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Engineering (Management) While Black: Informing a more inclusive, equitable, and just technological future

27 Feb 2023 11:48 AM | Patrick Sweet

[This post by: Woodrow W. Winchester, III, PhD, CPEM, ASEM’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE/I) Director]

February is National Black History Month.  Orchestrated by historian Carter G. Woodson, National Black History Month (Black History Month) is an annual celebration of achievements by Black Americans and an opportunity to recognize the central role of Blacks in U.S. history.  Not only is it a time to celebrate and commemorate the past; but, for me, Black History Month represents a call to action to imagine and build, though a Black-centric lens, a more inclusive, equitable, and just society for all.  From righting infrastructural wrongs such as Baltimore’s Highway to Nowhere to addressing facial recognition bias to tackling racism and biases embedded in medical technologies, the urgency of this call for us, as engineering leaders, is growing.  It is critical that engineers think and act inclusively and equitably.  And, as I detail in the newly launched ASEM Engineering Handbook, 3rd Edition, “this way of being for the engineer is core to advancing a technological future that is considerate to the full diversity of humanity.”  

The theme for Black History Month this year is “Black Resistance”; elucidating how “African Americans have resisted historic and ongoing oppression—in many forms—from America’s earliest days into the 21st century.”  And, as illustrated in the beforementioned examples, these many forms include oppression enabled by and through engineered systems (see Algorithms of Oppression by Safiya Noble).  Thankfully, the works and efforts of a new generation of Black changemaking engineers such as Drs. Tahira Reid Smith,  K. Renee Horton, Yvette E. Pearson, Logan D. A. Williams, Jessica Rush Leeker, and James Holly, Jr. exemplify how Black Americans are not only confronting and dismantling “engineered oppression” but blazing new pathways in catalyzing and conceiving more inclusive, equitable and just approaches to technological design, deployment, and management.  The future is truly bright and ASEM is stepping up.

From (1) our flagship webinar series that explored DE/I in technical management and technological development contexts (of particular relevance to Black History Month, be sure to check out both the Black in Robotics and the Race Matters in Engineering and Technology webinars) to (2) the inclusion of a chapter in the Engineering Management Handbook, 3rd Edition on DE/I in Technological Development and Technical Management, to (3) the creation of a new Directorship to lead DE/I efforts and initiatives, ASEM is bolstering its commitment to advocating and amplifying anti-oppressive voices and perspectives in engineering.  While work is happening, more is needed.  Please join us.  A roundtable is being proposed for IAC 2023 to define a DE/I roadmap for ASEM.  To participate or for additional information and/or questions about ASEM’s DE/I efforts, please contact me, Woodrow W. Winchester, III, at woodrow.winchesteriii@utexas.edu

As James Baldwin states in his New York Times essay, As Much Truth As One Can Bear, “not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

Woodrow W. Winchester, III, PhD, CPEM

Some additional DE/I resources related to Black History Month

  1. Black in Engineering Initiative
  2. Black in Robotics
  3. National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE)
  4. US Black Engineer
  5. Engineering While Black
  6. Diversity in Engineering: Celebrating Black History Month With Ted Colbert
  7. Hidden Curriculum: An Image Holder of Engineering
  8. Do you See Me?  Hypervisible Invisibility #EngineeringWhileBlack
  9. Diversity and STEM: Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities
  10. Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science

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Dr. Bill Daughton

Professor Emeritus

Missouri S&T

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