This past March, Girls of Steel (GoS), along with Carnegie Mellon University, had the honor of hosting author and engineering leader Pratima Gluckman for several events, including our Greater Pittsburgh Regional FIRST Ladies Meetup! The experience was extremely influential on GoS and FIRST community members, as she inspired us to be strong and pursue our dreams.
On March 20, 2019, Pratima met with members of Women@SCS during lunch, and later spoke with GoS members at a special team meeting about her journey to becoming a leader at VMware, where she works with Blockchain programming. Using her challenges and setbacks as examples, she shared with GoS members the meaning of persistence and bravery, encouraging us to speak up for ourselves and acknowledge our value in any situation. The stories and statistics that she presented moved and inspired us all to be more assertive and forward-minded. More stories of inspirational women in tech can be found in her book, Nevertheless, She Persisted, where Pratima interviewed 19 female technology leaders to raise awareness of the need for diversity in the tech industry, especially in her home of Silicon Valley.
That same day, two GoS members interviewed Pratima at CMU, where they asked her more about her experiences as a leader and journey through writing her book. The interview can be found here!
Pratima also traveled to California, PA for the Greater Pittsburgh Regional at California University on March 21, 2019, where she spoke at our FIRST Ladies meetup. She shared her experience as a leader in the STEM field (at VMware), as well as her journey to becoming such a vocal advocate for women in STEM. Pratima emphasized the values of persistence, bravery, and supportive mentorship as well as the importance of increasing the number of women in c-suite positions in Fortune 500 companies, a field in which women are extremely underrepresented currently. Everyone felt motivated after hearing a strong female role model discuss her empowering insights at the meetup.
We all feel very inspired and moved by her work and journey. We highly encourage everyone to read her book and listen to her podcast, both found at pratimagluckman.com. On behalf of GoS and the FIRST Ladies community, we thank Pratima for visiting us and sharing her expertise and experience!
Here is a link to the live video:
This blog was written by Anna and Norah from FRC 3504 Girls of Steel Robotics. If you are interested in blogging for FIRST Ladies, click here to sign up on the schedule!
By: Michaela S.
Everyday life as a female in FIRST provides us with opportunities that can not be found elsewhere. A yearly event, IndyRage, is an all females off-season competition, hosted by FRC Team Cyber Blue 234. At this competition, the drive team MUST be all female. IndyRage is a great event for people to become more comfortable with positions on the team that are not normally open to them. With all of the opportunities provided to females on the field, some teams return to old habits in their pits. As a member of team 1792 Round Table Robotics, we pride ourselves in not having a single male in our pit at IndyRage. We used IndyRage not to win, but to have fun and to widen our knowledge. All of us got to do every position on the team. As an operator, it was my first time controlling the robot. I spent the entire match stressing for the end-climb. As the driver lined up for the climb, my hands shook in anticipation. I practiced the order so often that it rang in my head: right trigger, left bumper, left trigger, left bumper, left trigger. The switch from left trigger to left bumper was such a quick switch my finger switched. I looked up from the controller to see our robot fall to its right and fall back. We all inhaled sharply as we saw the middle bar protruding at a painful angle. After the match, we rushed the robot back to our pit and immediately began running tests. After minutes that felt like years crawling by, the middle bar was set back into place. At this moment I realized that being on the drive team is very stressful and also very rewarding. Without IndyRage and other events that allow females to try different positions, we do not get the full experience of a competition.
By: An H
As a female in FIRST, we sometimes get overlooked. However, when we dedicate ourselves to a project, we get our moment to shine. These common goals bring us together as a community. Every year, to grow our community of females in FIRST, Round Table Robotics attends an all-girls offseason event called Indy Rage. My first experience at Indy Rage was when I was a freshman, and it was life-changing. Competing with a large number of females made me feel like I belonged, and wasn’t as intimidating as being surrounded by a bunch of guys towering over me. As a freshman, typically students don’t really get opportunities to touch the robot or use more advanced tools. Despite this, at Indy Rage, I was able to do more than I’d originally thought. I was a part of the drive team and got to help more in the pit instead of just cheering in the stands. IndyRage was an event that radiates female pride and being proud of who you are as a person. Indy Rage promises an opportunity to show off what you can do, instead of being overshadowed by the opposite gender. Due to empowering events like Indy Rage, it’s a little easier for me to put myself out there and get involved. I’ve become more social with everyone and less fearful of trying new things; I can only thank the girls on my team. I’m proud to be a female in FIRST.
This blog was written by Michaela and An from FRC 1792 Round Table Robotics . If you are interested in blogging for FIRST Ladies, click here to sign up on the schedule!
I’m a fifth-year FIRST participant. This is my second year on my high school’s FIRST Robotics Competition team. I spent three years in FIRST Tech Challenge, one year in FIRST LEGO League, and was part of FIRST Global Team USA in 2018.
My role is primarily non-technical—in FIRST Robotics Competition, I’m part of our Business subteam, responsible for fundraising and outreach; in FIRST Tech Challenge, I ran the outreach program, engineering notebook, and awards-related endeavors.
And, especially over the years in FIRST Tech Challenge, I am intimately familiar with gameplay and strategy...but in that arena, I am all too used to being overlooked.
As almost any girl or gender minority in the robotics community will tell you, at tournaments—particularly high level competitions like the World Championships—we are all too often subject to the assumption that we aren’t as technically or strategically inclined as our male team members. And it’s incredibly nuanced: it’s the little things, like when a representative from your next round alliance partner comes to your pit to ask about strategy, but approaches a male team member in your pit first; it’s when in a meeting with your elims alliance, you propose a strategy that is dismissed with merely a condescending look but is then, five minutes later, asserted by a male member of your team or another...and then it’s discussed.
So what does this do? To the girl who enters robotics from a very young age, this implicit sexism becomes internalized, to the point where even in a wholesome and supportive team environment, she becomes the one marginalizing herself the most. She equates her value to what others perceive it to be, which is often not what it truly is.
To gender minorities participating in robotics: know that you are not alone in your experiences, and know that this is not a climate that should be normalized. And if you feel like you don’t have people around you who will support you if you try to discuss challenges you’ve experienced, I can be your people; FIRST Ladies can be your people.
To the gender minorities in this activity who speak up for equity: a large part of my understanding of sexism in the robotics community comes from your advocacy. Thank you for all you do to promote active discourse and understanding.
To the gender minorities on drive teams: you have all of my respect for holding your own on a technical level both within your own teams and in front of other teams, who continuously question our competence.
And to our femxle coaches and mentors: thank you for being positive role models. You are a beacon of light that illuminates the path to achieve success in a male-dominated environment.
This blog was written by Anika from FRC 449 The Blair Robot Project . If you are interested in blogging for FIRST Ladies, click here to sign up on the schedule!
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