Tag Archives: wednesday geek woman

Wednesday Geek Woman: Sofia Samatar, Author, Poet, and Editor

Sofia SamatarIn addition to being the poetry and nonfiction editor for the literary journal Interfictions, Sofia Samatar is the winner of this year’s John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

Her novel, A Stranger in Olondria, has gotten rave reviews. It won the Crawford Fantasy Award; it was a finalist for the Nebula Award and the Locus Award for Best First Novel; and it’s still a finalist for the British Fantasy Award and the World Fantasy Award. You can read an excerpt over on Tor.com.

Her short story “Selkie Stories Are For Losers” has been appearing on a lot of awards shortlists, too. It was a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, and the British Science Fiction Awards, and is still a finalist for the World Fantasy Awards. You can find links to more of her short fiction (and her poetry!) on her website.

Wednesday Geek Woman: Mikki Kendall, activist and author

Mikki Kendall, activist and author. Photo courtesy Mikki Kendall.

Mikki Kendall, activist and author. Photo courtesy Mikki Kendall.

Mikki Kendall is a writer, pop culture critic, editor and author.

In 2009, she started Verb Noire, a small press for genre fiction featuring characters that are people of color and/or LGBT. In 2011, her first story, “Copper For A Trickster,” appeared in Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories. She’s been a panelist at WisCon, Arisia, and Readercon,  and been a guest on the Nerdgasm Noire podcast.

As of last month, she has a new story out! Content warning for violence and sexual violence, but if you’re able to do so you should really check out If God Is Watching. It’s a gorgeously-written period fantasy about a young woman with an unusual power, and anything else I tell you about it would spoil its awesomeness so seriously just go read it.

Though she’s a talented fiction writer, she’s better known for her incisive cultural criticism on issues relating to race and gender. in August 2013, she started the #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen hashtag–a home for honest criticism of the ways white feminism has failed at intersectionality and repeatedly thrown women of color under the bus. The tag picked up steam until it was globally trending.

Together with Jamie Nesbitt Golden, she started Hood Feminism, an intersectional blog about race, gender, and misogynoir (the toxic brand of explicitly anti-black misogyny). They’ve leveraged Twitter to keep that conversation going with hashtags like and .

Her non-fiction has appeared in The Guardian, Salon, NPR’s Code Switch, and XOJane, among other places. You can find her at Hood Feminism and on Twitter as @Karnythia.

Wednesday Geek Woman: Melba Roy Mouton

Melba Roy Mouton, standing with computing equipment at Goddard Space Flight Center.

Melba Roy Mouton, NASA mathematician, at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Image courtesy NASA, 1960.

Melba Roy Mouton graduated from Howard University in 1950 with a Master’s in Mathematics. By 1960, she was working for NASA, where she headed up a team of mathematicians who tracked Echo satellites in Earth’s orbit.

During her time at NASA, she served as head of the Data Systems Division’s Advanced Orbital Programming Branch, Head of the Mission and Trajectory Analysis Division’s Program Systems Branch, and Assistant Chief of Research Programmes, Trajectory and Geodynamics Division. She received an Exceptional Performance Award and NASA’s Apollo Achievement Award.

She retired in 1973, and passed away in 1990, at the age of 61.

Over on Vintage Black Glamour, Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, an astrophysicist who did a post-doc at NASA, describes Mouton’s work:

[W]hen we launch satellites into orbit, there are a lot of things to keep track of. We have to ensure that gravitational pull from other bodies, such as other satellites, the moon, etc. don’t perturb and destabilize the orbit. These are extremely hard calculations to do even today, even with a machine-computer. So, what she did was extremely intense, difficult work. The goal of the work, in addition to ensuring satellites remained in a stable orbit, was to know where everything was at all times. So they had to be able to calculate with a high level of accuracy.

Sources:

Wednesday Geek Woman: Mildred Dresselhaus

This post is based on a piece which originally appeared at Let’s Talk About Science.

To celebrate Ada Lovelace Day, a day of blogging about women in science, I wanted to tell you all about Mildred Dresselhaus, the MIT physics professor and giant of nanoscience sometimes known as ‘the queen of carbon’. For the last twenty years or so, materials made from carbon have been getting exponentially more and more attention. Carbon is an essential building block in many of the chemicals that are important for life, but there are also huge differences between materials made from carbon depending on how the carbon is bonded. Diamonds and coal are both forms of carbon, but with wildly different crystal structure. So many of the hot carbon materials from recent years have come from new ways that the carbon atoms can be arranged. For example, carbon nanotubes are like rolled up sheets of carbon, and graphene is a sheet of carbon that’s only one atom thick. Both carbon nanotubes and graphene have very high mechanical strength, electrical and thermal conductivity, and low permeability for their size. And there are a lot of other ways carbon can be nanostructured, collectively referred to as allotropes of carbon.

But Dresselhaus was into carbon before it was cool, and has been a professor at MIT since the 60s studying the physics of carbon materials. Her work has focused on the thermal and electrical properties of nanomaterials, and the way in which energy dissipation is different in nanostructured carbon. Her early work focused on difficult experimental studies of the electronic band structure of carbon materials and the effects of nanoscale confinement. And she was able to theoretically predict the existence of carbon nanotubes, some of their electronic properties, and the properties of graphene, years before either of these materials were prepared and measured. Her scientific achievements are extremely impressive, and she has gotten a lot of honors accordingly.

And as you can imagine, things have changed a lot for women in science over the course of her career. When she began at MIT, less than 5% of students were female, and these days it’s more like 40%. But of course, it helps female students quite a bit to see female role models, like Dresselhaus. She discusses the importance of mentoring in her career in this interview:

Hunter High School was a real turning point for me. I found out about its existence through the music school. Nobody I knew had gone to one of these special high schools, and my teachers didn’t think it was possible to get in. But Hunter sent me a practice exam, and I studied what I needed to know to pass the exam. It was an excellent school with excellent teachers.

By the end you were already known as a science and math whiz. Yet you didn’t think a science career was possible.

At that time there were only three kinds of jobs commonly open to women: teaching, nursing and secretarial work. I went on to Hunter College thinking I would be an elementary schoolteacher.

But then you met Rosalyn Yalow, the future Nobel laureate.

I took her class in elementary nuclear physics. It was a tiny class, maybe 3 students, maybe 10. She was a real leader and a very domineering person. You met her and she said, “You’re going to do this.” She told me I should focus on science. She left the exact science unspecified but said I should do something at the forefront of some area. After that, she was always in my life, writing letters of recommendation for me, keeping up with my progress.

And for more about Mildred Dresselhaus’ scientific achievements, you can read this citation of her work from winning the Kavli Prize in Nanoscience in 2012.

Ada Lovelace portrait in woodcut style

Wednesday Geek Woman: cross-post your Ada Lovelace Day 2013 post

Happy Ada Lovelace Day!

This is a submissions thread for Wednesday Geek Woman series of profiles. This time you have two submission options:

  1. submit your Ada Lovelace Day profile for cross-posting
  2. submit in comments here as usual

Option 1a: submit your Ada Lovelace Day profile for cross-posting.

To do this, simply leave the URL of your ALD post in comments. In addition, you can optionally include:

  1. optionally, a one sentence biography about yourself, with any links you want.
  2. optionally, a note that you are willing to release your profile under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported

Notes:

  • the profile must be written by you
  • the profile will still be checked against our standard criteria before posting (see below)

Option 1b: submit your Ada Lovelace Day profile for a round-up

This mostly applies to anyone who wrote about a woman we’ve already featured. We won’t cross-post your posts, but we’d love to stick them in a roundup.

Option 2: submit in comments here.

Note: this option is not limited to profiles of women in STEM.

Submit your profile of a geek woman in (hidden) comments here and selected ones will be posted (perhaps lightly edited). Here’s what to include:

  1. Optional: a quick one sentence bio paragraph about yourself, with any links you want. For example: Mary is a humble geek blogger and you can find her at <a href=”http://geekfeminism.org/”>geekfeminism.org</a&gt;Notes:
    • if this bio line is missing, you will be assumed to want to be anonymous. This applies even if you put a name and URL in the comment field.
    • don’t feel pressured into revealing things about yourself you don’t want to. A pseudonymous, mysterious, vague or simple bio is fine.
  2. Compulsory: two or more parapraphs describing your geek woman, ideally including why you admire her in particular.
  3. Optional: links to her biography, her Wikipedia page, and so on.
  4. Optional: agreement that your post can be used under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (posts that have this can be used in the Geek Feminism wiki).

See previous posts for examples.

Here’s a form you could copy and paste into comments:

My bio (one sentence only, optional):

Name or pseudonym of the geek woman I am submitting:

A few words summarising the woman’s geek accomplishments (for example “AI researcher” or “discoverer of supernova” or “engine mechanic”):

My post about this woman (two or more paragraphs):

Links to this woman elsewhere (optional):

[Please delete this line if you don't agree!] I agree to licence my post under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

Criteria. Continue reading

Wednesday Geek Woman: Mary Anne Mohanraj, Author and Editor

Photo by Alberto Yáñez.

Photo by Alberto Yáñez.

Mary Anne Mohanraj started one of the Internet’s first blogs, back in the wild days of 1995 when we still called them “Online Journals,” and everyone had to do all their html by hand.

She founded the award-winning speculative fiction magazine Strange Horizons, and the Speculative Literature Foundation, which promotes literary quality in speculative fiction. She has made a lot of her own short fiction available for free on her website.

She’s also a co-founder of the Carl Brandon Society, which works to “increase the racial and ethnic diversity in the production of and audience for speculative fiction.” Her essays about race in fandom have had a substantial impact on my own understanding of racial privilege. For folks looking for a solid introduction to these issues, I strongly recommend her two guest-posts on John Scalzi’s Whatever on race in SFF fandom: Mary Anne Mohanraj Gets You Up to Speed, Part I and Part II.

Mohanraj has an essay in Queers Dig Time Lords, which is coming out on June 4th. Her latest book, illustrated Science Fiction Erotica The Stars Change, is currently available for pre-order. It’ll be released on October 1st.

akirachix-flickr-user-cesarharada-cc-nc-sa

Wednesday Geek Women: Akirachix

akirachix-flickr-user-cesarharada-cc-nc-sa

Akirachix at iHub in Nairobi. Photo by Cesar Harada, cc-nc-sa.

Based in Nairobi, Kenya, Akirachix is an association of women in tech. Through mentorship, training programs, and networking, they’re working to “inspire and develop a successful force of women in Technology that will change Africa’s future.”

According to the Akirachix website, women make up half of Africa’s workforce, but only 15% of the tech industry. Last December, American news service National Public Radio sat down with Akirachix president Judith Owigar, who talked about what it’s like to be a woman in the Kenyan tech scene:

“You know you’re the oddball just because of your gender,” Owigar says.

It turns out that in Kenya, exactly as in Silicon Valley, the problem with getting more women in tech is that there aren’t more women in tech.

“There are probably other women in tech who are alone, and they think they’re the weird ones, but if enough of us meet together, you know, it won’t be so weird anymore.”

akirachix-flickr-user-dreamfish-cc-by-nc-sa

photo by Flickr user Dreamfish, cc-nc-sa.

So what are they doing about it? They’ve built a support network of two hundred women in technology. They’re hacking the pipeline with mentorship programs for high school girls and training programs for talented women, many of whom can’t afford the tuition costs of a formal degree. They run a mobile app competition to encourage local entrepreneurs to build tools for their own communities:

Africa has 644 million subscribers (approximately 11% of the global total) and this has powered a social and economic revolution. As more people get access to mobile phones and Internet penetration increases they will need applications and services to serve their need. African developers are well positioned to come up with applications for this new mobile user and serve the existing ones in new ways.

With grant funding from international development interests, they’re working to build a mobile social network, and partnered with Computer Aid International to build an open-source screen magnifier to improve visual accessibility.

Learn more about Akirachix on their website and blog, or follow them on twitter.

Mary Robinette Kowak, by Eric James Stone, cc-by-sa

Wednesday Geek Woman: Mary Robinette Kowal, author and puppeteer

Mary Robinette Kowak, by Eric James Stone, cc-by-sa

Mary Robinette Kowal, by Eric James Stone, cc-by-sa

Mary Robinette Kowal is an award-winning author of Science Fiction and Fantasy. She has a lot of work available for free online, including Hugo award winner “For Want of a Nail,” Nebula nominated novella “Kiss Me Twice,” and my personal favorite of her shorter works, “The Lady Astronaut of Mars.”

without-a-summerShe’s also got a brand-new book out this week: Without A Summer. It takes place in London, in 1816, the real year without a summer. If you enjoy Fantasy novels and the works of Jane Austen, and especially if you enjoy fantasy novels revolving around women, I definitely recommend adding this one to your list–I got an early look at it, and loved it to bits. The most important actors in the story are women, the central interpersonal conflict is between women, and while all the main characters are white, it’s nice to see a Regency novel that acknowledges that there were, in fact, people of color in 19th century England.

Over on John Scalzi’s blog, Kowal talks about the roles class and social upheaval play in the book, and about writing a Regency heroine who’s facing her prejudices on matters of race and class.

Kowal is also a professional puppeteer–her twitter feed is a goldmine of funny-out-of-context nuggets about puppet-making. You can also catch up with her over on her blog, or at the writing podcast Writing Excuses.

Photograph of Estelle Weyl speaking, by David Calhoun

Wednesday Geek Woman: Estelle Weyl, expert web developer and standards evangelist

This is a guest post by Melanie Archer. It originally appeared on her blog for Ada Lovelace Day..

Photograph of  Estelle Weyl speaking, by David Calhoun

Estelle Weyl, by David Calhoun

By late afternoon that day in September 2002, I was getting pretty grumpy. The sandwich at lunch had dissipated into low blood sugar; the files I’d placed on the server just moments before had disappeared (and we had neither backups nor version control); the room was stuffy on an uncharacteristically hot day in San Francisco. And here comes this woman from one of the rival teams in the hackathon, introducing herself, trying to make friends, or at least, acquaintances.

I don’t remember being very effusive. The day had been grueling-I was on a team of four, working feverishly to develop an an accessible, yet visually appealing, Web site in just a few hours here in the Mission High School computer lab. But we shook hands. I recognized this woman’s name from the discussion list for SFWoW, at the time indispensable for finding out about tech events like this one. I hadn’t known how to pronounce it.

“Estelle Weyl. Like ‘while,'” she said. Within moments we all learned how excited she was about CSS, a technique new to many people at the hackathon, which was just one day of the Accessible Internet Rally. At another gathering we’d learned about various accessibility techniques, such as supplying text alternatives to images, offering keyboard shortcuts, and using CSS for presentation. The last had been my M.O. for three years already-I was puzzled how slow acceptance of it was.

I’d recently left a job at a software company which assembled a bunch of open source superstars, both actual and self-proclaimed, and then hired some front-end types like me to rework the clumsy, visually unappealing interface for the superstars’ application into something more usable. The low status of front-end work became obvious to me upon my introduction to one of the engineers.

“Oh, one of the pixel people,” he sneered, then lumbered off, leaving me to read the absurd style guide the UI lead had delivered. CSS was too “unsupported,” the guide admonished. Use <FONT> and <CENTER> to render the design atrocities we build in the browser. I didn’t stay long at this pointless gig.

So Estelle’s bouncy enthusiasm for CSS didn’t seem infectious to me, but instead, rather naive. Do you really want to investigate a technique with near-universal applicability, great community support, a bright future?

Learn Perl. Yeah, that’s where it’s at.

Thank goodness she didn’t. Instead, Estelle dug into CSS to a level few of us do. She opened multiple browsers, on multiple operating systems, to ask one question: what happens when I do this?

The results are bookmarked by anybody who cares about cross-browser CSS, but not enough to commit these fugitive details to memory. I’ve placed I-don’t-know how many fancy list separators via li:after, but dang if I remember the ASCII code for them. Oh, look-Estelle’s catalogued them! Meanwhile, as WML gave way to near-complete HTML support in mobile browsers, Estelle was there, checking CSS support on an ungainly gamut of devices-so we didn’t have to.

Somewhere along the line Estelle decided to start talking about CSS. In just a couple years Estelle had attracted an audience. Soon there were few CSS-focused events that didn’t include at least one presentation by Estelle Weyl. And there were, increasingly, more CSS-focused events. It sounded like Estelle’s life was pretty much spent going from one glamorous conference to another.

These days she addresses standing-room-only crowds, many of whom include engineers like the one I met ten years back, now anxious to learn CSS to “keep current.” If Estelle’s story proves anything, it’s not the superiority of CSS, it’s the superiority of the person who uses passion, focus, and sheer dogged persistence to get somewhere. Pixel people or Perl people, we all stand to gain from such an example.

See also: Lorna Jane Mitchell’s post about Estelle Weyl.

Want to highlight a geek woman? Submissions are currently open for Wednesday Geek Woman posts.

Heather Walls, by Guillaume Paumier, CC BY-SA

Wednesday Geek Woman: Heather Walls, designing for connection on Wikipedia

This is a guest post by Siko Bouterse, Head of Community Fellowships, Wikimedia Foundation. It was originally published at the Wikimedia blog and is re-published under a Creative Commons Attribution licence.

Heather Walls, photograph by Guillaume Paumier, CC BY-SA

Heather Walls, by Guillaume Paumier CC BY-SA

When Heather Walls designed the Wikipedia Teahouse, she was inspired by the name to create a space with “a sort of zen feeling” where new editors could relax, have a cup of tea, and get help learning the ropes from experienced Wikipedians. Her design for the Teahouse, which is full of gentle colors and images of people and nature, aims to create a “softer entry point to Wikipedia, where you can see there are other humans, and they’re the ones talking to you.”

When she’s asked about the project or about her work as a visual designer, Walls often comes back to the theme of human connection. “The Teahouse gives people a chance to see each other, to see that Wikipedia is other human beings,” she said. “I love watching the hosts give patient and supportive answers to all kinds of questions, and how thankful guests are in return.”

In the eight months since it was launched on English Wikipedia, new and experienced editors have come to enjoy the Teahouse’s warm atmosphere. “It’s surprising how relaxing the site design is,” said Teahouse host Writ Keeper. “I’m not an artsy type…so I never would’ve thought that site design would make such a difference, but it does.”

Walls says what she likes best about all the projects that she works on is the purpose and dedication of the people involved. “My hope is that as many people as possible can feel ownership of this mission.”

In 2011, Walls started contracting with the Wikimedia Foundation, creating outreach materials for hackathons and recruitment, and soon moved on to projects like Teahouse, Wikipedia mobile, a Funds Dissemination Committee portal, and a portal for new editors on Arabic Wikipedia. With a background in architecture and a degree from Harvard Graduate School of design, she has experience designing both real and virtual spaces. She’s also an active Wikipedia editor in her spare time, patrolling new pages and serving as a host in the Teahouse.

The WikiWomen’s Collaborative logo — which features an image of hands forming a “W” shape — is another one of Walls’s designs that focuses on people finding common ground. The WikiWomen’s Collaborative project supports women’s participation in the Wikimedia movement by celebrating inclusivity and diversity, and this ideal brought some challenges to the design process. “We were definitely going for not-pink,” says Walls, “though this logo can be any color and it doesn’t change the recognition.” The idea for the logo came from a photo taken at the WikiWomen’s lunch at Wikimania in 2012, where over 100 women from around the world gathered. “Looking through our hands creates a sort of window we share,” she said. “We do things with our hands, everyone around the world, we have that in common. The WikiWomen’s Collaborative is about women everywhere contributing to the voice of the world.”

Addressing Wikipedia’s gender gap is, at its core, about widening representation and incorporating more perspectives into the sum of human knowledge. Walls recognizes the unique perspective that she brings to her own design practice. “Every individual brings their experiences, and as a woman I do have a different viewpoint. My view and experience, the fact that I have learned to understand the importance of invitation, that is in what I do now, even if a project is not specifically aimed at women.”

Wikipedia Teahouse design palette, by Heather Walls CC BY-SA

Wikipedia Teahouse design palette, by Heather Walls CC BY-SA

Proving that a Wikimedian’s work is never done, Walls just completed a redesign of the Teahouse to make it even easier for guests to find the help they need. “As we added features and explanations to the main pages of the Teahouse over time, simplicity and some of the visibility of the Teahouse organization was lost.” Some editors were attached to her old design and initially opposed the updated version, and Walls said she also felt some nostalgia while rolling out the changes. Ultimately, thanks to lots of community input, the original colors and Teahouse logo were retained in the new design, because they play an important role in the emotional connection users have with these pages on Wikipedia.

Come stop by for a cup of wiki-tea in the newly revamped Teahouse on English Wikipedia, or visit the WikiWomen’s Collaborative on Facebook to continue the conversation. Heather Walls and other WikiWomen look forward to meeting you there!

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Want to highlight a geek woman? Submissions are currently open for Wednesday Geek Woman posts.