Activism

Trip members

The last week has been a blur -- full of what can only be called a mosaic of contrasting experiences, like the light REM sleep one goes through early in the morning hours. I must tell you about it. Perhaps you can help.

With the assistance of NCWIT Board member Nick Grouf, I spent last Friday (March 24) in Beverly Hills visiting talent agencies. No, I'm not considering a career switch -- I was there to talk to them about the image of IT, and whether we might attract a top Hollywood talent to help us dispel the "geeky" image of IT.

After visits with two agencies, I left and took a walk down Rodeo Drive. It will be hard work to enlist the support of Hollywood for what may be a crucial aspect of our work, the IT image makeover, but the impact of support from the film and television industry could be monumental. Image matters, a fact of which I was only too aware as I made my way down Rodeo Drive. I couldn't afford to buy much there but it was fun to look.

On Saturday, I attended an awards luncheon at USC sponsored by Soroptimist International of Los Angeles, where I and two other women were honored as "Extraordinary Women of Distinction." I have never been on the USC campus and was thrilled that NCWIT was being recognized for our activist approach to attracting more girls and women into IT. The LA Soroptimists were so receptive to our message and I felt right at home.

At the luncheon I sat next to a K-12 principal from an inner-city LA school - a wonderful man, full of energy. His issue? They have NO computers (or at least, the ones they have are very, very old.) I couldn't get over that – in fact, I was so upset I couldn't even eat my cheesecake.

I left LA on Sunday, after hanging out at the beach and wishing I could buy every high school in LA some new computers. At least I'm grateful to know that our good friend Jane Margolis is working so hard in the inner-city LA schools.

Now I am on a plane returning from New Orleans. The contrast couldn't be starker. As many of you know I'm from Louisiana, and NCWIT has several Academic Alliance members in New Orleans. I was down here to visit with a group of students from the University of Colorado, who are spending this week -- their spring break -- cleaning up houses in the poorest neighborhoods of the city. It is dirty, tiresome work. The street lights are out and the streets are deserted except for the trash, which is everywhere, piled in heaps.

But house by house, street by street, life will return to this city. The photo I took (above) of our CU students with my cell phone isn't great, but with the fuzzy light the students look a little like angels – and that's exactly what they are. These students are joined this week by countless others from across the country, all of them here to help get this city back on its feet. The rebirth of New Orleans will happen because of the blood, sweat, and tears of many dedicated activists like them.

So where is my mind, at the end of this incongruous and exhausting week? At a place of activism. Our world needs activists. We need people to step up and take positions, take chances, spend their valuable time. We need to storm the Bastille in Hollywood, help the inner-city schools, and bring our NCWIT colleagues in New Orleans back up to normal operations.

There's so much to do. Many of us have other jobs, either in academia or in industry, but we must set time aside for the great issues of our day. We must be urgent.