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Grown from STEM: February Edition - Women & Hi Tech Celebrates “Equity and Inclusion” in 20th Year of The Leading Light Awards

02/25/2020 8:00 AM | Anonymous

Dear Women & Hi Tech Members, Sponsors, Partners, and Friends:

As Black History Month 2020 draws to a close, I would be remiss as the first African-American President of Women & Hi Tech to not bring attention to the contributions of women of color in STEM fields in this state and country. For example, many of us should be aware and familiar with our own local hero, Madam C.J. Walker (1867-1919), alleged to be the first African-American female entrepreneurial millionaire here in Indianapolis and throughout the United States, based on her invention, development, and commercialization of black hair care products. With the movie, Hidden Figures, many of us also became aware of so many other African-American women, such as those who contributed to major technological advances in the NASA space race, such as Katherine Johnson (1918-2020), Dorothy Vaughan (1910-2008), Mary Jackson (1921-2005), and later, Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American female to ever go into space.

Notably, from the time of drafting this article to the time of its publication, Katherine Johnson, the NASA/STEM trailblazer mentioned above, has just passed away at 101 years old. On behalf of Women & Hi Tech, and particularly diverse women in STEM in this city, state, and country, I’d like to offer my deepest sympathies, thoughts, and prayers to Ms. Johnson’s family and friends. There is no question that we just lost a STEM pioneer, and it is my sincerest prayer that “she may rest in peace.”

This current turn of events makes even more relevant the pressing need to recognize some of the living female STEM legends amongst us while they are still here. Particularly, in the wake of my most impactful life experience - traveling to South Africa to attend and speak at The 3rd HBCU-HDI Women in STEM conference – I have learned that there are so many other lesser-known African-American female living legends in STEM in our midst that should also be recognized. Women of color who have recently made history or are currently making history as they continue to excel and expand the depth and breadth of STEM leaders to include women of color, particularly African-American women. Women like Dr. Sonya T. Smith (Mechanical Engineering), Dr. Gloria Washington (Computer Science), and Dr. Jean Bailey (Psychology and Human Development) of Howard University, Dr. Leyte Winfield (Chemistry) and Dr. Kimberly Williams (Biology) of Spelman College, Dr. Florastina Payton-Stewart (Chemistry) of Xavier University, and Dr. Carollyn Boykins-Winfrow (Animal Sciences) of Tennessee State University, each of whom is making her mark to demonstrate excellence in STEM and to teach those skills, values, and characteristics to the next generation of female STEM leaders at the named Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). These ladies, along with a few of their students, were my traveling companions on my South African Women in STEM excursion, and it was unquestionably a trip of a lifetime.

Amongst all of us, however, there was one of our traveling companions who absolutely stood above the crowd, despite the fact that she was likely the smallest of us in physical stature, Dr. Arlene Maclin! Behind Dr. Shirley Jackson, who was honored by President Obama as being the second African-American woman in the U.S. to receive a Ph.D. in physics (from MIT), Dr. Arlene Maclin is only the third African-American woman ever in this country to receive a Ph.D. in physics. Dr. Maclin is also the first woman to ever earn a Ph.D. in physics from Howard University, after receiving a Masters in Physics from the University of Virginia. Not biology, chemistry, engineering, mathematics, or even tech, which are all challenging and demanding enough in their own right, but physics! Dr. Maclin is undeniably an absolute trailblazer worth celebrating and recognizing even beyond her current recognitions, including The HistoryMakers.

Throughout her career, Dr. Arlene Maclin worked for NASA, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Dr. Maclin was also a research physicist at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory and a visiting scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. In addition, Dr. Maclin spent much of her career as an academic professor and/or administrator at Morgan State University, Howard University, Hampton University, and Norfolk State University. Proudly, Dr. Maclin admits that she has traveled with students all over the world including China, India, Morocco, and other parts of Africa, such as South Africa on numerous occasions.  She even serves as President, CEO, and entrepreneur of her own company. No question, Dr. Arlene is likely one of the most brilliant women I’ve ever met. But it doesn’t stop there.

Well beyond her extraordinary intellect, Dr. Arlene is a “pistol”! I’ve heard that term used many times before to describe bold women, but there is no better phrase I would consider to describe the personality of this living STEM legend. Dr. Arlene does not mince words or as they say “she don’t play”! She is worldly, wise, and will let you know exactly what she thinks about any given subject or situation without solicitation. Dr. Maclin is also very serious and strategic about the exemplification of excellence by women of color in the STEM fields, and her standards for excellence are extremely high.

With all of that sternness, Dr. Arlene is warm, witty, and funny as all get-out. She is full of joy, banter, has a big, bold smile, and a hearty laugh that you can typically hear before you ever see her. My best description of Dr. Arlene Maclin, for those of you who know me, is that SHE IS ME in 20+ years (minus the physics expertise and accolades). In summary, I just had the privilege to spend a week traveling around the world with my future self, and you know what? She’s amazing! Kudos, congratulations, and Happy (upcoming) Birthday to Dr. Arlene Maclin for being a living STEM legend in the U.S., internationally, and worldwide. I am proud and honored to call you a friend and female colleague in STEM.

In this 14th edition of “Grown from STEM,” Women & Hi Tech would like to feature our own scientific living legends. First, Women & Hi Tech is excited to introduce you to our Community Outreach Director and clinical research scientist at the Indiana Hemophilia and Thrombosis Center, Allison Lipps. We are also excited for you to meet Women & Hi Tech member, Maria Rosario Doriott, Senior Quality Engineer at Beckman Coulter Life Sciences. Please read more about Allison and Rosario and how their STEM backgrounds, business acumen, and passion for helping other women drives their support and involvement in Women & Hi Tech.

Angela B. Freeman, M.S., J.D.
Women & Hi Tech President

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