Gender diversity is a serious issue in STEM, and even more so in the fields that robotics discipline draws upon. According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, women scientists and engineers comprised “relatively low shares in engineering (15%) and computer and mathematical sciences (26%).” At Georgia Tech – notably, rated one of the most diverse engineering schools in the country – women were conferred 26% of computing degrees and 34% of engineering degrees in 2020. These numbers also do not account for the even lower proportions of gender minorities in robotics specific disciplines; women and nonbinary individuals make up only 21% of dues paying RoboJackets members.
This year, the RJ Girl Gang was started to create a welcoming environment for RoboJackets members belonging to a gender minority. Spearheaded by RoboCup member Asha Bhandarkar, the intent of the group is to “provide a social and supportive environment where people [feel] comfortable discussing problems and their perspective about being gender minorities in RoboJackets.” Said Asha: “I think one of [the areas] where [RoboJackets] has yet to make significant gains is our lack of diversity…Over the years, I’ve seen many people who fall under the umbrella of being a gender minority in STEM leave RoboJackets, and this is similar to the trend we see in industry today.” One of the main ways RJ Girl Gang looks to improve retention and foster camaraderie is via monthly socials where gender minorities from all teams in RoboJackets can build relationships and speak about their experiences in a safe environment. The group held its first event on Tech Green last month. Students played field games and had the opportunity to meet in person and get to know one another better. “In the future, I’m hoping we continue to have fun socials and form a tight knit group,” said Asha.
If you are an alumnus of RoboJackets and are interested in helping increase gender diversity in RoboJackets, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.