In the News

April 8, 2019

Upcoming Panel Features Unapologetic Advocates for Inclusion in Tech

On Monday, April 22, 2019, the Office of Access and Inclusion (OAI) is hosting a group of panelists who will discuss diversity in the tech industry, sharing their own stories of success to inspire and empower underrepresented students in STEM. Anyone interested in attending this panel discussion, “Unapologetically Empowering Inclusion in Tech,” should RSVP by April 15. The event will run from 5-7 p.m. in the Calit2 Auditorium with the following panelists:

  • Ruthe Farmer, chief evangelist for CSforAll, an organization that focuses on providing quality computer science education to every child in the U.S., and the former senior policy adviser for tech inclusion in the Obama administration, and former Chief Strategy and Growth Officer at NCWIT;
  • Andrea Guendelman, co-founder of the BeVisible career network for Latinx and of Wallbreakers, which connects talented underrepresented students with companies looking to build inclusive teams;
  • Jennifer Woo Pascua, a UCI alumna and program management director at Thales Inflyt Experience, a company delivering innovative in-flight entertainment and connectivity systems to airlines worldwide using new and disruptive technology to lead the way in digital transformation within aerospace;
  • Isaac Saldana, also a Wallbreakers co-founder and CTO at Techstars, which empowers underrepresented communities and entrepreneurs, as well as co-founder and CEO at Joy Labs, and co-founder and president of SendGrid; and
  • Nicki Washington, an associate professor of computer science at Winthrop University and author of the book Unapologetically Dope: Lessons for Black Women and Girls on Surviving and Thriving in the Tech Field (copies of which will be given to the first 100 attendees).

The hourlong panel discussion will be followed by a reception and conversation with the panelists, which will include a book signing with Washington.

One student looking forward to hearing from the panelists (and getting a signed copy of Washington’s book!) is Princess Pancubit, a fourth-year software engineering major and co-president of UCI’s Women in Information and Computer Sciences (WICS). “This panel fits perfectly with the work of WICS, because it allows topics to be brought to the table that are usually not spoken about,” says Pancubit. “WICS strives to help break the gender gap in tech, and this forum will [help] show what challenges women face and how they rise above it.”

Pancubit, who will be working at Etsy in New York as a software engineer after graduating this spring, hopes to ask one of the female panelists the following question: “As a woman in tech, what was it like and what did you do to break through the anxiety of finally being at the table and making yourself heard and known?”

WICS co-President Crystal (Cris) Agerton (they/them pronouns) is also excited for the event. “The panel fits right within our mission [of] empowering women and inclusion in the tech industry.” The fourth-year computer game science major, who plans to work as a software engineer for Raytheon in California after graduation while continuing to make games, will prepare for the workforce by asking panelists, “What was the biggest obstacle you’ve faced? Was it internal or external, and how did you handle it?”

Agerton will also approach Ruthe Farmer to ask about her work in promoting STEM education. “WICS has been working with the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) and has continuously participated with [K-12 programming and computing] projects like AspireIT,” says Agerton, “so I am curious about her work with it and where she sees the future of programs like these going.”

Pancubit and Agerton are asking valid questions, given there’s still a glaring shortage of diversity in the tech field. Fortunately, WICS and OAI and leaders like this group of panelists are paving the way for greaterinclusivity, starting with open and honest conversations about the tech industry and what needs to change. Sharnnia Artis, assistant dean of Access and Inclusion in the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS), explains that this panel discussion is part of a series of events hosted by OAI this year through its SQUASH the Biases program — which encourages the ICS and engineering communities to Start Questioning Us About Stereotypes Held (SQUASH). Funded by the NEXT Award, given to ICS in 2016, the program’s goal is to “create a space for conversations about women in tech,” says Artis, “embracing individual differences and advocating for equity, diversity and inclusion in STEM.” So join the conversation and RSVP today!

— Shani Murray


Upcoming Panel Features Unapologetic Advocates for Inclusion in Tech

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Media interested in interviewing ICS faculty, students or alumni should contact Matt Miller at (949) 824-1562 or via email at matt.miller@uci.edu.

Judy and Gary Olson