All posts by Joanna Goodrich

Advice for Women, From Women, on Dealing With Difficult Workplace Situations

Post Syndicated from Joanna Goodrich original

IEEE WIE webinar highlights three ways to improve your conflict-resolution skills

THE INSTITUTEMost people view conflict as negative and something that should be avoided. Women have a more difficult time than men dealing with conflict, because they tend to foster a collaborative work environment, put higher value on fostering relationships with team members, and are more empathetic, says Charmaine Hammond, a conflict-resolution expert.

Hammond, along with corporate trainer Pattie Vargas, gave tips in a recent webinar, “The Resilience Factor Is Your Superpower: Dealing With Conflict and Change Management.” The virtual session was sponsored by IEEE Women in Engineering and moderated by IEEE senior member Kathy Kerring Hayashi.

Through personal anecdotes, the two women offered three ways to deal with difficult but common situations women face in the workplace.


Address conflict head on, they say. Women tend to value relationships and therefore fear hurting someone’s feelings by confronting them, according to Hammond. But when people avoid conflicts, trust erodes and relationships are damaged. Being proactive can keep the situation from getting worse and can help to build stronger relationships and teams.

Two examples of when conflict is typically avoided are when a coworker or manager is disrespectful to you or blames you for something you didn’t do—in front of others. Although those are difficult situations to handle, it’s important to address them as soon as possible, Hammond says. Be respectful to the individual but meet with the person immediately after the incident and explain how you feel.

“Do not let the conflict linger,” Vargas says. “Many times, the coworker who is being disrespectful does not realize how he is coming off. He can’t fix his behavior if he doesn’t know how it makes you feel.”

If that doesn’t work, Hammond says, go to your company’s human resources department and ask it to mediate the conflict.


Women in leadership positions often feel that if they don’t have all the answers, they’ll be perceived as ineffective, Hammond says. But employees generally don’t expect perfection from their supervisor. A manager who lets her staff see a bit of her vulnerability tends to create stronger relationships and actually boosts the workers’ confidence in her because they view her more as an equal.

“It’s important to know that as a leader, you can say, ‘I don’t have an answer, but I’ll find out,’ or ‘I don’t know how to deal with this—what does my amazing team have to say about it?’” Hammond says. By involving the team and asking the workers what they think, the leader is showing trust.

Another time when managers should concede that they don’t have all the answers is during a reorganization. Employees often want to know how secure their job is; more often than not, the supervisor doesn’t know, Vargas says. Instead of acknowledging that, some managers try to reassure their employees that their job is safe, Vargas says, but that can be a dangerous approach because if it turns out not to be the case, all the employees can lose trust in the leader.


Hammond says that one of the most-asked questions she gets is how to deal with being excluded from a discussion or from a meeting. She tells people to insert themselves into the situation.

Many women tend to ask permission to speak, she says. They might use a phrase such as “Can I say something?” Instead, Hammond recommends you be confident and simply state “I have something to add.” That way, she says, you make sure you are heard.

If you’re excluded from a meeting, it might simply be an oversight, Vargas says. Instead of assuming you were purposely left out, approach the organizer and inquire about the meeting’s purpose. One approach is to say, “I noticed there’s a meeting Thursday, and I haven’t received an invitation yet. Maybe I’m not needed at the meeting, but I just wanted to check to see if I need to slot that on my calendar.” Vargas says that most times, the organizer simply forgot to tell you or will explain why you aren’t required.

You can watch the webinar and other sessions on demand.

You can still register for the IEEE Women in Engineering International Leadership Conference to be held on 23 and 24 May in Austin, Texas. The goal of this year’s meeting is increasing the retention rates of middle- to senior-level women in technology. It will feature panel discussions, a career fair, and workshops. Keynote sessions are expected to cover empowerment, leadership, and diversity and inclusion.

Q&A With Jelena Kovačević, Dean of the NYU Tandon School of Engineering

Post Syndicated from Joanna Goodrich original

The IEEE Fellow talks about her career and her efforts to inspire other women to enter the field

THE INSTITUTEEngineers tackle some of the world’s biggest problems, such as bringing electricity to underserved populations and inventing life-saving medical equipment. But for others, like IEEE Fellow Jelena Kovačević, guiding the future generation of engineers is just as important.

“As a leader of a university, I have the opportunity to impact more people,” says Kovačević, dean of the NYU Tandon School of Engineering.

She, along with the deans from the City College of New York Grove School of Engineering and Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, recently talked during a panel discussion about how their universities are keeping up with changes in engineering.

Kovačević has been the Tandon School’s dean since August. She is the first woman to hold that position at the school, which was founded in 1854.

She began her career at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, N.J. After that, she became an adjunct professor at Columbia and a professor of biomedical engineering and head of the electrical and computer engineering department at Carnegie Mellon.

In this interview with The Institute, she talks about what led her to accept the position of dean and how IEEE has helped her in her career.

What inspired you to get into engineering?

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved math. I was fortunate enough that I had parents who thought that was really cool. When I got a little older, I wanted to go into a field where I could do math for a living. Most of my friends who were good at math went into electrical engineering, then so did I.

I hate to say it, but I did not have some preordained plan. I didn’t really think it through. But people told me you use math in electrical engineering, so that’s where I went. I earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1986 from the University of Belgrade, in Serbia. There I discovered engineering was much more than just numbers. In the end, I found I could have an impact on someone’s life through engineering.

Why did you accept the position at NYU?

I was really blown away by the student body at the Tandon School of Engineering. I was inspired by how many first-generation and underrepresented students there were. All these people, with different experiences and backgrounds, came here to study a subject they are all passionate about.

Whenever I meet students, I think of them as my own kids. It’s important not only to make them responsible citizens and lovely humans, but also to make them feel supported. They had to face many more obstacles than I did during my time in university. I feel a responsibility to do something for others, and that led me to academic leadership positions.

I hold an open house once a month where students can talk to me about issues they are facing. I also meet monthly with student leaders to talk about how we can create a better learning environment and provide more internships and volunteer opportunities.

All 5,400 students motivate me to do the best job I can.

What are some of your goals for the school?

I have spent this past year working with everyone to create a strategic plan; it has crystalized into three pillars: research, students first, and community.

Engineers impact the world through the research we do. We want our research to address problems of societal importance to create healthy, secure, and connected environments around the world. We also want our cutting-edge innovations to be thoughtfully and successfully introduced into society.

It’s important to focus on students from the moment they step foot on campus until they graduate and beyond. We want to be a student-first community by improving affordability and being a nurturing home for all students. We are creating a flexible undergraduate education, focused on doing, critical thinking, and real-world experiences such as internships and research. We are also reimagining our master’s education by expanding its global reach and ensuring its relevance to industry. From student life on campus to the curriculum, there are changes that need to be made, and students are partners in helping us see what they need.

The final focus is to build a sense of community, not only among students and faculty but also with alumni and parents. It’s important for everyone to engage with us to help move our goals forward.

What challenges did you face as a female engineer, and how did you overcome them?

I came to the United States to attend Columbia and graduated with a master’s degree and a doctorate in 1988 and 1991, respectively. When I began my Ph.D., I noticed there were only a handful of women in the engineering program. At first I didn’t question why there were so few. At the University of Belgrade, there were a large number of female students. It was not an unusual thing for young women to choose this field.

When I was pregnant, a male colleague said to me, “Well, you’ll see once you have your baby, you’ll love it so much, you won’t want to come back to work.” I asked him why he came back to work after he had two children of his own, and he was taken aback. Why, I wondered, is my intellectual self any less important than his? Whether you come back to work or stay at home with your children is a personal choice, not a choice based on gender.

As the department head at Carnegie Mellon, students came to me with stories about microaggressions and sexual harassment they had faced, and I needed to address them. It became my mandate to be their advocate as well as to increase the number of both women and underrepresented groups and make the learning environment more inclusive.

I don’t have the blinders I had on when I first came to the United States.

How do you think your appointment will affect the gender gap in engineering and computer science?

I want both young men and women from all backgrounds to see women in positions such as a dean or a scientist. I think my appointment and the increase of women in these roles will help break the stereotype that only a certain type of person can hold these positions.

What would you say to a woman who is thinking about pursuing engineering?

It’s a fantastic field, and there is something for everyone. There is a place for someone who enjoys math, as well as for those who want to be in the lab. But just because things are better now doesn’t mean the environment is perfect just yet. You still may face microaggressions. But if you’re interested in this career, then pursue it. Facing these issues is a lot easier when you come into a classroom and half of the students are women.

How has being an IEEE member benefited your career?

For engineers in research, becoming a member is a no-brainer. It’s a natural part of our professional development. I got involved as a student member. I went to IEEE conferences where we would connect with other graduate students and professors, and we would present papers. This led to collaborations in research and brainstorming sessions about what we could do in the field to make an impact.

Throughout my 30 years in IEEE, I’ve served in a number of positions, including on the board of governors for the IEEE Signal Processing Society. I was the editor in chief of IEEE Transactions on Image Processing and associate editor of IEEE Transactions on Signal Processing. I currently serve on IEEE Spectrum’s editorial advisory board.

A Look Through the History of U.S. Space Travel

Post Syndicated from Joanna Goodrich original

Photographs show key moments of the effort to land on the moon

IEEE is marking the 50th anniversary of the moon landing and spaceflight through the Footsteps: IEEE’s Commemoration of Human Space Travel effort.  These images were provided by the IEEE History Center, which is funded by donations to the IEEE Foundation’s Realize the Full Potential of IEEE Campaign.