Without Political Clout Women Lose Ground in High Tech

Without Political Clout Women Lose Ground in High Tech

There’s no doubt that encouraging girls to take STEM courses is imperative to their higher representation as women in those fields.  But a recent Catalyst study of 6,000 MBA graduates from the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia indicates that it will take more to increase the number of women in high tech.  Women are far less likely to start their careers in these jobs and leave them more quickly than men.  Seventy-five percent of women in the study reported feeling like outsiders as compared to 17% of men.


A certain amount of that feeling is to be expected whenever women work their way into predominantly male fields.  The research findings, however, indicate a much larger problem than just being the new kid on the block.  The study subjects also reported a lack of role models and vague criteria for evaluation as main barriers.

Taken together these are largely political obstacles.  Vague and shifting criteria have long been useful ways to keep unwanted employees from thriving in workplace cultures that lack transparency.  Subliminal and overt signs of not being welcome keep the insiders in and the outsiders out, creating feelings of exclusion.  And it’s difficult to find role models when so few women stay in high tech and men are rarely rewarded for serving in that capacity.

Add to this unhealthy combination two additional challenges: (1) as indicated by a 2013 study reported by the Harvard Business Review, women generally show greater disdain than men for workplace politics, and (2) such disdain does not incline them to learn how to counteract and, as necessary, work within cultures common in high tech industries.

It’s imperative that those of us encouraging young women to enter high tech fields also emphasize the need to arm them with a keen understanding of workplace politics – mild to intense – likely to block their way.  For forward thinking companies this is also to their advantage.

It’s one thing to achieve high-level of competence in preparation to enter any field and quite another to function effectively within a dismissive and/or antagonistic culture.

Kathleen also blogs on politics and influence here.

photo:  Sergey Nivens/shutterstock.com

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China has reached a new record for nuclear fusion at 120 million degrees Celsius.

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This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.

China wants to build a mini-star on Earth and house it in a reactor. Many teams across the globe have this same bold goal --- which would create unlimited clean energy via nuclear fusion.

But according to Chinese state media, New Atlas reports, the team at the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) has set a new world record: temperatures of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds.

Yeah, that's hot. So what? Nuclear fusion reactions require an insane amount of heat and pressure --- a temperature environment similar to the sun, which is approximately 150 million degrees C.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it. In nuclear fusion, the extreme heat and pressure create a plasma. Then, within that plasma, two or more hydrogen nuclei crash together, merge into a heavier atom, and release a ton of energy in the process.

Nuclear fusion milestones: The team at EAST built a giant metal torus (similar in shape to a giant donut) with a series of magnetic coils. The coils hold hot plasma where the reactions occur. They've reached many milestones along the way.

According to New Atlas, in 2016, the scientists at EAST could heat hydrogen plasma to roughly 50 million degrees C for 102 seconds. Two years later, they reached 100 million degrees for 10 seconds.

The temperatures are impressive, but the short reaction times, and lack of pressure are another obstacle. Fusion is simple for the sun, because stars are massive and gravity provides even pressure all over the surface. The pressure squeezes hydrogen gas in the sun's core so immensely that several nuclei combine to form one atom, releasing energy.

But on Earth, we have to supply all of the pressure to keep the reaction going, and it has to be perfectly even. It's hard to do this for any length of time, and it uses a ton of energy. So the reactions usually fizzle out in minutes or seconds.

Still, the latest record of 120 million degrees and 101 seconds is one more step toward sustaining longer and hotter reactions.

Why does this matter? No one denies that humankind needs a clean, unlimited source of energy.

We all recognize that oil and gas are limited resources. But even wind and solar power --- renewable energies --- are fundamentally limited. They are dependent upon a breezy day or a cloudless sky, which we can't always count on.

Nuclear fusion is clean, safe, and environmentally sustainable --- its fuel is a nearly limitless resource since it is simply hydrogen (which can be easily made from water).

With each new milestone, we are creeping closer and closer to a breakthrough for unlimited, clean energy.

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