Tandon Celebrates Women in STEM
Summit Emphasizes Women Having Both a Seat and a Voice at the Table
Over the past few years, NYU Tandon has made bridging the gender gap central to its mission, and aims to ensure women are equally represented in the student body and in the faculty. This month kicked off with multiple celebrations honoring women in STEM and those forging a path ahead into a future of inclusivity.
Seven Years of Summit Success
At the 7th Annual Women in STEM Summit at NYU Tandon School of Engineering, Dean of Student Affairs Anita Farrington shared an astounding statistic. “When I first started here in 2010, our incoming freshman class was only 25 percent women. Now, we’re at 41 percent,” she said to applause and cheers from the audience. “However, we have to continue to be restless and urgent, and we have to keep that momentum going.”
Over the past seven years, Dean Farrington and her staff have brought numerous speakers and luminaries in their fields to the NYU Tandon campus during Women’s History Month to share the work they’re doing towards increasing representation within academia and industry. This year’s Summit, with a theme of “Catalysts for Change,” recognized the trailblazers, the disrupters, and the revolutionary women and men who are not only encouraging women to embark on their STEM education and careers, but also supporting them to persevere and excel within their chosen sector.
The Support of Allies
Dean Katepalli R. Sreenivasan welcomed attendees at the morning session on male allies, and highlighted the active transformation in the STEM field towards greater diversity. “We want to spark change within our own NYU Tandon community, and we’ve been working to ensure that women have as equal a role to play as men do,” Dean Sreenivasan asserted. The day began with a panel discussion on how male-identifying students, faculty, and industry leaders can bring about systematic changes to STEM by supporting women colleagues, which was moderated by Jeannice Fairrer Samani, Senior Manager of Global Operations for the Anita Borg Institute and Professor at Santa Clara University (to name a few of her laurels).
Samani emphasized creating an “ecosystem towards catalyzing change,” noting that “we cannot do this alone. It’s not going to happen just within NYU Tandon or in Silicon Valley — it’s a systematic process, and we must develop more sustainable engineering solutions, enlist top leaders, support education initiatives, and increase funding and resources for entrepreneurs.”
Given the three young entrepreneurs who spoke at the Summit luncheon, it is no surprise that funding women’s ideas and businesses can lead to greater changes in all STEM sectors.
- Christina Tartaglia, who is the co-founder and Vice President of The Scientista Foundation, emphasized how important it is for women to stay in STEM, despite the statistics that show women dropping out at higher rates than men, because “when you take yourself out of the running you lose, and everyone in the world loses.”
- Alex Salvatore, the co-founder and CTO of Beam, was the only woman engineer at Tinder when she started out and spoke to the notion of “reverse engineering” your goals by determining how to get from A to B.
- Yamilée Toussaint, founder and CEO of STEM from Dance, blends together her mechanical engineering background with her dance training to help underrepresented girls see the “intersections between technology and dance that already exist” and build the confidence in their capabilities.
While the Women’s Summit featured various events throughout the week, including a Women at Tandon Celebration and award ceremony, the culminating keynote dinner honored some of the trailblazing women who are making waves not only within the NYU Tandon community, but the world at large.
“While our Summit’s overarching theme is ‘Catalysts for Change,’ tonight’s dinner has a special theme of ‘Being Bold for STEM Change.’ Our Summit is doing exactly that,” Dean Farrington shared as she welcomed the esteemed speakers, guests, and attendees. “We know how important it is for us to provide space for our students to find mentors and for programming opportunities like the Summit. We want to bring phenomenal women and men here to Tandon to embolden you.”
The dinner did just that, highlighting the strides of three exceptional women from NYU and NYU Tandon: Dr. Lisa Coleman, NYU’s Senior Vice President for Global Inclusion, Diversity, and Strategic Innovation and the school’s first Chief Diversity Officer; Beth S. Noveck, the Jerry M. Hultin Professor of Technology, Culture and Society and Director of the GovLab; and Cadence Daniels ’18, an Integrated Digital Media major and President of the NYU chapter of the National Society for Black Engineers (NSBE).
In her speech, Dr. Coleman explained the differences between equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging and the importance of addressing implicit bias and microaggressions within the classroom, lab, and office head on. Noveck echoed Coleman’s call, remembering how detrimental a teacher’s words were when he stymied her aspirations in math; she encouraged the audience to leave the dinner and advocate for women to stay in STEM, and also to create better workplace environments for women. Noveck also singled out one of her students, who she said is using her engineering degree to help others, a student who was also the evening’s special honoree and award winner.
The Summit award recognized Daniels for her contributions to the NYU Tandon community as an outstanding leader, from her role as president of NSBE to her co-founding of the Women of Entrepreneurship group.
“This is the first time in the seven years of hosting the Summit that the award recipient is a student. What is special about Cadence is her ability to merge her creative and technological talents into bettering the world for people like herself,” Dean Farrington said, listing the bevy of laurels Daniels has received over her four years.
Daniels shared the story of where she came from, and while she said there was “no statistical reason why I was here,” she acknowledged that “I bring something to the table that no one else can. There is a lot of power in diversity and difference, and it goes beyond what I look like or where I came from. It’s the way I think and the way I live."
There has been a steady stream of good news for aspiring female engineers at Tandon – from the record number of women students in the Class of 2021 to the variety of clubs, projects, and initiatives aimed at them. None of that would be possible without a lot of hard work from many people in the broader school community, and as part of the recent Celebration of Women at Tandon festivities, awards were given to those deemed MVPs by the members of the Women in Engineering, Science, Technology and Math (WESTM) initiative here. (WESTM consists of NYU Tandon administrators and faculty members committed to the advancement of women in STEM.
While the following few were recognized with impressive awards that had been created in the MakerSpace, closing the STEM gender gap is an all-hands-on-deck effort at Tandon with everyone playing a part.
- Luke DuBois, co-director of Tandon’s Integrated Digital Media program was named Male Ally of the Year for his commitment to building diverse teams and teaching his students the importance of developing inclusive, accessible technology.
- Brittney Bahlman, Director of Student Affairs and Student Activities, was chosen as Administrator of the Year for her tireless efforts as a member of WESTM and for helping create an environment in which everyone feels welcomed and valued.
- Professor of Computer Science and Engineering Phyllis Frankl was deemed Faculty Member of the Year for her commitment to mentorship and her dedication to the increased enrollment, engagement, and retention of female students in Computer Science and Engineering.
- Nazira Abdelkhalek was named Undergraduate of the Year for her leadership in extracurricular activities and for serving as a stellar role model to younger female students.
- Gabriella Cammarata was picked as Graduate Student of the Year for setting a standard of academic excellence that has inspired many of her peers and for proving the power of diverse, inclusive teams to create tech that benefits society.