Culture 27 April 2018
In recent years, the plight of women in tech has been been plainly highlighted by the widening pay gap in Silicon Valley, the funding disparity for female entrepreneurs and the serious absence of female executives in the industry.
This stems (pun intended) from the lack of girls getting involved in computer science and engineering from an early age. This is not news. What is news, however, is the push from select corporate big shots to engage girls with tech in their youth in order for a company's gender divide to shrink in the next decade.
Initiatives to combat the divide are slowly starting to emerge across corporate firms to encourage female involvement in these industries. But the progress is slow, and the programs aren't getting a ton of press coverage. Girls in the gaming industry may not be the most common occurrence, but according to experts is the proactive impetus many need to get engaged with the world of tech beyond their Instagram newsfeed.
Laila Shabir (second from left) at the Girls Make Games workshop at Thomson Reuters HQ
The fact that the gaming industry currently only employs 8 percent women greatly troubled tech entrepreneur Laila Shabir, who launched her response to the disparity, an educational summer camp called Girls Make Games she founded in 2014, which teaches girls aged 8 to 16 how to code their own video games in 2014. According to the Shabir, at the end of the camp, girls were crying at the prospect of returning home. “My eyes just popped," she says, underscoring the hugely underserved population of young women interested in tech, but feeling left out due to its male-oriented positioning in many schools. “I had no idea this was so important to so many girls, and this was something they weren't getting."
“You go to a games convention, and it's like walking into a fraternity,"
- Laila Shabir, Founder & CEO, Girls Make Games
It wasn't long before Shabir's innovative concept caught the eye of Katherine Manuel, Senior Vice President at Thomson Reuters, who had a similar passion project. After climbing the ranks at the international media and financial firm, Manuel has decided that rather than resting on her laurels, she wants to advocate for changing the status quo, hoping for a “trickle up" effect that would eventually hit corporate America.
“It was time to use my platform for good so I was sort of searching for 'what is that good?' and 'what are opportunities to give back?' I think we have to push to have more women in higher roles in technology to create that sense of community here and we will continue to promote people who are more diverse."
- Katherine Manuel, Senior Vice President of Innovation, Thomson Reuters
In a moment of happenstance meets chance, Manuel's husband forwarded her an email from one Laila Shabir, thanking him for his contribution to a GMG Kickstarter campaign (which he decided to support after coming across on social media). “I read it, and it was just so inspiring that I wrote her an email," Manuel says about her reaction to reading about Shabir's powerful vision. “She laughs now but I think the subject line was something like, 'Let's Change The World Together.' And so she immediately responded back and I thought I had reached a star."
Manuel then began a dialogue with Shabir about how TR could be helpful to Girl Make Games and spread the word of her work. “I think gaming is an entry point for girls to get excited about broader computer sciences and even STEM in general," says Manuel. “That then led to me really look at creating that umbrella of the Future of Innovation, and how important it is to have inclusivity, diversity and innovation in the pipeline." Out of their discussion came a vision for creating pop-up GMG workshops, which saw outfits as far as TR offices in Toronto, Canada, and most recently at the company's space in Times Square in Manhattan. Given the company's large global footprint, and GMG's need for both space and lots of computers, it indeed proved a symbiotic relationship. And one, both say, will continue into the future.
Katherine Manuel, SVP of Innovation at Thomson Reuters, says "we've got to get these little girls excited about technology and not thinking it's a 'boy thing'"
According to Shabir and Manuel, the push to get girls more interested in STEM will eventually help push our global economy into the future, not to mention give a leg up to companies looking to bring a more diverse workforce into the fold. For Shabir, it was an HR discrepancy that first led her to identify the issues faced women in STEM.
“As we were building our games studio (she also runs parent company LearnDistrict), we were trying to hire women and it was almost impossible," says the young Pakistani immigrant who faced an uphill familial battle in her own life when she decided to go to MIT. Looking for 20-something graduates to help build out her team- an integral part of Shabir's vision- proved immensely more difficult than she expected. “When I asked people why it was so hard, the response was 'women don't want to do this. Girls don't want to play games.'"
For Manuel, bringing girls into the fold means a more diverse workplace and a broader spec for innovation. Outside of her work for the company, she mentors women in computer science at undergraduate level. She notes that while most computer science entry level courses begin at a 50/50 gender ratio, by course end, the number of girls graduating is a mere 18-20 percent. This, coupled with her work with GMG is indicative of a bigger and longer-term vision at Thomson Reuters, who last year committed to 40 percent female leadership across the company by 2020.
And according to Manuel, the impetus to this realization was a personal one, namely one she noticed when her children hit 4th and 5th grade and began to be leveled into math class. “The teachers were leveling math and didn't really think much of it, just sort of like who is picking things up at this level or that level and this speed and that speed," she says. “And I just started asking questions, like 'I would like to see the gender break down of how you're doing this.' The data was appalling."
“I sat with teachers and the head of the school and had them walk through the data and teachers jaws were dropping," she says, continuing, “they didn't realize that they had subconscious bias themselves, they see it in others but don't do it themselves, I think looking at collections of data and putting it in front of people, the more awareness it brings. "
This is an unfortunate but glaring truth. Girls begin at ages as young as five years old to disassociate themselves with concepts or activities that are viewed as 'for boys.' So Shabir decided to take upon herself to make gaming fun, appealing, and specifically targeted to young ladies between the ages of 11 and 16.
Unlike others, who have presented a meagre lip service of the women's movement Manuel, is very much putting money where her mouth is. “It's corporate responsibility in a sense of, how are we going to build diverse and inclusive workplace," she says. “Not necessarily next quarter, but in the next 10-15 years."“And, it's hard for corporations," she continues. “I think we are on the hook so often for quick results and quick turns and so again, so much focus seems to be on the later stage recruiting of diverse talent but [we have] to care more about that pipeline and have a longer-term vision around those messages - it's good business."
One interesting takeaway from her still-growing concept, Shabir has found, is the girls create games with a grander worldview, specifically changing the gaming space to be more inclusive of women, not to mention more impactful. “Girls want to make games more meaningful than just entertainment," she remarks. “They make games with a purpose, like 'I want to teach this, or I want to make my player happy or I want to my mom play this because she's depressed." Rather than simply creating a game, for example, to imagine war scenarios or grand fighting scenes, the games the girls create begin to address issues, which in itself is an exceedingly hopeful indicator of things to come.
It is one thing to read and another thing to understand what you are reading. Not only do you want to understand, but also remember what you've read. Otherwise, we can safely say that if we're not gaining anything from what we read, then it's a big waste of time.
Whatever you read, there are ways to do so in a more effective manner to help you understand better. Whether you are reading by choice, for an upcoming test, or work-related material, here are a few ways to help you improve your reading skills and retain that information.
Read with a Purpose
Never has there been a shortage of great books. So, someone recommended a great cookbook for you. You start going through it, but your mind is wandering. This doesn't mean the cookbook was an awful recommendation, but it does mean it doesn't suit nor fulfill your current needs or curiosity.
Maybe your purpose is more about launching a business. Maybe you're a busy mom and can't keep office hours, but there's something you can do from home to help bring in more money, so you want information about that. At that point, you won't benefit from a cookbook, but you could gain a lot of insight and find details here on how-to books about working from home. During this unprecedented year, millions have had to make the transition to work from home, and millions more are deciding to do that. Either way, it's not a transition that comes automatically or easily, but reading about it will inform you about what working from home entails.
When you pre-read it primes your brain when it's time to go over the full text. We pre-read by going over the subheadings, for instance, the table of contents, and skimming through some pages. This is especially useful when you have formal types of academic books. Pre-reading is a sort of warm-up exercise for your brain. It prepares your brain for the rest of the information that will come about and allows your brain to be better able to pick the most essential pieces of information you need from your chosen text.
Highlighting essential sentences or paragraphs is extremely helpful for retaining information. The problem, however, with highlighting is that we wind up highlighting way too much. This happens because we tend to highlight before we begin to understand. Before your pages become a neon of colored highlights, make sure that you only highlight what is essential to improve your understanding and not highlight the whole page.
You might think there have been no new ways to read, but even the ancient skill of reading comes up with innovative ways; enter speed reading. The standard slow process shouldn't affect your understanding, but it does kill your enthusiasm. The average adult goes through around 200 to 250 words per minute. A college student can read around 450 words, while a professor averages about 650 words per minute, to mention a few examples. The average speed reader can manage 1,500 words; quite a difference! Of course, the argument arises between quality and quantity. For avid readers, they want both quantity and quality, which leads us to the next point.
Life is too short to expect to gain knowledge from just one type of genre. Some basic outcomes of reading are to expand your mind, perceive situations and events differently, expose yourself to other viewpoints, and more. If you only stick to one author and one type of material, you are missing out on a great opportunity to learn new things.
Having said that, if there's a book you are simply not enjoying, remember that life is also too short to continue reading it. Simply, close it, put it away and maybe give it another go later on, or give it away. There is no shame or guilt in not liking a book; even if it's from a favorite author. It's pretty much clear that you won't gain anything from a book that you don't even enjoy, let alone expect to learn something from it.
If you're able to summarize what you have read, then you have understood. When you summarize, you are bringing up all the major points that enhance your understanding. You can easily do so chapter by chapter.
Take a good look at your life and what's going on in it. Accordingly, you'll choose the material that is much more suitable for your situation and circumstances. When you read a piece of information that you find beneficial, look for a way to apply it to your life. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge isn't all that beneficial. But the application of knowledge from a helpful book is what will help you and make your life more interesting and more meaningful.