The April cover didn’t turn out quite as we intended. In fact, for some of you, it had a connotation quite the opposite from what we envisioned—that’s on us.
In hindsight, our headline should have read: “Robots at Work—Automation Helps Break Old Stereotypes.” That’s what we intended with our provocative cover.
Some readers, and even others who saw the cover but—by their admission—did not read the full story, wrote to me. Another 1,000 signed a letter of complaint, which appears in our Letters to the Editor section in this issue. One of those who signed the petition, Kim Allen, the chief executive officer of Engineers Canada, also wrote to me directly. He said, “As much as we try to avoid ‘judging a book by its cover,’ it does still happen, and I find it unfortunate that the cover image projects a gendered view of the engineering profession that distracts from the important message of the article.”
Unless you publish a New York City tabloid newspaper, no one in publishing likes to offend. That’s especially true in this instance since we regularly focus on women in engineering. Because that’s so, it was good to see that the three doctoral candidates from Stanford University who started the petition protesting old stereotypes were able to galvanize so many influential technologists, students, and proponents to sign the letter.
The conversation over women and other underrepresented minorities in engineering is essential. So much so, that three years ago the magazine, in cooperation with the ASME Foundation, developed and hosted the first program in the ASME Decision Point Dialogues series. The program was called, “Will Engineers Be True Global Problem Solvers?” That discussion was an important Socratic dialogue among thought leaders, in part, on the need for more diversity in the profession. Our second program, “Critical Thinking, Critical Choices: What Really Matters in STEM,” was another deep-dive exploration into the fundamental issues related to underrepresented groups in engineering. You can view both programs by visiting go.asme.org/dialogues.
Women and minority engineers contribute greatly to the fiber of the profession. One of our feature articles in this issue, for example, was coauthored by ASME Fellow Karen A. Thole. We regularly highlight engineers who are women or minorities, and will continue to do so. To determine strictly by gender or ethnicity who leads important engineering projects, or who a magazine highlights, would be offensive. Therefore, it is critical that the profession reaches a point where there is so much equal representation that it will laud successful engineers on the basis of the quality of their work, regardless of gender or ethnicity.
Until then, we have to lead the conversation to ensure that every student, regardless of who they are, has the opportunities to pursue a fulfilling and successful engineering career.
ASME is a leader on many fronts. The most recent is working as part of the 50K Coalition, an alliance of the Society of Women Engineers, the National Society of Black Engineers, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society. The goal is to graduate 50,000 engineering students who are women and underrepresented minorities by 2025.
Engineers of all races and genders are making technology breakthroughs and helping to reshape the way we live and work. Associate Editor Alan Brown brought that point home in the April cover story on the implications of automation. The article is insightful and leading.
The expectations you, the reader, have of this magazine are high, but no higher than those which we have of ourselves. I invite you to continue this conversation with us in the pages of this magazine.