Michael R Armstrong
PATHS Hosts Its First Live Panel & Networking Event
On Wednesday, October 26th, LGBT Tech hosted its first in-person panel discussion and networking cocktail hour, LGBTQ+ Voices in STEAM: A Live PATHS Event. The event welcomed students from several DC area schools, as well as industry professionals to the AT&T Forum for Technology, Entertainment & Policy in Washington, DC. PATHS is a program from LGBT Tech dedicated to building space for LGBTQ+ professionals in STEAM.
LGBT Tech’s Kristen Kelley led the panel of four professionals from across the country in a conversation analyzing the importance of creating space for the LGBTQ+ voices across STEAM fields. Each panelist had previously been featured on LGBT Tech’s PATHS web series. The panel touched on multiple topics, including the inclusion of Arts in STEAM.
“I’ve been talking to people about the Queer superpower when it comes to creativity,” panelist Ginger Chien said. Chien is a Mobile Device Architect and has been with her company for 26 years, “The LGBTQIA+ lived experience is one in which, I think, all of us have spent a lot of time trying to see the boxes in which we can safely exist within, while at the same time, recognizing that we so desperately want to break those boxes. Art, STEAM, is more of a bigger creative endeavor.”
Bryan Mobley, who is a Project Manager at fusionSpan, touched on the unique challenges he’s experienced in his field, “When I first started in the industry, being gay was almost always a joke.” Mobley has worked in the advertising and marketing industry for over ten years. He continued to explain the benefit of breaking through pre-disposed notions of sexual identity, “I’m glad that we have gotten to a space where even those are tropes or stereotypes... Those are not who that person Is.”
While they discussed the challenges, the panelists also addressed the rewarding aspects of their various careers. Dawn Wages, who is a web, data, and Ethical OSS engineer who works in the Django and Python community, celebrates her identity through self-expression at work, “I like to tweak who I am on the outside to reflect the Queer community that we have, adorned and decorated in every way. In that, it’s also part of everything I do.”
“I’m going to say in theoretical math, we’re always asking ‘why and why not?’ We’re challenging traditionally held beliefs and structures,” Dr. Kimberly Ayers, an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at CSU San Marcos, added. “This is something the Queer community has been doing a long time, as well: pushing boundaries, asking ‘why not?’ What happens when we step outside traditional and socially acceptable roles?”
As the conversation shifted to what companies can do to build equity and inclusion for prospective job candidates, Mobley spoke about corporations recognizing events like Pride and Black History, “I don’t want to be talked about or be recognized in [just] a month.”
Ayers added, “I think it’s important that we see representation at every single level. And not just in one group, but homogeneously spread throughout your organization and making sure that it’s not just happening in a tokenizing way.”
Wages agreed, “I deserve an effective middle manager that is Queer somewhere... Not everyone has to be exemplary and it’s not fair that in our marginalization we all must be expected to be exemplary.”
Chien surmised what she envisions as the STEAM communities continue to grow and evolve, “I want to acknowledge that for every queer person in Tech, it’s a different experience, but I don’t think any of us escape those concerns. I think it’s always there, which is why I’d love to see humanity and Technology get a little bit closer so that we can start eliminating that abject
terror that affects queer people in the workplace.”
As the panel wrapped up, Kelley announced PATHS’ new programs: a mentorship program, intended to build a mentorship community for LGBTQ+ individuals who are currently in STEAM fields; and PATHS’ first grant program, an opportunity for LGBTQ+ students in STEAM educational programs to receive up to $5,000 towards their studies.
Ayers summed up the intention of the PATHS program quite nicely, “There is room for you and your perspective in these fields. You have something to contribute.”
Watch the full panel below.