Invisible Man

Don’t tell her no, no, no!

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Almost 6 decades ago, folks could have told me to shut up.  (OK.  They did.  I didn’t listen. I still don’t.)

I had a loving grandfather who quizzed me all the time- made sure I knew the answers to math questions.  NOW.  Not 2 seconds from now.  Who took me to the Coney Island Aquarium.  The Bronx Zoo.  The Hayden Planetarium.  The ocean.  The mountains.  And, he probably endured more questions than one would expect.   (I’ve written how my grandfather was my first mentor.)

The same was true with my teachers.  Who, admittedly, also told me to shut up.  Or, as I have also written taught me words my parents never wanted me to know.  (Ms. Kekst called me a little “mamzer” early in second grade.  You’re welcome to search the meaning yourself.)

I’ve mentioned all those wonderful researchers who took me seriously when I asked questions.  Who helped me study the brain and Parkinson’s, the kidney and dialysis, who listened when I wanted to grow plants in water- quickly.  (Mind you all this happened some 55 or more years ago.)

But,  let’s get real.  I was a boy.  Sure, I was smart, but I was a boy.  (Yes, I was also lucky.)

I wonder if I were a girl, would those folks have offered their time and advice.  Of course, none of the folks I addressed were female, either.  Because, back then, the “woman’s place was in the home”.  Not in the office.  Not in the hospital.  (Unless, of course, you lived in Israel.  But, even there, women in technology were frowned upon.)

The problem still persists.  Oh, sure, women lawyers are a dime a dozen now.  (I am not being sexist- male lawyers are also a dime a dozen.  Which is why the unemployment upon graduating from law school is so darned high.)

And, medical schools are graduating plenty of women now.  But, most of them don’t go into medical research.

I’ve also written about the few numbers of women who matriculate into engineering programs.  Which also means that fewer still graduate. (It is not atypical to see a 50% attrition rate from freshman year to graduation among engineering majors.)

Invisible ManIt’s why I routinely offer my services to mentor young kids through high school.  (When I was a professor, that also included many college students.  I just don’t travel in their circles any longer.)  I serve as an advisor toSTEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) enrichment programs and Science Fairs all the time.

Because EVERY society needs a healthy component of STEM graduates.  If we want a growing society, it can’t happen without technical improvements- and that means STEM.  And, we need everyone involved- not just the white guys.  The perspective of women, of African-Americans, of folks from different cultures is critical to developing widely used new concepts.

Now Microsoft is joining in the act.  They’ve issued a great video – in conjunction with International Women’s Day- to spread the message.

We all should.  For our children’s sakes.

Roy A. Ackerman, Ph.D., E.A.

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