, and when the constant human desire for “more” disrupts the safety of our environment, women and children are often the first to suffer. Access to clean water, a full belly, and a safe place to sleep at night are rights humans should have at birth.
What can we do when these natural rights are violated?
Global Greengrants Fund, also known as Greengrants, seeks to answer this question by taking action. By committing to a program based on participatory grantmaking, Greengrants connects under-served and under-funded communities with the resources and mentorship they need to fight for justice.
Well folks, we’re off the charts, quite literally. Vulnerable people are dying at an alarming rate. Markets are dropping and jumping and dropping again as more people test positive for COVID-19. Health care workers are risking their lives by going to work, and many of us are spending more time social distancing than humanity may have ever tried before. It’s all quite surreal. And we’re not even talking about the gendered impacts yet.
Some leaders in philanthropy are responding to the health crisis with concern and plans to help.
The Kaiser Family Foundation has put together a Donor Funding for COVID-19 Response list, and there you can find organizations funding the research and the medical response to the unprecedented outbreak. Most of the funding listed here is going to China, and all of this funding is brand new, starting in January 2020.