Dr. Katlyn Turner Speaks at Massachusetts STEM Week 2020




October 21, 2020
4:30pm ET

Technology—like a cell phone, an app, or the MBTA public transportation system—seems neutral, but is it? Rather, human biases about things like race, gender, class, or sexuality are easily encoded into technology design. Biases about these factors are why facial recognition software only correctly identifies white male faces, why Uber and Lyft drivers from Black and brown ethnic backgrounds get lower average ratings from passengers, or why lower socioeconomic class neighborhoods with more people of color are less frequently served by public transit. Technology therefore isn't quite neutral: it takes our biased inputs and produces biased outputs. This has real consequences for real people: an incorrect facial ID could mean being targeted as a suspect for a crime that you didn't commit; a poor Uber or Lyft driver rating could mean that you're out of a job; less reliable and frequent public transportation could mean facing longer commutes and more physical, emotional, or financial stress. In order to design better technologies that are helpful and beneficial for all, we can consider principles of antiracism—the idea that all races are equal—and intersectionality—the idea that our identities around factors like race, gender, and class influence how we experience the world. When we design technology with these principles in mind, we hope to create better outcomes for all.

Massachusetts STEM Week 2020 takes place from October 19 – 23 (inclusive of the weekend before and after), and is organized by the Executive Office of Education and the STEM Advisory Council in partnership with the state’s 9 Regional STEM Networks. It is a statewide effort to boost the interest, awareness and ability for all learners to envision themselves in STEM education and employment opportunities, and compliment the formal instruction happening in the Commonwealth beyond STEM week. 

The theme for the third annual statewide STEM Week is See Yourself in STEM, with a particular focus on the power of mentoring. Women, people of color, first-generation students, low-income individuals, English language learners, and people with disabilities are underrepresented in STEM industries and make up an increasing portion of the overall workforce, but the demographics of STEM fields have remained largely the same. We need more young people to see themselves in STEM. 

This theme is aimed at encouraging and supporting underrepresented youth, especially Black and brown students, in STEM fields to pursue STEM careers as well as bolster their persistence through STEM education with a mentor that is engaged, supportive, and shares in the many unique parts of their identity. The STEM Council is excited to partner with the Mass Mentoring Partnership to build capacity and engagement in mentoring across the state during STEM Week and beyond.

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