The National Medal of Technology, managed by the Technology Administration of the U. S. Department of Commerce, is the highest honor that the President of the United States awards to American innovators. These Medal Laureates are true stars. Their contributions drive our economy, enhance our lives, maintain our competitive edge, and set the course for our future.
In the post 9/11 world, the Iraq War and threats to homeland security have dominated Washington's national security debate. Fears of terrorist attacks and weapons of mass destruction riveted the attention of policy makers. But now come signs that America's political leaders are finally turning their attention to a chronic national security concern—the failure of the US to remain competitive in math, science and engineering.
In the not too distant past, I was asked to do an NPR interview on women and mentoring. It got me thinking in specific terms about what mentors "do," and ultimately led me to conclude that we use the word "mentor" far too casually. Often, as mentors, we stop short of what we can and should be doing. This is especially important in our quest to increase the number of women in technology leadership positions.
I'd like to encourage some speculation about one of the world's great incongruities.
Computer Science is a great field. It's supremely creative. It's changing our lives, driving our economy, and transforming the conduct of science, engineering, and many other fields. It's projected to be the source of 70% of the jobs in all fields of science and engineering between now and 2012. It's open to everyone.
In the US and Canada (and in many other parts of the world) the image of computing careers and computing professionals discourages many talented young people, especially women and minorities, from choosing to study computer science. For at least the last decade the computing profession has been widely viewed by high school students, parents, teachers, and counselors as being for individuals who have been obsessed with computers since puberty and want to program sixteen hours a day.