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Women in engineering at IROS 2014

September 16, 2014


Shame that the missing engineering hero on the cover of IEEE Spectrum’s July issue looks like superMAN , because the IEEE Women in Engineering (WIE) lunch at IROS 2014 was a super gathering of high achievers who are making statements about 6% representation looking more like a glass half full, if you harness the potential. Lynne Parker, for example, is the General Chair of ICRA 2015, with a 50 strong all-female organizing committee for the premier robotics research event .

ICRA is the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society’s flagship conference and is a premier international forum for robotics researchers to present their work. The 2015 conference will be held May 26-30, 2015 at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, Washington, USA. Having an all-women committee serves as an important watershed for the robotics community.

Parker said, “There are usually only one or two women involved in conferences and when I ask why so few, people say that there aren’t enough women with experience. So, look at all these women with experience now who can be helping with future committees.” Women might make up only 6% of the global IEEE community but Parker feels that even that presence hasn’t been sufficiently felt. She also encourages women to submit papers or workshops to ICRA 2015 by the deadline of October 1st, 2014 (just around the corner!).

As well as the incredible list of women on the ICRA 2015 committee (below), Robohub published a ’25 women in robotics you need to know about’ list in 2013 and we’ll be publishing a new list for Ada Lovelace Day on October 14, 2014. Ada Lovelace Day celebrates the achievement of women in computing, science, technology and engineering.

The idea is to provide inspiring role models across a wide range of robotics fields. The women on these lists are a fantastic sample from an admittedly small group. I encourage everyone to look further afield when searching for women to meet targets for boards, committees, positions and outreach, rather than expect the same few women to pick up all the slack. (This ’empowerment 101′ applies to any diversity demographic.)

Of course women are not the only ones who can change the demographics of the field, but it definitely helps to see women rising to positions of influence. For example, Lynne Parker has just been appointed Division Director for the NSF’s Information and Intelligent Systems (IIS) Division within the Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Directorate.

This 3-year role covers overseeing the National Robotics Initiative alongside big data, human-centered computing, and core computer science. Parker is looking not just at internal program management but is also looking ahead to see what are the new directions for the robotics community. “To be somewhat visionary, to the extent that we can be,” said Parker. “For example, we’re an international community. Can we do better at representing that from a funding perspective? That’s a hard challenge, but that does’t mean we can’t look at it.”

In closing, the CISE Directorate enthusiastically welcomes Dr. Parker to NSF and looks forward to working with her to advance the frontiers of knowledge in information and intelligent systems.” Farnam Jahanian, NSF 

We also heard from Ayanna Howard, HumAnS Laboratory and GIT,  and Jeff Trinkle, NSF, NRI and Rensselaer, at the WIE luncheon at IROS 2014. With over 15,000 members around the world, IEEE’s Women in Engineering (WIE) is the largest international professional organization dedicated to promoting women engineers and scientists and inspiring girls around the world to follow their academic interests to a career in engineering. Formed in 1994, the luncheon marks the 20th anniversary of WIE.

ICRA 2015 Organizing Committee

Honorary Chair
Ruzena Bajcsy (University of California, Berkeley)

General Chair
Lynne Parker (University of Tennessee)

Program Chair
Nancy M. Amato (Texas A&M University)

Program Co-Chairs
Dani Kragic (Royal Institute of Technology, KTH)
Hong Qiao (Chinese Academy of Sciences)
Jing Xiao (University of North Carolina, Charlotte)

CEB Editor-in-Chief
Allison Okamura (Stanford University)

Finance Chair
Yi Guo (Stevens Institute of Technology)

Workshops and Tutorials Chair
Monica Anderson (University of Alabama)

Workshops and Tutorials Co-Chairs
Spring Berman (Arizona State University)
Alicia Casals (Technical University of Catalonia)
Yukie Nagai (Osaka University)

Interactive Sessions Chair
Ani Hsieh (Drexel University)

Interactive Sessions Co-Chair
Ming Lin (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)

Awards Chair
Lydia Kavraki (Rice University)

Awards Co-Chairs
Jessica Hodgins (Carnegie Mellon University)
Daniela Rus (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Carme Torras (Institut de Robòtica i Informàtica Industrial, CSIC-UPC)

Publication Chair
Dawn Tilbury (University of Michigan)

Publicity Chair
Nora Ayanian (University of Southern California)

Publicity Co-Chairs
Raffaela Carloni (University of Twente)
MIhoko Otake (Chiba University)

Exhibitions Chair
Robin Murphy (Texas A&M University)

Exhibitions Co-Chair
Cecilia Laschi (Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna)

Sponsorships Co-Chairs
Manuela Veloso (Carnegie Mellon University)
Maja Mataric (University of Southern California)

Industry Forum Chair
Aude Billard (Ecole Polytechniuque Federale de Lausanne)

Industry Forum Co-Chairs
Dana Kulic (University of Waterloo)
Angelika Peer (TU Munich)
Yuru Zhang (Beihang University)

Developing Countries Outreach Chair
M. Bernardine Dias (Carnegie Mellon University)

Developing Countries Outreach Co-Chairs
Chinwe Ekenna (Texas A&M University)
Ayorkor Korsah (Carnegie Mellon University)

Career Fair Chair
Hadas Kress-Gazit (Cornell University)

Career Fair Co-Chairs
Maren Bennewitz (University of Freiburg)
Jana Koseca (George Mason University)

PhD Forum Chair
Ayanna Howard (Georgia Institute of Technology)

PhD Forum Co-Chairs
Jamie Paik (EPFL)
Hae Won Park (Georgia Institute of Technology)
Xiaorui Zhu (Harbin Institute of Technology)

Competitions Co-Chairs
Sonia Chernova (Worcester Polytechnic Institute)
Manuela Veloso (Carnegie Mellon University)

Travel Awards Chair
Maria Gini (University of Minnesota)

Student Activities Chair
Lydia Tapia (University of New Mexico)

Student Activities Co-Chair
Hanna Kurniawati (University of Queensland)

K-12 Outreach Chairs
Radhika Nagpal (Harvard University)
Claire Tomlin (University of California, Berkeley)

Web Chair
Shawna Thomas (Texas A&M University)

Local Arrangements Chair
Kristy Morganson (University of Washington)

Local Arrangements Co-Chair
Maya Cakmak (University of Washington)

Senior Program Committee

Ruzena Bajcsy (University of California, Berkeley)
Alicia Casals (Technical University of Catalonia)
Bernardine Dias (Carnegie Mellon University)
Maria Gini (University of Minnesota)
Yi Guo (Stevens Institute of Technology)
Ayanna Howard (Georgia Institute of Technology)
Lydia Kavraki (Rice University)
Jana Koseca (George Mason University)
Dani Kragic (Royal Institute of Technology, KTH)
Ming Lin (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)
Robin Murphy (Texas A&M University)
Radhika Nagpal (Harvard University)
Allison Okamura (Stanford University)
Katia Sycara (Carnegie Mellon University)
Dawn Tilbury (University of Michigan)
Carme Torras (Institut de Robòtica i Informàtica Industrial, CSIC-UPC)
Manuela Veloso (Carnegie Mellon University)
Jing Xiao (University of North Carolina, Charlotte)
Yuru Zhang (Beihang University)


Andra Keay
Core Team Member & Robotics Industry Futurist
Andra Keay is the Managing Director of Silicon Valley Robotics, founder of Women in Robotics and is a mentor, investor and advisor to startups, accelerators and think tanks, with a strong interest in commercializing socially positive robotics and AI.

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