Media Lab conference addresses gender bias, diversity, and inclusion in STEM

Mim Adkins

Megan Smith ’86, SM ’88 and other thought leaders offer advice to students on how women in STEM fields can develop skills for navigating life and work.

Not that many years ago, Megan Smith ’86, SM ’88 was poised to embark on a career in technology, a field long dominated by white men. Now, the MIT alumna is the United States’ Chief Technology Officer, and she’s determined to tamp down gender bias and step up diversity, especially in STEM.

“Our biggest challenge in tech and innovation is that we think certain people do it and certain people don’t,” Smith told an audience of some 250 attendees, predominantly women, at the Sept. 9 MIT Media Lab conference, called No Permission, No Apology. The White House CTO, who was previously a Google executive, said that after centuries of discrimination, we’re in an era of unconscious or implicit bias. “We’re not aware we’re doing this, or it’s institutionalized. So once we see it, we should fix it. We are capable of dealing with everything we set our minds to and prioritize; we just haven’t made that a priority.” She added that everyone stands to gain: “In addition to the inclusion of all because it’s the right thing to do, it’s also the best thing to do in terms of innovation and economics.” 

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