Most Powerful Women | Abigail Johnson

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  • TITLE: Chairman and CEO
  • AFFILIATION: Fidelity Investments
  • AGE: 57

Fidelity posted record numbers for both revenue ($20.4 billion) and profits ($6.3 billion) in 2018, but perhaps the most notable sign of the company’s success is the $309 billion in new client money that flowed into its accounts last year—a nearly 20% ­increase over 2017. Johnson has wooed new customers by ruthlessly besting Fidelity’s rivals on everything from fees to yields on cash accounts.

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Disclosure: Smita Nair Jain has nothing to disclose. She doesn’t own stock in any publicly traded companies and does not hold investments in the technology companies. She has equivalent of the American 401(k) plan in India that is automatically managed. (Updated: May 31, 2020)

Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various author(s), publisher(s) and forum participant(s) on this web site do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the @SmitaNairJain or official policies of the #SmitaNairJain

Source: https://fortune.com/most-powerful-women/2019/abigail-johnson/

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Rosalind Franklin | Dame of DNA

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Rosalind Franklin is the dame of DNA. Born in 1920, she used X-ray diffraction to take a picture of DNA that changed biology. Photo 51, her picture of DNA, was shown to James Watson and Francis Crick without her knowledge by her colleague Maurice Wilkins who thought she was just a lab assistant when she was heading up her own projects. This photo allowed Watson and Crick to deduce the correct structure for DNA. They published a series of articles in the scientific journal Nature in April 1953. Franklin also published in the same issue and provided even more details on DNA’s structure. Though Franklin’s image of DNA was critical to deciphering its structure, she passed away before 1962 when the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Watson, Crick and Wilkins. The Nobel Prize is never awarded posthumously, so it’s debatable whether or not she would have been included in the Nobel Prize win. But her story is certainly one of the most well-known and shameful instances of a researcher being robbed of credit.

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Disclosure: Smita Nair Jain has nothing to disclose. She doesn’t own stock in any publicly traded companies and does not hold investments in the technology companies. She has equivalent of the American 401(k) plan in India that is automatically managed. (Updated: May 30, 2020)

Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various author(s), publisher(s) and forum participant(s) on this web site do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the @SmitaNairJain or official policies of the #SmitaNairJain

Source: https://www.beyondcurie.com/rosalind-franklin

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Most Powerful Women | Marillyn Hewson

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  • TITLE: Chairman, President, and CEO
  • AFFILIATION: Lockheed Martin
  • AGE: 65

Despite ongoing global uncertainty, from international sanctions to a U.S.-China trade war, Hewson continues to execute at Lockheed Martin. The defense contractor’s sales rose 8% last year on a record number of orders, and its massive F-35 fighter jet program is steadily ramping up—in spite of some unexpected hurdles, including the U.S. decision to nix Turkey’s plans to buy more than 100 of the planes. The company is making up for the lost business with a major new F-35 deal that’s in the works with the Department of Defense, as well as a $1.1 billion contract to provide helicopters to the Navy. Investors seem to back Hewson’s strategy, sending the stock price up 16% in the past year, outpacing the S&P 500 and the industry. The CEO’s influence continues to grow: She joined the board of Johnson & Johnson this year.

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Disclosure: Smita Nair Jain has nothing to disclose. She doesn’t own stock in any publicly traded companies and does not hold investments in the technology companies. She has equivalent of the American 401(k) plan in India that is automatically managed. (Updated: May 29, 2020)

Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various author(s), publisher(s) and forum participant(s) on this web site do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the @SmitaNairJain or official policies of the #SmitaNairJain

Source: https://fortune.com/most-powerful-women/2019/marillyn-hewson/

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:)

Google: The Next Big Fintech Vendor | Ron Shevlin

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Ron Shevlin

Ron Shevlin Senior Contributor

Fintech

Observations from the Fintech Snark Tank

SWITZERLAND-POLITICS-ECONOMY-DIPLOMACY-WEF
A sign of Google is seen at Google’s stand during[+]
AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

OBSERVATIONS FROM THE FINTECH SNARK TANK

In an article titled Amazon’s Impending Invasion Of Banking, I wrote:

“Amazon has no incentive to cut banks out of the lending or deposit business. Amazon can make more money by providing technology services to help financial institutions underwrite, process, and service loans. Banks will gladly pay for this, because Amazon will do it for a lower cost that what banks incur to do it today.”

My argument then, as it is now, is that Amazon is poised to be a vendor—not a competitor—to financial institutions. 

Google’s Banking Forays

Four recent stories regarding Google signal that it, too, is following a similar path and is on its way to becoming the next big fintech vendor:

1) Google checking account. In November 2019, the Wall Street Journal reported:

“Google will soon offer checking accounts to consumers, becoming the latest Silicon Valley heavyweight to push into finance. The project, code-named Cache, is expected to launch next year with accounts run by Citigroup and a credit union at Stanford University, a tiny lender in Google’s backyard.”

2) Google debit card. In April 2020, Tech Crunch revealed that:

“Google is developing its own physical and virtual debit cards. The Google card connects to a Google app with new features that let users easily monitor purchases, check their balance or lock their account.”

3) Google AI tool for Paycheck Protection Program loan processing. In May 2020, Google released marketing materials which said:

“Google Cloud is offering the PPP AI Lending Solution, which enables lenders to integrate underwriting components into their existing lending systems to allow them to accelerate and automate the process of handling the massive volume increase in loan applications.”

PPP Lending AI Solution

4) Google Cloud bank deal. In March 2020, Finextra reported:

“Google Cloud has landed a five-year deal with Lloyds Banking Group, part of the UK bank’s commitment to spend £3 billion on digital transformation projects.”

This follows Google’s 2018 deals with HSBC to provide the banks with cloud and machine learning services. 

Google Will Become a Fintech Vendor, Not a Bank

According to the TechCrunch article on Google’s reported debit card:

“Google’s strategy is to let banks provide the underlying financial infrastructure and navigate regulation while it builds smarter interfaces and user experiences. It’s foreseeable that one day Google might cut out the banks and take all the spoils for itself.”

Nonsense.

First off, the vast majority of banks in the US don’t provide their own “financial infrastructure” which likely refers to the applications that banks run versus the hardware. Most rely on vendors like Fiserv and FIS. 

Second, it’s inconceivable that Google could just “cut out the banks.” Its Cache service and debit card are part and parcel of the partnering bank’s checking account. Without the bank’s product, there is no Google product. 

In other words, there are no “spoils” for Google to take.

Google’s Strategy: Become a Technology Vendor to Banks

Google’s value proposition to banks is simple: “We help you monetize your customer relationships.”

With all the talk in the industry that Big Tech firms like Amazon and Google are going to “cut out the banks,” why would a bank hire Google as a technology vendor?

Two reasons:

1) Consumer prowess. Tech vendors like FIS and Fiserv may provide great technology, but consumers don’t know them from Adam. 

Google has (dare I say it) cache with consumers. Many banks—large and small—will see Google’s name recognition as a way to help them drive better utilization of their checking account and debit card.

There’s research to support that. 

A consumer survey conducted by Cornerstone Advisors and Strategy Corps found that a quarter of Millennials would be very likely to use a debit card from Google, and might even make their primary card. Another 30% said they’d be somewhat likely to use a debit card from Google. 

Debit Card Interest

2) Technology and analytics expertise. For all the talk about AI technologies like chatbots and machine learning, few banks have actually deployed them. Just 4% of the banks surveyed by Cornerstone Advisors have deployed chatbots, and just 8% are already using machine learning tools.

Banks' AI Deployment and Plans

Heading into 2020, however, nearly one in five banks anticipated deploying machine learning. Who better to turn to than the leader in the space, Google?

Google Will Make an Acquisition in the Fintech Vendor Space

Based on the November 2019 Wall Street Journal article, it appears that the Cache service and debit card is coming from the Google Pay group. 

The AI lending solution is coming out of the Cloud group, which has seen more success in Europe than in the US (and other parts of the world, for that matter).

According to one report, the Cloud unit was the single-largest driver of headcount growth at Google in Q1 2019. In February 2020, the company revealed, however, that it had reduced headcount in the enterprise unit as part of a restructuring effort.

This suggests some organizational misalignment hampering Google’s attempts to penetrate the US banking market. 

The easiest and fastest way for Google to overcome these hurdles is by acquiring an existing fintech vendor—not organically growing its own sales and service staff.

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Ron Shevlin

Ron Shevlin

Ron Shevlin is the Managing Director of Fintech Research at Cornerstone Advisors. Author of the book Smarter Bank and the Fintech Snark Tank on Forbes, Ron is ranked among the top fintech influencers globally, and is a frequent keynote speaker at banking and fintech industry events.

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Disclosure: Smita Nair Jain has nothing to disclose. She doesn’t own stock in any publicly traded companies and does not hold investments in the technology companies. She has equivalent of the American 401(k) plan in India that is automatically managed. (Updated: May 28, 2020)

Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various author(s), publisher(s) and forum participant(s) on this web site do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the @SmitaNairJain or official policies of the #SmitaNairJain

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/ronshevlin/2020/05/11/google-the-next-big-fintech-vendor/#33785c914cbd

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Diversity, Equity And Inclusion: What The Coronavirus Teaches And How We Must Respond | Tracy Brower

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Tracy Brower Contributor

Careers

I write about the changing nature of work, workers and the workplace.

Many happy business people raise hands together with joy and success. Company employee celebrate after finishing successful work project. Corporate partnership and achievement concept.
New lessons for diversity, equity and inclusion. GETTY

Diversity, equity and inclusion have always been important topics with critical implications for people, businesses and communities, but the pandemic is shining a new light on these issues. The shift in our experience and the new perspectives we gain, provide the opportunity for learning and improvement in the ways companies and individuals embrace diversity and ensure equity and inclusion. 

Clarity On The Issues

The pandemic has put these issues in stark relief, and there is a new level of focus based on news reports highlighting how the pandemic is disproportionately impacting disadvantaged groups. Says Michele Meyer-Shipp, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer for KPMG (a leading professional services firm) and National Organization on Disability board member, “Leaders are asking, ‘What should I be thinking about?’” 

New perspectives are emerging. “The pandemic has elevated disparities and pulled the covers off things occurring in marginalized communities,” says Fannie Glover, Director of Equity and Inclusion at the Early Care and Learning Council of New York. “If you’re living in a one-room apartment with five family members and you test positive for COVID-19, it’s impossible to isolate yourself. If you’re the only bread-winner and you can’t work, your entire family suffers. In addition, if you don’t have a car to go to food banks, nor money for public transportation, you are without food even if it is free.” The issues are significant, and they have a domino effect on each other—from health to income and from transportation to access and more. Glover also provides an example of a Native American community in which members carry water for miles. They are forced to weigh the recommendation to wash their hands for 20 seconds with the additional needs for water they use for cooking, bathing and drinking. Recognition of the conditions is critical. “Those in decision-making positions must understand what’s going on in underserved communities across the nation,” says Glover. 

The pandemic has also highlighted additional challenges. According to Agnes Uhereczky, Executive Director of the WorkLife HUB based in Belgium, “The pandemic has shone a light on the more subtle forms of diversity, such as whether somebody is a parent or a caregiver.” Video conferencing has given us a rare window into people’s lives and their homes. They may have their children in the background or they may have a need to flex their work hours to provide care for an aging or sick grandparent. Many leaders are expanding their empathy and compassion for employees as they face more work-life challenges themselves and see first-hand the obstacles their employees face. 

Expanded Opportunities

In addition to exposing frequently-painful circumstances, the pandemic also has a positive side. With employees working from home, companies have been able to tap into diversity in new ways. For those who have difficulty moving about an office due to physical limitations, barriers are removed. Or for those who have difficulty hearing or seeing colleagues in a conference room setting, the ability to turn up the volume on their laptop or change the view-size on their screen has improved their ability to fully participate. The opportunity for companies to more fully leverage the talent of people like these is promising. “We can reimagine the future of work as it pertains to workforce representation by tapping into untapped and under-tapped talent pools,” says Meyer-Shipp. 

How Companies And Individuals Should Respond

The issues are complex, but individuals and companies can embrace the pandemic’s opportunities for learning—and can improve their approaches. “Let’s not ’get back to business as usual’, but think about all that we have been learning these past weeks, and try to integrate our lessons going forward,” says Uhereczky. 

Exactly. So how do we take the most effective actions to reimagine the future of work and ensure the greatest levels of diversity, equity and inclusion? You’ll want to find ways to bring together a diverse range of people, give them equal footing and intentionally include their voices. Here are some ideas:

Get educated. Individuals and organizations should get educated and understand the issues as fully as possible. “Organizations need to expand their view of what diversity is,” says Uhereczky. “The workplace is made up of hyper-diversified employees, with very different needs.” This knowledge of differences should drive company approaches, policies and practices. Individuals must learn, be self-aware and be proactive about behaving inclusively. Listen to understand differences and actively seek opportunities to expand your viewpoints. “We all need someone in our lives to tell us what we don’t know,” says Glover.

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Seek opportunities to be with those who are different than yourself. Companies can do this by expanding approaches to recruiting, selection and hiring. When a company says, “That person is just not a fit,” it may be a signal it is not embracing differences, and there is an opportunity to improve practices. For individuals, expanding diverse relationships is key. Says Glover, “We need to avoid ‘just like me syndrome’ in which we seek out those who are similar and avoid differences.” Growth and learning are only possible when we spend time with others who are different than ourselves and listen to understand the reality of someone who may be in situations unfamiliar to us. “We must become comfortable with being uncomfortable,” says Glover. 

Build trust and acceptance. People need to feel they are welcomed and are valued as part of the community. “Employees want to feel a sense of belonging and a sense of being valued as an integral part of a team or company,” says Uhereczky. Psychological safety is critical—the feeling that people can bring all of themselves to their work experience and express opinions that may be unpopular. Companies and leaders have roles to play in building trust and acceptance. “As leaders, we must strive to create psychologically safe environments. Our responsibility as leaders is to ensure that all of the voices are acknowledged and heard,” says Mita Mallick, Head of Diversity and Cross-Cultural Marketing at Unilever. Another expert agrees. Bronwen Evans, Chief Talent Officer with MedCan, a leading health management company in Canada, says, “With the vast majority of our talent working remotely through the pandemic, we’ve had to double down on our thinking of what it means to create an environment of inclusivity and a sense of belonging.” As individuals, whether leaders or team members, our acceptance of those who are different contributes to this inclusivity and sense of community.

Provide for different approaches to work. Companies and individuals can also expand how they accommodate different ways of working. This may pertain to when people work, how they work, where they work or even what project they are tackling. According to Meyer-Shipp, KPMG has empowered employees to have a blended workday. They can take time off during the day to provide care to a family member, for example, or help a child with school work. It’s important to meet employees where they are and address their unique needs. Employees’ needs differ. Mallick adds, “We have to remember that everyone is on their own COVID-19 journey. Our journeys are not comparable.” Colleagues can collaborate and work together while also being flexible and accommodating.

Expand the ways in which people can contributeCompanies and leaders have the opportunity to reinvent how people contribute in terms of their roles and their responsibilities. Evans says, “Because our business has had to adapt so quickly by offering most of our services remotely, we’ve had to redeploy talent to different areas of the business, providing us with the opportunity to understand and appreciate broader skill sets.” The responsibilities people are being asked to fulfill are changing at a rapid pace, and along with a certain level of chaos, comes the chance to provide new ways for people to stretch their skills and apply their talents. 

Support people with tools and practices. The ability for people to contribute is partly based on having the right tools and programs. Meyer-Shipp says KPMG provides the necessary technology, desks, keyboards or captioning for employees working from home with no questions asked. Mental health is also critical, and KPMG has expanded employee assistance programs, offers weekly mental health webinars and makes all kinds of support available from text-based counseling to meditation and online exercise classes. In New York, Glover’s agency and its members have also stepped up by providing key information about protocols for child care services to essential businesses. 

Invite people to the table. As leaders and companies develop policies and practices, it is important to ensure people who will be served by the approaches are part of the decision-making processes to create them. “We need people who are in the trenches, not just those who have knowledge of the trenches,” says Glover. Multiple points of view are must-haves in decision making. Chris Beck, Chief Operating and Financial Officer for Caldwell Partners International, a global talent recruitment firm says, “Diversity benefits us by ensuring decisions are made with input from many lenses. When it comes down to it, no one should be making leadership decisions without having a representative group guiding them along the way.” Mallick agrees saying, “We need to remind ourselves that diversity of thought around the table doesn’t happen without diversity of representation.” Include participants from multiple perspectives and with first-hand experience of challenges, struggles or different realities.

The pandemic provides a significant opportunity to increase our awareness about diversity, and to expand our capacity for empathy and compassion toward members of our whole community. This is important for people, but also for a company’s results. Whether you’re an individual who wants to be a better ally or an organization challenged with ensuring you tap into the best talent, you can get educated, include those who are different than yourself, build trust, expand the way you accommodate work, support people holistically and ensure a seat at the table. We will get through the pandemic together and if we take the right steps, we can have a powerfully positive impact on a future which includes more diversity, equity and inclusion.

Follow Tracy Brower on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out her website

She is a Ph.D. sociologist exploring perspectives on work-life and fulfillment. She is the author of Bring Work to Life by Bringing Life to Work: A Guide for Leaders and Organizations, and a principal with Steelcase’s Applied Research + Consulting group. In addition to speaking and writing about the changing nature of work, workers and workplace, She also devote time as an executive advisor to the MSU Master of Industrial Mathematics Program and Coda Societies. In addition to her Ph.D. and MM, She hold a Master of Corporate Real Estate with a specialization in workplace. You can find her work in TEDx, Work-Life Balance in the 21st Century, The Wall Street Journal, The Globe and Mail (Canada), InsideHR (Australia), Training Magazine, The CoreNet Leader, Facility Executive, Work Design Magazine, Real Estate Review Journal, Fortune.com, Inc. Magazine, Fast Company, and more. Please feel free to reach out if you would like to connect Tracy Brower !

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Disclosure: Smita Nair Jain has nothing to disclose. She doesn’t own stock in any publicly traded companies and does not hold investments in the technology companies. She has equivalent of the American 401(k) plan in India that is automatically managed. (Updated: May 28, 2020)

Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various author(s), publisher(s) and forum participant(s) on this web site do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the @SmitaNairJain or official policies of the #SmitaNairJain

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/tracybrower/2020/05/19/diversity-equity-and-inclusion-what-the-coronavirus-teaches-and-how-we-must-respond/#98b81494d053

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Lise Meitner The “Mother of the Atomic Bomb”

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Lise Meitner was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1878 and studied physics at the University of Vienna. Her groundbreaking work started with the discovery of the element protactinium with Otto Hahn. Then, in 1923, Meitner deduced the Auger effect, when an atom sheds one or two of its electrons in order to stabilize. However, the process is named for French physicist Pierre Auger, who didn’t even identify the atomic reaction for another two years. This was the first of her breakthroughs that would be blatantly overlooked. 

In 1939, Meitner along with her nephew, Otto Frisch, discovered nuclear fission, or the practice of splitting atoms apart with neutrons. This research was instrumental in the development of the atomic bomb. Meitner first discovered nuclear fission, but Otto Hahn took home the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery in 1944. She never won the Nobel Prize for her work, but element 109 of the periodic table was named Meitnerium (Mt) in her honor in 1992.

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Disclosure: Smita Nair Jain has nothing to disclose. She doesn’t own stock in any publicly traded companies and does not hold investments in the technology companies. She has equivalent of the American 401(k) plan in India that is automatically managed. (Updated: May 28, 2020)

Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various author(s), publisher(s) and forum participant(s) on this web site do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the @SmitaNairJain or official policies of the #SmitaNairJain

Source: https://www.beyondcurie.com/lise-meitner

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Animal-free diabetic foot wound model for drug discovery: an exciting challenge! | lifetime-cdt.org

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May 21, 2020, by lifETIME Team

By LifETIME CDT Student: Mirella Ejiugwo (NUI Galway)

The lives of hundreds of millions of people are devastated by diabetes across the globe. Unfortunately, someone dies every seven seconds because of diabetes or one of its complications. Specifically, type 2 diabetes, most common in obese people, is characterized by high glucose levels in the blood due to impaired insulin response by the body’s cells and/or insulin shortage. Insulin is an important hormone that signals to cells to take up circulating glucose from the blood for energy generation for their survival and function. However, in type 2 diabetes, glucose lingers in the blood and, subsequently, the peripheral nervous system of the legs becomes badly affected, leading to loss of pain, sensation, and touch.

So, when a diabetic person has an injury on his or her foot, following some physical trauma, it is likely to go unnoticed because of the lack of sensation. Hence, diabetic foot ulcers (DFUs) are likely to develop in 15-25% of the diabetic population.

DFUs are hard-to-heal wounds that occur below the ankle. These wounds are prone to infection, which subsequently leads to non-traumatic limb amputation. Following amputation, 50% of people die within a five-year period. These alarming global health statistics make me very passionate about driving change as a scientist!

Health and socio-economic costs of DFU management are constantly rising, and therefore we need effective DFU therapies. However, animal studies targeted at testing developed DFU therapies for human use add little value – this is because 90% of therapies that heal ulcers in animal models do not work in humans. This boils down to the fact that animals and humans are just too different.

Moreover, the application of the 3R’s (i.e. Refine, Reduce, Replace) in research is strongly encouraged in bid of eliminating the use of animals for experiments, as they are subjected to distress and death, apart from high maintenance costs. On the other hand, in vitro DFU models to date are not robust enough to have convincing findings that aid transferring knowledge to clinic trials.

Therefore, a research field focused on developing robust in vitro DFU models for testing new drugs is emerging, which will help accelerating most effective therapeutics to the clinic.

Modelling DFU in vitro

Perhaps you have guessed that recreating diseased conditions in vitro is quite complex. It is therefore important to understand the defining points in the disease, the key players and how best to put them into action outside of the body.

In DFU, inflammation is one of the factors known to prevent healing. Inflammation, carried out by immune cells, is the body’s normal response to remove bacteria and dying cells from the wound site. Many existing models fail to capture the inflammation process and therefore are not suitable for drug testing. Secondly, in general, current chronic wound models do not behave reproducibly. Therefore, in the near future, scientists need to be able to produce scalable wound models.

More exciting is the possibility of using a patient’s cells to develop a minimally physiologically relevant in vitro DFU model and test multiple therapies at once to see which of them works best for that patient in a cost-effective way!

Therefore, I plan on developing a scalable non-animal in vitro DFU model, that can be used for testing new or existing therapies targeted at resolving inflammation and, hence, promoting wound healing (figure 1). The primary factors needed will be the right microenvironment and key cell types.

In this project, I will explore how to engineer the cellular microenvironment to mimic an “inflamed” diabetic condition. Inflammation in DFU determines whether the wound heals or not (based on the literature). So, which immune cells should be included, and how, along with the typical keratinocytes and fibroblasts?  This is another principal aspect of my project. Finally, miniaturizing the in vitro DFU model into a microfluidic chip will be explored to understand how blood-flow dynamics contribute to wound healing.

Exciting times are ahead as the scientific community seeks to develop disruptive DFU healing technologies/therapies, along with reliable non-animal in vitro DFU testing platforms that can speed up most effective therapies to individuals with DFU.

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Disclosure: Smita Nair Jain has nothing to disclose. She doesn’t own stock in any publicly traded companies and does not hold investments in the technology companies. She has equivalent of the American 401(k) plan in India that is automatically managed. (Updated: May 28, 2020)

Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various author(s), publisher(s) and forum participant(s) on this web site do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the @SmitaNairJain or official policies of the #SmitaNairJain

Source: https://lifetime-cdt.org/2020/05/21/animal-free-diabetic-foot-wound-model-for-drug-discovery-an-exciting-challenge/

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“Redefining Possibilities – the School with the ‘All Star’ Cast ” | Smita Nair Jain

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  • Smita Nair Jain – May 26, 2020
Photo courtesy: shantibhavanchildren.org

I am usually proud of the awareness that I believe I have about good, game-changing work being done by people in India. Imagine my surprise at stumbling upon the #DaughtersofDestiny docuseries on Netflix. I write this article, not as a review of the docuseries, but as an attempt to share and spread with the many in my network who are unaware, as I was – about the works of Dr. Abraham George and ShantiBhavan. Being inspired is only one of the first things you will be after reading this story and the journey therein 

This is the story of Dr. Abraham George, the story of Shanti Bhavan – his labour of love and the metamorphic stories of the Shanti Bhavan students, both current and alumni. 

Shanti Bhavan 

Shanti Bhavan, at its basic is a non-profit organization that is based in Bangalore and runs a Pre-Kindergarten to Class 12 residential school in Baliganapalli in Tamil Nadu. 

Shanti Bhavan represents an approach to ‘poverty alleviation’ in the most sustainable way – educating one child per family from 24 – 25 of the poorest families across rural villages, city slums and the lowest castes of India each year. The school provides each child with 17 years of educational intervention using a holistic approach to feed, house, clothe and educate these children from the age of four – handholding them from their first day of school to their first day of work – leveling the playing field enroute thereby allowing their children to compete in the global marketplace on their own merit. 

And that by itself is not novel. Numerous NGOs and institutions in India, now further propelled by the CSR Law as per The Companies Act, 2013 – focus on educating the marginalized. But the objectives of most such projects revolve around giving life skills and providing an ability to earn a livelihood to children from economically challenged backgrounds. 

Here, the focus is on propelling lives from the fringes into the mainstream; a holistic approach that pays attention to every aspect of a child’s up-bringing: emotional development, mental and physical fitness, social and cognitive growth and academic excellence. 

The Protagonist 

It is for the first time that I am confused about the use of the term ‘Protagonist’. Here is a school with an ‘all-star’ cast – all strong contenders for the title of ‘Hero’. 

Photo courtesy: shantibhavanchildren.org

– Dr. Abraham George 

Dr. George, while certainly being the Hero here could have over the years, been elevated to the position of the Benevolent Benefactor. And while he is certainly that, he continues to be the Hero too – because he is at the centre of all the action at Shanti Bhavan – through his visionary ideas, his keen eye for detail, his constant presence and deep engagement with the Project, the students, their families and their circumstances at home. . 

After a chequered career across India and the US, Dr. George turned an entrepreneur – a turn that ended in a very lucrative sale to a Fortune 500 company. Most entrepreneurs at the end of a 

successful stint graduate to being Serial Entrepreneurs or Angels, both being roads to further enhance the significant wealth already amassed through the first successful entrepreneurial stint. 

But Dr. George thought differently. On his mind was India – his country of origin and on his line of focus was ‘Poverty Alleviation’ through ‘education’ 

Photo courtesy: shantibhavanchildren.org

– Ajit George 

Dr. George’s son and Director of Operations at Shanti Bhavan, who very effectively toggles between the roles of a Student Counsellor, Fundraiser and Director of Operations is the other Hero. I bestow this title on him not only because of his much needed and praiseworthy fund raising skills, keen interest in the performance and progress of each of his students, ability to have equal dialogues with the students, and the manner in which he engages and educates male students on ‘gender equality’; but also because he chose to decline his personal inheritance of US D 25 – 50 Million in favour of setting up a school for the downtrodden 

– Next in line for the ‘Hero’ title are the Loving Dorm caretakers, Understanding Teachers, and keen volunteers who not only take care of the children as their own, but teach them important lessons from within and outside the text book world. 

– The Heroes 

But Struggle or Conflict is central to a drama and it is therefore the students of Shanti Bhavan who perhaps are the true Heroes of this story as they are the ones who consistently emerge victorious over their trials and tribulations. Their journey and therefore their victories are remarkable because 

– Each student comes in from the poorest homes and backgrounds and yet… 

– They left home at the tender age of 4 to study, live and grow in Shanti Bhavan with visits to their parents’ home only during school vacations. And this continues for 14- 17 years 

– The gradual but very obvious metamorphosis of these near-infants into articulate, assertive, bright, confident beings who know their mind within the first year or two at Shanti Bhavan 

– The emotional intelligence of each of these students when they go home and revert back to the often less than basic living conditions of their families, especially their sensitivities towards their less fortunate siblings who never got a chance to go to Shanti Bhavan and live the associated lifestyle there, due to the ‘one child per family’ policy of Shanti Bhavan 

– The children grow into elegant ladies and well-groomed gentlemen, who carry themselves with flair and are well adjusted to their highly conflicting circumstances of having lived a life of comfort and opportunity at Shanti Bhavan, in contrast to the reality of their family’s living conditions. They carry with elan, the burden of expectations that Shanti Bhavan, Dr. George and their own families have from them, even while they feel considerable self-doubt 

– Each of them seizes opportunities, often beyond their normal performance power, through sheer determination, hard work and the will to succeed. 

– Some students have even reached the hallowed hallways of famous national and international universities and institutions and embarked on successful careers in Corporates, Law, Social Activism, Writing and Research 

But above all, it is the sheer spunk that these girls and boys have, their English language skills, their values, their emotional intelligence, their ability to express their thoughts in the most arresting and 

lucid manner, their commitment towards their families and communities and their determination and success at achieving what their hearts are set upon – that convinces me of their transformative journeys and resultant heroism. 

And if there is any of truth In the words of William Wordsworth, ‘the child is the father of man’, the multi-faceted lessons seared in the minds, hearts and beings of the Shanti Bhavan children will sooner than later manifest in great, hitherto unimagined individual and group achievements. 

Uplifting a chunk of tomorrow’s youth, shaping their relevance and empowering them to take a seat at the Table is the most humane, noble and undebatable form of nation building. 

And at 74, Dr. George’s energy levels, ideas, and passion only seem on the rise. 

God Bless You Sir, Dr. Abraham George. God Bless Shanti Bhavan, its Students, Teachers and Partners

– Smita Nair Jain

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Disclosure: Smita Nair Jain has nothing to disclose. She doesn’t own stock in any publicly traded companies and does not hold investments in the technology companies. She has equivalent of the American 401(k) plan in India that is automatically managed. (Updated: May 26, 2020)

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Gender Equality and Its Effects on Business | dcsx.cw

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 May 24, 2020

Publication 6. 2020

Women around the world have been struggling to make a name and acquire the same “status” as men. According to recent studies, in terms of economic equality, women are still 80 years behind men. Although women contribute more than $28 trillion towards the global economy, companies are still often reluctant to offer them the same benefits that they do to men.

It is surprising to see the quest for gender equality still going on in our modern times. What makes it more surprising is the fact that the people we confide in, our politicians or decision-makers, are well-aware of this injustice and moreover illogical situation, but there is not much that we see them do to fix this situation.

We witness large scale conferences on platforms such as the United Nations, in favour of equal rights for women. At the same time however, we are still in anticipation of a concrete resolution. So far, there have been numerous conferences in support of gender equality, but foremost the conditions are still the same.

Recently, there has been news of different strategies such as the incorporation of gender equality in Sustainable Development Goals coming into play. It will potentially lead to an increase of 100 million women in the workforce. However, the outcome is of course subjected to and/or totally depending on the measures necessary to be taken to make it possible.

It is a great initiative, but there are a lot more hurdles that women must face to reach empowerment. According to its recent study, the World Bank (2019) has been able to identify more than 50 economies where women still face legal discrimination by the government mainly in Latin America, the Caribbean, East Asia & Pacific, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa. Most women in such states are not eligible for property rights, transferring citizenship to their children, or applying for essential identification without their husband’s approval.

Women in Business

When it comes to the business industry, there are numerous case studies that justify and prove the need for gender equality or better said “Equality of Opportunity for Women”.

According to the 2018 UN Women’s flagship report, women all over the world earn almost 25% less than what a man makes by performing the same job. However, if we look at the statistics more closely, we are also able to identify that women perform 62% of all the unpaid work throughout the world. On top of it, they contribute an average of 90% of their salaries directly at home to support their families. While these statistics may send a positive message for their community, they don’t prove their efficiency in the job market, or better said, their importance is not acknowledged. They are still a target of gender discrimination and given low priority in comparison to men.

If we talk about the “finance industry”, there are a lot of women who have at least equal potential in comparison to most men we find on these jobs. Yet, the “unequal treatment” still exists. This discrimination not only indicates denial to provide fundamental equal human rights but is also proven to play a critical role in the loss that the industry faces. According to research, companies that promote gender diversification enjoy up to 15% increase in overall profits. Some fortune 500 companies follow this practice, and in comparison with others, having a talented female presence turned out to be e great investment. In the Netherlands, a young female financial journalist wrote an interesting book where she proves based on studies and facts that in general women are better investors in the securities market than men.

Women vs Men

If we draw a comparison in the “business world”, we can identify quite a lot of areas where women do equal work as men and even examples where they “so-called” surpass men both in position, remuneration, and payment. Studies suggest that factors such as health, education, and enthusiasm are more common in women than they are in men. These are verifiable developments: girls overall do better at school. Again, studies suggest and encourage us to look at these factors, and opportunities that the entire world should capitalize on. An increase of capable females in the workforce will very likely lead to a rise in the overall productivity of the world.

Studies also suggest that working women not only do good for themselves; they also contribute the positivity to their families, communities, and countries. According to a study from the World Bank Group “Equality of opportunity allows women to make the choices that are best for them, their families, and their communities. However, equal opportunities in getting a job or starting a business do not exist where legal gender differences are prevalent. Legal restrictions constrain women’s ability to make economic decisions and can have far-reaching consequences.” 

The structural barriers and discriminatory social norms make it more difficult for women to obtain a fair share. Governments must implement reforms to improve the conditions, and businesses also must adapt their regulations to provide equality of opportunity based on merits not gender.

Gender Equality in Practice

To eliminate the mentioned structural barriers and discriminatory social norms, real changes in practice must include the following policies:

Public policies
  • Redressing women’s socio-economic disadvantages
  • Addressing stereotyping, “stigma”, harassment and violence
  • Strengthening women’s “voices” and participation in important processes of decision
  • Introducing laws and policies to equalize women’s status at work
Social policies
  • Provide access to social protection: healthcare services, family/child allowances, and pensions
  • Access to water and sanitization
  • Reduce unpaid care work and expand choices (education and training)
  • Joint titling and equal ownership rights for married women
 The general policies to be applied by Governments and businesses alike should always:
  • Eliminate the global gender gap in labour force participation and provide women equal employment opportunities
  • Give access to women to quality and empowering jobs and value the work that women do
  • Close gender pay gap and offer fair paid wages
  • Provide maternity leave and childcare services, adoption of family-friendly policies
  • Eliminate occupational segregation
  • Making workplaces safe and free from violence and sexual harassment

Final Thoughts

It is imperative that women are given equal opportunities in the corporate world. It will not only help in business growth but will also play a significant role in the increase in the overall economy of the country. It is proven that gender equality significantly contributes to advancing economies and sustainable development.

The private sector needs to ensure women earn as much as men and should open new opportunities to empower women up the chain. These initiatives will be advantageous for women at work but also for the companies. Companies must realize their potential increased growth prospects by becoming an essential medium of fostering women empowerment. Companies can greatly benefit from increased employment and leadership opportunities for capable women that leads to increase organizational effectiveness and growth. It is estimated that companies with three or more capable women in senior management functions score higher in all dimensions of organizational performance.

There are a lot of benefits to empowering women. It is a practical and seemingly logical approach that would benefit all the individuals who are directly or indirectly invested in a business. Women’s economic empowerment boosts productivity increases economic diversification, and income equality will lead to other positive developments.

As businesses let us all help build “Equality of Opportunity for All”

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Disclosure: Smita Nair Jain has nothing to disclose. She doesn’t own stock in any publicly traded companies and does not hold investments in the technology companies. She has equivalent of the American 401(k) plan in India that is automatically managed. (Updated: May 25, 2020)

Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various author(s), publisher(s) and forum participant(s) on this web site do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the @SmitaNairJain or official policies of the #SmitaNairJain

Source: https://www.dcsx.cw/gender-equality-and-its-effects-on-business/

In This Article (Categories, Tags and Hashtags): #GenderEquality #DCSX #Curacao #businessgrowth #businessstrategy #womeninbusiness #DutchCaribbean #womeninfinance

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This is laying the groundwork for some pretty serious poverty for women | smh.com.au

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Wendy Tuohy
By Wendy Tuohy

May 24, 2020 — 12.06am

Australian women are suffering more job losses, worse anxiety and more-dire long-term financial prospects than men due to the economic shutdown caused by COVID-19.

Academics and advocates including Sex Discrimination commissioner, Kate Jenkins, say more women are likely to be pushed into poverty, which will extend into later life unless gender-specific solutions are included in the recovery.

A joint Melbourne University Policy Lab and La Trobe University study found April labour force figures showing greater job losses for women: it found 15.8 per cent had experienced job loss compared with 11 per cent of men.

The closure of Target, announced on Friday, will put between 1000 and 1300 more retail workers out of jobs.
The closure of Target, announced on Friday, will put between 1000 and 1300 more retail workers out of jobs.CREDIT:AAP

The Life During Lockdown study found women are less likely than men to be working at home with their hours and pay unchanged and are suffering from more sleep disturbance and greater fear about funding their retirement.

One in three women said they were more anxious during the pandemic, compared with one in five men and 20.4 per cent of mothers said they were anxious “most of the time”, compared with 14 per cent of fathers.

Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins warns that disproportionate economic suffering of women during the pandemic could lead to long-term poverty.
Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins warns that disproportionate economic suffering of women during the pandemic could lead to long-term poverty.CREDIT:PAUL JEFFERS

One in five women (20.2 per cent) were “very worried” about retirement, compared with 16.3 per cent of men and 59 per cent of women were worried about having enough money, compared with 54 per cent of men.

Melbourne University associate professor of sociology, Leah Ruppanner, said the study, combined with April unemployment data that showed women were losing jobs at nearly twice the rate of men, revealed women face worrying disadvantage.

If government recovery efforts continued to focus mainly on heavy industry and construction, in which job numbers for women are proportionally low, “we could see 50 years’ gender equality progress be eroded overnight.”

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins said several indicators, including ABS job loss and Grattan Institute employment forecasts that women and young people would be hardest hit, had “highlighted in razor sharp focus how gender inequality can be amplified in a crisis situation”.

“Through a lot of the information now coming together people are seeing that quite clearly. This is laying the groundwork for some pretty serious poverty for women in the future if you piece it all together,” she said.

Our society is entirely leaning on one gender carrying the weight of being on the front line, or having completely lost their job.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins

That Australia had a highly gender segregated job market, with women concentrated in several lower-paid industries hardest hit by coronavirus including retail trades, hospitality and accommodation – “that shut down over a day” – had also made them more vulnerable to long-term economic disadvantage.

They were also more likely to be in part-time or casual jobs, due to needing to shoulder most caring responsibilities, which had been among the first to go.

This, plus the fact women are concentrated in lower-paid front-line industries of healthcare, social assistance and education meant “our society is entirely leaning on one gender carrying the weight; of being on the front line, or having completely lost their job.”

Quality affordable childcare had been shown during the pandemic response to be key to women fully participating in the paid workforce and it must be a focus of recovery policies.

Workplace Gender Equality Agency CEO, Libby Lyons, said a new system of childcare was needed, under which optional early years education could be provided at schools for children from the age of two.

“Early childhood education and childcare is absolutely critical for women to be able to fully participate as we move into the recovery stage.

“We are calling for a review and inquiry into how we move forward and this could require structural change. We want a national discussion,” she said.

“We need to use this as an opportunity to ensure as we move into economic recovery women have equal opportunity to participate in the workforce as men … If we look at our education system and make it from [when children are ages] 2 to 18, the infrastructure is there.”

I think this will amount to a step back for women when we already had so far to go.

Professor Rae Cooper, University of Sydney Business School

Women’s employment specialist Professor Rae Cooper, of the University of Sydney Business School, says another disturbing factor is that women’s under-employment “is double mens’ typically, and they have higher levels, starkly so, at the moment.”

“This is not just about job losses, underemployment is also a highly feminised issue … we need vigilance from government, business and organisations.

“The history of recessions tells us women do worse out of recessions than men do and we tend in those times to see a reduction of equality strategies. The only way to avoid that is to … design gender equality into recovery strategies.”

The worst of the work access set-back for women may be yet to come and that on current trends in underemployment “women’s earnings are going to contract sharply relative to men’s”.

“I think this will amount to a step back for women when we already had so far to go.”

Co-author of the Life During Lockdown research, La Trobe University political scientist associate professor Andrea Carson, said a special meeting of the Victorian government’s Equal Workplace Advisory Council, of which she is a member, had been called to address women’s economic status in the downturn this week.

The study also compares the status during coronavirus of Australian and American women and will be published internationally.

Wendy Tuohy
Wendy Tuohy

Wendy Tuohy is a Sunday Age senior writer.

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Disclosure: Smita Nair Jain has nothing to disclose. She doesn’t own stock in any publicly traded companies and does not hold investments in the technology companies. She has equivalent of the American 401(k) plan in India that is automatically managed. (Updated: May 24, 2020)

Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various author(s), publisher(s) and forum participant(s) on this web site do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the @SmitaNairJain or official policies of the #SmitaNairJain

Source: https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/gender/this-is-laying-the-groundwork-for-some-pretty-serious-poverty-for-women-20200522-p54vp0.html

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5 Things Allies Can Do to Sponsor Coworkers from Underrepresented Groups | medium.com

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Each week, Karen Catlin shares five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and be a better ally.

Better Allies™

Better Allies™ May 22 · 4 min read

A graphic of 5 things allies can do to sponsor coworkers from underrepresented groups.
Image by Danielle Coke of  So Happy Social

1. Speak their name when they aren’t around

In her 2018 TEDWomen talk, which has been viewed over 3 million times, Carla Harris delivered an important message about meritocracy … or lack thereof. She debunked the myth that to get ahead, you just need to do great work and it will be recognized and rewarded. Instead, she points out that you need a sponsor who will speak your name when you’re not in the room. Someone who is invited to decision-making meetings and is willing to spend some of their hard-earned social capital advocating on your behalf. Someone who has your back.

Allies, let’s make sure we know coworkers from underrepresented groups so we can speak about them and their work when they’re not around.

2. Endorse them publicly

Before becoming an author and advocate for inclusive workplaces, I spent twenty-five years in the software industry, including working for a software company that was acquired by Adobe. In the first few months following the acquisition, I noticed something interesting. My new manager, Digby Horner — who had been at Adobe for many years — said things in meetings along the lines of: “What I learned from Karen is the following …”

By doing this, Digby helped me build credibility with my new colleagues. His shout-outs made a difference and definitely made me feel great. He took action as an ally, using his position of privilege to endorse me publicly.

Sharing what you learned from someone is just one approach to vocally support coworkers to boost their standing and reputation. Take a minute to reflect on how you express your support today, and how you might do even more of it.

3. Invite them to high-profile meetings

It might be a strategic planning video session, an advisory council meeting, or virtual drinks with the recently hired executive. When we can safely gather again, it might be grabbing lunch with some VIP.

The next time you’re attending one of these high-profile meetings, invite a coworker from an underrepresented group to join you. (If you think you need to make sure it’s okay to do so, by all means ask first.)

Give them insight into the discussion while increasing their visibility with the people around the table.

4. Share their career goals with decision-makers

During the late 1980s, my partner Tim and I both worked at an applied research center at Brown University. (Yup, I’m that old.) Because of the economic recession at the time, the center’s funding from corporate partners started to dry up, and we knew we were facing a downsizing. So we offered our resignations and decided to follow a dream we shared — to move to England, where Tim had spent his early childhood.

Soon after giving our notice to resign, my manager, Norm Meyrowitz, approached me with some exciting news. He had just met with two researchers who were visiting from a suburb of London, mentioned that I was moving there, and strongly recommended they hire me. (Knowing Norm, he probably told them they’d be stupid not to.) He could have been bitter about my resignation, but instead he opened a door for me, both literally and figuratively. He brought me into the conference room to meet them, and I joined their research group soon after.

Of course, career goals don’t have to include international moves. They could involve the next step on a job ladder or joining a different team to gain a certain kind of experience. They could be as basic as finding a new role after a layoff.

Now, ask yourself if you’re familiar with the career goals of your colleagues from underrepresented groups. And how you’ll make sure you’re sharing them with influential people and decision-makers within your organization or industry.

5. Recommend them for stretch assignments and speaking opportunities

Skill-building projects and giving presentations are like multivitamins for a career. They can magnify one’s visibility within an organization, help increase confidence, enhance social networks, and build credibility. Ultimately, they can help someone be better positioned for a promotion.

The next time you need someone to stand in for you on a presentation or take on a high-profile assignment, reflect on your selection criteria. Do you tend to give this kind of work to certain people or certain types of people? What would it take to expand that pool? If you know only a few people who have the skills you value for these plum assignments, you might need to expand your network. Or figure out how more people, especially people outside your normal go-to list, can learn those skills.

Stretch assignments and speaking in public opens doors and ignites careers. Allies, it’s essential we find ways to spread that joy around.

That’s all for this week. I wish you strength and safety as we all move forward,

— Karen Catlin, Founder and Author of Better Allies

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Disclosure: Smita Nair Jain has nothing to disclose. She doesn’t own stock in any publicly traded companies and does not hold investments in the technology companies. She has equivalent of the American 401(k) plan in India that is automatically managed. (Updated: May 24, 2020)

Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various author(s), publisher(s) and forum participant(s) on this web site do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the @SmitaNairJain or official policies of the #SmitaNairJain

Source: https://medium.com/@betterallies/5-things-allies-can-do-to-sponsor-coworkers-from-underrepresented-groups-266cd512e289

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I have discovered the immense strength it takes to be vulnerable | kevinmd.com

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SHWETA AKHOURI, MD | PHYSICIAN | MAY 23, 2020 

As I sit through another meeting discussing our facility’s preparedness for COVID-19, my mind circles back to my infant at home. Husband and I are both frontline physicians, fully aware we may need to take on more shifts and responsibilities. Do I have a COVID-19 preparedness plan for my family? What will I do if our baby’s caretaker doesn’t want to expose herself to our ‘high-risk’ home? Why isn’t anyone in these meetings discussing child-care options?

I go on to the hospital for rounds with the team, which includes a pregnant resident. When we get to the COVID unit, I ask her to stay out. She didn’t ask for this favor. Surely, she must worry about her exposure and long-term consequences for her unborn baby. Unfortunately, residency training, with all its rigidity, doesn’t leave her with many options. I need to bring this up in our next faculty meeting.ADVERTISEMENT

After lunch, I conduct my scheduled telehealth visits. My patients tell me the pandemic and the confinement to their homes is causing anxiety. I advise them on relaxation techniques and titrate their medications as needed. In between patients, my mind wanders. These days, I can’t ignore the pangs of panic that arise every time my baby coughs. I can’t quarantine from an 8-month old, who is exploring her senses and tries to use my fingers as a pacifier. The reports of a multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children are suddenly hitting too close to home. My phone beeps with a text from my husband, a hospitalist, about an outbreak at a local nursing home.

“We have to be prepared for a potential surge,” he says. I am thankful for the PPE we are provided every day, and pray it is protecting him. I admire his dedication to patients and our community, but I sometimes wish we could take time off and be safe within the confines of our home. It is a terrible feeling to know that the biggest threat to my child’s safety is her parents. I can feel my emotional resilience crumbling; I should take my own advice about relaxation.

Our small residency program always felt like one big family. Our office doors were always wide open, and group lunches were a common sight. There is an eerie silence now, with shut doors and hushed voices behind masks. We check-in with each other, but via emails and texts. We’re six feet apart, but might as well be on different planets. I should remind my colleagues and residents that I’m here if they ever need to talk.

I know I am not alone in my thoughts; I am just echoing sentiments of other female physicians. We are mothers, wives, patient advocates, and educators. And we’re all suddenly finding ourselves in unchartered waters. In weathering this pandemic, I’ve taken time to reflect. I wish I could say I emerged from this introspection having conquered all my fears. Instead, I have discovered the immense strength it takes to be vulnerable. I can admit I do not have all the answers, and the uncertainty of tomorrow gnaws at me. I also know that despite the upheaval, I wouldn’t trade my job for anything in the world.

Shweta Akhouri is a family physician.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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Disclosure: Smita Nair Jain has nothing to disclose. She doesn’t own stock in any publicly traded companies and does not hold investments in the technology companies. She has equivalent of the American 401(k) plan in India that is automatically managed. (Updated: May 24, 2020)

Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various author(s), publisher(s) and forum participant(s) on this web site do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the @SmitaNairJain or official policies of the #SmitaNairJain

Source: https://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2020/05/i-have-discovered-the-immense-strength-it-takes-to-be-vulnerable.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

In This Article (Categories, Tags and Hashtags): #WomenInMedicine #WomenInSTEM #WomenInLeadership

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Education for all during COVID-19: Scaling access and impact of EdTech – gsma.com

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Kinda Chebib
Insights Manager

Thursday 21 May, 2020

The proliferation of technology is challenging educational institutions to adapt their existing ways of teaching and learning to the changing world.

Education is moving from a knowledge-transfer model to a collaborative model that helps people around the world increase their knowledge and develop the skills needed to succeed in the “Learning Society”. More than ever before, the interruption in learning due to COVID-19 related school closures, brings focus to an urgent need to create new sustainable learning models.

Could this technological transformation be a precursor to the establishment of an effective model addressing the global learning crisis?

School closures during COVID-19 have shaken an education system already sitting on weak foundations 

Even before COVID-19 struck, 260 million children and youth globally were not in school. 89% of children in low-income countries fall into ‘learning poverty’- which the World Bank defines as the share of children who cannot read and understand a simple text by age 10. This is a result of many factors including the physical location of schools deterring many, girls in particular, from enrolling in schools. Barriers such as access to, and cost of, learning material make education difficult.

As COVID-19 spreads, schools across 153 countries have been shut. This was an unprecedented shock to education systems around the globe due to interrupted learning as well as delays and cancellations of end of year examinations for many. As of 20 May 2020, about 1.2 billion learners are not able to attend school or university until COVID-19 related restrictions are lifted.

Fig: Global monitoring of school closures caused by COVID-19
Source: UNESCO

It is important to consider the high socio-economic costs these school closures entail in developing countries, particularly for marginalised children. UNESCO lists a number of challenges occurring due to COVID-19 related school closures:

  • Interrupted learning
  • Poor nutrition for students depending on free school meals
  • Parents unprepared for distance learning and homeschooling
  • High economic costs: working parents are more likely to miss work to take care of their children
  • Impact on healthcare: doctors and nurses more likely to leave their work due to childcare responsibilities
  • Rise in school dropout rates
  • Increased exposure to violence for vulnerable children, including risk of teenage pregnancies
  • Social isolation

EdTech is providing solutions to educational challenges during COVID-19

As physical schools close, the education technology (EdTech) that leverages software and hardware to improve classroom education and enables remote education, has come to the rescue for educators. In fact, the EdTech industry is set to be worth £128bn by 2021 globally, with online learning as the main driver of growth in COVID-19 era. As mobile technology is penetrating developing markets at a fast pace, EdTech has the potential to give millions of students the opportunity to learn in the remotest parts of the world with limited or no access to schools. This can help sustainably empower young generations, bridge gender gaps and facilitate integration in the workforce.

Over the past few years, governments and policymakers across the globe were gradually embracing EdTech as a mode to enhance learning outcomes. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a purposeful effort by governments, in collaboration with civil society, business and academia to bridge educational gaps through the use of mobile technology.

New local and global partnerships between these stakeholders have emerged as a response:

COVID-19 response by mobile operators and EdTech companies 

Today EdTech start-ups and mobile operators are working towards UNESCO goals in providing sustainable uninterrupted learning for children and youth in an equitable manner.

Below we list examples of partnerships between mobile operators and innovators to respond to the COVID-19 crisis:

Sart-upTech impactCOVID-19 response
Shule Direct(Tanzania) Shule Direct is an interactive online platform providing educational learning content for students and teachers in secondary schools. The integrated AI and behavioural data help improve the learning and teaching experience.Shule has impacted over 2 million students and has 23,637 teachers across Tanzania.Vodacom Tanzania zero-rated Shule Direct, enabling students to access the platform for free during COVID-19.Vodacom Tanzania improved its capacity to minimise congestions.
Ruangguru(Indonesia)Ruangguru, GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator Innovation Fund grantee is a freemium learning management system that helps students prepare for exams using content tailored to the national curriculum and enables teachers to crowdsource educational content. Ruangguru serves over 6m users.In April 2020, Ruangguru partnered with Telkomsel to offer students access to a range of free online courses during COVID-19.
Eneza Education(Kenya)Eneza Educationa GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator Innovation Fund grantee,offers a subscription service for educational content to children in primary and secondary schools via SMS or USSD with a daily, weekly or monthly subscription in Kenya, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.It currently serves around 380,000 active users/month.In April 2020, Eneza partnered with Safaricom to provide free access to educational e-content during COVID-19.
Virtual Teacher and Vodacom e-School
(South Africa)
Virtual Teacher is a Vodacom AI-powered online platform allowing teachers to deliver lessons in real-time to multiple remote locations simultaneously. The lessons can be accessed through any type of device.Vodacom’s e-School platform provides personalised learning for students in grades R to 12. Serving nearly one million students, the platform can be accessed via any type of device.In April 2020, Vodacom launched a range of free online educational programmes, as part of its commitment to support society during COVID-19. Zero-rating.Vodacom e-School has seen user registrations on the platform increase to over one million. In March alone saw a four-fold increase in the number of new registrations compared with February.
Siyavula
(South Africa)
Siyavula provides online Open Educational Resourcesspanning mathematics and science subjects for grades 4-12 . Being curriculum-aligned, the app can be accessed via feature phones. The integrated AI and data analytics help achieve personalised learning and long-term progress tracking. Siyavula is zero-rated on MTN, Vodacom, Telkom, enabling students to access learning at no charge during COVID-19.  

Considerations for EdTech in future 

COVID-19 has shone light on the challenges of existing education models and the opportunities technology brings for the education sector.

Through immediate response measures and public-private collaborations, attempts were made to plug the gaps, however, sustainable solutions can only be achieved by putting equity at the centre of the education planning strategy and ensuring that technology acts as a leveller and doesn’t set the stage for further digital divide. Scaling EdTech will require clear assessment of the opportunities and limitations of existing education system as well as adaptation to prepare the next generation for the future of work.

The rapid evolution in technology is creating a ‘skills gap’ which is a situation where the level or types of skills available do not correspond with labour market needs.  Training the educators to be able to use EdTech will be fundamental to ensure meaningful adoption of EdTech.

At the GSMA, we have developed a Mobile Internet Skills Training Toolkit to promote digital literacy, help people use the internet more safely on their mobile and ensure they have the skills required for a digital future.

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Disclosure: Smita Nair Jain has nothing to disclose. She doesn’t own stock in any publicly traded companies and does not hold investments in the technology companies. She has equivalent of the American 401(k) plan in India that is automatically managed. (Updated: May 24, 2020)

Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various author(s), publisher(s) and forum participant(s) on this web site do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the @SmitaNairJain or official policies of the #SmitaNairJain

Source: https://www.gsma.com/mobilefordevelopment/blog/education-for-all-during-covid-19-scaling-access-and-impact-of-edtech/

In This Article (Categories, Tags and Hashtags): #WomenInMedicine #WomenInSTEM #WomenInLeadership

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Jin Montclare Experiments with Blogging and Op-Eds to Connect with the Public

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Jin Kim Montclare speaking at "Change the Culture: Advocate for Women in STEM" at NYU.

Jin Kim Montclare speaking at “Change the Culture: Advocate for Women in STEM” at NYU.Photo credit: Stanley ChuJin Kim Montclare speaking at “Change the Culture: Advocate for Women in STEM” at NYU.Photo credit: Stanley Chu

One lesson Jin Kim Montclare took from her training as a AAAS Leshner Public Engagement Fellow is the need to connect with people over commonalities. “Even with all this information, people do not necessarily act on evidence to make policies, for example. I can make the most eloquent argument, and it’s still hard to convince people. A lot of it is trying to figure out ways to say, ‘You and I are the same. We are no different from each other.’”

This was the central challenge Montclare grappled with while writing an op-ed calling for trust in science during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she recently submitted. Her submission was the culmination of her participation in a four-day course led by The Op-Ed Project (held virtually because of the public health crisis). The Op-Ed Project aims to increase the number of op-eds written by women and minorities. Montclare helped organize this session, as part of her Leshner fellowship year, for her female and underrepresented minority colleagues, staff, and postdoctoral researchers at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, where she is a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering. 

During the op-ed training, they did exercises to overcome their own biases. Montclare noted that the majority of the voices and perspectives in the media are white men. “Many of us who are women tend to think we aren’t experts,” Montclare acknowledged. “Oh yes, I have a Ph.D. and do all this stuff, and yet I don’t think I am an expert… so we don’t think we should be writing and putting our opinion out there.” But after the op-ed training, she sees herself as more of a resource and wants to offer what she can to help others.

The op-ed workshop was partly an outgrowth of Montclare’s other efforts to bring together the community of female and underrepresented minority engineers at her school, particularly around discussions of sexual harassment in STEM fields. She considers this a major impediment to retaining these groups in STEM and organized an event at her school in September 2019 to talk about it. She invited the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) to send someone from their committee on sexual harassment – and so Beth Hillman, president of Mills College, joined. This also led to Montclare’s participation in the NASEM Action Collaborative Summit on the same topic. 

Another major effort Montclare began during her year as a Leshner Fellow was starting her lab’s blog. She had always wanted to write a blog, but didn’t want to be the only one contributing. So she has involved all her students (summer high school interns, undergraduates, and graduate students) and post-docs in writing for it, and asked that they also join Twitter to share their posts. They were excited about it, but their posts slowed down as they got busy. Now because of the pandemic, many of the students have had more time to write again. 

Before starting the blog, she discussed it with her colleagues and AAAS staff during orientation week and had a follow-up meeting with AAAS staff member and social media lead, Gemima Philippe. Philippe encouraged Montclare to consider her goals for blogging and suggested focusing the blog not just on the lab’s scientific research, but on the scientists themselves. Taking this advice, Montclare has encouraged the students to write about anything they are passionate about, which helps to humanize scientists and illuminate the processes of science. “It has really engaged them and is eye-opening to them… They think they’re just doing research. But an important part of research is being able to communicate it.”

Montclare says she thought her students wouldn’t “like me for making them write even more.” Yet one student who wrote about the experience of being a first-generation STEM student found that writing the blog inspired him to get more engaged in other ways. He started participating in a group of “male allies for women in STEM,” and wants to write an op-ed. 

Montclare’s year as a fellow has included a recent shift toward the unexpected: with the COVID-19 pandemic closing schools, she has started developing chemistry lessons for her daughter’s elementary school. She wrote about this on the AAAS Public Engagement Reflections Blog – and has continued to expand her lesson offerings.

Montclare has discovered that doing public engagement is a lot like doing science: “It’s an ongoing experiment. It doesn’t always work, but you learn from it,” she says.

The AAAS Leshner Leadership Institute was founded in 2015 and operates through philanthropic gifts in honor of CEO Emeritus Alan I. Leshner. Each year the Institute provides public engagement training and support to 10-15 mid-career scientists from an area of research at the nexus of science and society.

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Disclosure: Smita Nair Jain has nothing to disclose. She doesn’t own stock in any publicly traded companies and does not hold investments in the technology companies. She has equivalent of the American 401(k) plan in India that is automatically managed. (Updated: May 23, 2020)

Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various author(s), publisher(s) and forum participant(s) on this web site do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the @SmitaNairJain or official policies of the #SmitaNairJain

Source:https://www.aaas.org/news/jin-montclare-experiments-blogging-and-op-eds-connect-public/

In This Article (Categories, Tags and Hashtags): #WomenInMedicine #WomenInSTEM #WomenInLeadership

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When Philly abolitionists opened the first women’s medical school in the world

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The college was run by woman deans for nearly a century.

Class underway at the first women's medical school in the world
Class underway at the first women’s medical school in the world HISTORY OF MEDICINE DIVISION, NATIONAL LIBRARY OF MEDICINE

Layla A. Jones Mar. 22, 2020, 9:30 a.m.

Ed note: With the overload of coronavirus news articles right now, we think it’s important to continue publishing other things to read. These stories may be adjacent to the global health crisis, but are not directly related. 


The precursor to Drexel’s medical school was the world’s first place women could earn MDs.

A lot took place between 1850, when Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania was chartered on Arch Street, and 2002, when it became part of the Drexel University College of Medicine.

Over that time, the institution had a continuous stream of women deans, moved its campus to a larger location, experienced a dramatic spat with male students at Pennsylvania Hospital and was pivotal in the establishment of the Woman’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

At the early epicenter was Ann Preston, a Quaker dynamo who served on the board of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Sociery, wrote a children’s book, and helped launch that women’s hospital in North Philly.

Here’s how it all went down.

First women’s medical school in the world

Philly’s medical school for women opened at the location that eventually became 627 Arch St. Today, you can spot a plaque dedicated to its establishment on the 7th Street wall of the William J. Green Federal Building, which now stands in its place.

Originally called the Female Medical School of Pennsylvania, the college received its charter from the state legislature in May 1850, making it the world’s first to award women medical degrees. (A women’s school in Boston opened two years before the Philly school, but didn’t give out degrees.)ADVERTISEMENT

As it happens, the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania was founded by Quaker men, including a businessman philanthropist and abolitionists William J. Mullen, Dr. Joseph S. Longshore and Dr. Bartholomew Fussell.

The college’s first announcement publicizing the program, made in a July 1850 edition of the Public Ledger, listed a few admission and graduation qualifications:

  • A completed “ordinary” education
  • Three years of medical study with two of those years under the guidance of a “respectable” medical professional
  • An age of 21 to receive a degree

About that tuition: Students owed $10 for each professor, a one-time matriculation fee of $5 and a $15 graduation fee. With six professors, the women paid a grand total of about $80 for their medical degree. Adjusted for inflation, that’s about $2,600 in today’s money.

Instruction included four months of lectures beginning in October that covered topics like anatomy, obstetrics, chemistry and clinical practice.

Dr. Ann Preston
Dr. Ann Preston THE LEGACY CENTER, DREXEL UNIVERSITY

Ann Preston: Doctor, abolitionist, author

Ann Preston, born in 1813, was part of the inaugural eight-person graduating class of 1851 at the Woman’s Medical College.

A Chester County native born into a Quaker family, she accomplished a lot before enrolling, and she’d go on to do much more before her death in 1872.

Preston was involved in anti-slavery efforts as early as 1837. In 1849, a 36-year-old Preston published an abolitionist children’s book called “Cousin Ann’s Stories.” The Freeman paper lauded the project and recommended it for parents who “wish to instill in the minds of their children a sentiment of opposition to slavery, war, intemperence, the use of tobacco and other evils.”

It was around that time Preston sought to establish her medical career. She tried to gain admission into four traditional medical schools in Philadelphia, to no avail. When the women’s college was open, she jumped at the chance.

After graduating in 1851, Preston became the school’s first woman professor. In 1866 she rose to become the school’s first dean, starting a tradition of all woman-deans for nearly the entire next century.

Preston also headed the effort to open the Woman’s Hospital of Philadelphia in 1861.

The famous ‘jeering episode’

Anti-woman discrimination during this time was ever-present.

Despite Preston’s accomplishments in the medical field in Philadelphia, in 1869 she and her students were verbally and physically attacked when they traveled to Pennsylvania Hospital for clinical hours.

When the women arrived at the surgical amphitheater for class on Nov. 6, what they encountered was a mob hurling spitballs, cat-calls and tobacco juice at the “She Doctors,” as they were bitterly referred to.

The much-publicized incident became known as “the jeering episode.”

One edition of the Pennsylvania Evening Bulletin referred to it as “an outrage,” saying that “the police should arrest as many as possible of the offenders for insulting women in the street, and subject them to the penalties of the law.”

Preston and the Woman’s Medical College secretary, Dr. Emeline H. Cleveland, wrote a letter to the editor defending the woman students after the event.

“If they have been forced into unwelcome notoriety,” they wrote, “it has not been of their own seeking.”

100 more years till men were admitted

The first women’s college in the world pushed on, accomplishing several more firsts through its graduates.

Eliza Grier, the first Black woman doctor in the nation
Eliza Grier, one of the nation’s earliest Black woman doctors NIH ARCHIVES

Graduate Catherine Macfarlane conducted the first pelvic cancer prevention study. Graduate Anna Broomall created some of the first prenatal medical programs. Graduates Rebecca Cole and Eliza Grier were some of the first Black woman doctors. And the first ever Native American doctor, named Susan LaFlesche Picotte, was also a graduate.

In 1862, the college moved into the Woman’s Hospital of Philadelphia on 22nd Street and North College Avenue.

In 1970, the first four male students were admitted, ending the college’s 120-year all-woman reign. It was renamed the Medical College of Pennsylvania.

In 1995, the college merged with the Hahnemann University Medical School. In 2002, it was acquired by Drexel to create the university’s med school program that still continues today. Tuition is close to $60,000 per year.

Correction: This article has been updated to correct the street address of the college’s first location, the identity of the nation’s first Black woman doctor, and the date when the college moved into the same building as the Women’s Hospital. Thanks goes to the director of The Legacy Center at Drexel University College of Medicine for help fixing inaccuracies.

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Disclosure: Smita Nair Jain has nothing to disclose. She doesn’t own stock in any publicly traded companies and does not hold investments in the technology companies. She has equivalent of the American 401(k) plan in India that is automatically managed. (Updated: May 23, 2020)
Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various author(s), publisher(s) and forum participant(s) on this web site do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the @SmitaNairJain or official policies of the #SmitaNairJain
Source: https://billypenn.com/2020/03/22/when-philly-abolitionists-opened-the-first-womens-medical-school-in-the-world/
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‘Bletchley Park codebreaker who helped change course of World War II dies aged 97’ – scotsman.com

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Tributes have been paid to Ann Mitchell, one of the last remaining Bletchley Park codebreakers, whose mathematical prowess helped change the course of World War II.

By Martyn Mclaughlin Sunday, 17th May 2020, 7:30 am

Ann Mitchell with her wartime diary at her home in Inverleith, Edinburgh, in 2014. Picture: Jane Barlow Copyright: JPIMedia

The veteran, who spent more than 20 months helping to decipher German codes at the top secret facility, died on Monday at an Edinburgh care home. She was 97, and had tested positive for Covid-19 shortly before her death.

In peacetime, Mitchell produced pioneering research into the impacts of divorce on children, work which would shape and inform legislative reform in Scotland. But it was decades previously, while barely out of her teenage years, that she played an integral role in bringing about that peace, thanks to her work in Hut 6, a ramshackle wooden structure home to some of Bletchley Park’s brightest minds.

There, for nine hours a day, six days a week, from September 1943 until the final exultant hours of VE Day, the young Oxford graduate would create complex diagrams used to break strings of incomprehensible Enigma code used by the Nazis.

Ann Mitchell, pictured in December 1941. Copyright: JPIMedia

Her diary entry four days after Christmas 1943 captured the frantic rhythm of a typical shift, as well as something of her character. “Worked like the devil all day,” she observed in her spidery handwriting. “Good fun.”

James Turing, the great-nephew of Alan Turing, the revered mathematician and computer scientist who devised Bletchley’s codebreaking machines, said Mitchell’s experience echoed that of his great-uncle’s, and predicted she would “long remain an inspiration to many.”

Tessa Dunlop, the broadcaster, writer, and historian, who interviewed the nonagenarian for her 2015 book, ‘The Bletchley Girls’, said her natural intelligence set her apart.

“The majority of the girls at Bletchley were part of a factory – a conveyor belt, really – to deal with the component parts of codebreaking, but Ann was exceptional in the work she did finding the formula for the codebreaking machines,” Ms Dunlop explained.

Ann Mitchell relished discussing her service at Bletchley Park and attended its reunions. Picture: Esme Allen Copyright: JPIMedia

“She was a bright woman, an old school Brit, and she was recruited through the Oxbridge milieu. But she wasn’t a posh girl. She was a bluestocking, and she found the whole experience stimulating and enjoyed it.

“Ann was just a kid, but she was discreet, intelligent, and modest, and although she would never describe herself as a codebreaker, she was recruited for her mathematical ability.”

Around 10,000 people worked at Bletchley Park at the height of its operations, with women accounting for close to three quarters of its workforce. But with the loss of Mitchell, just three months after the death of Ailsa Maxwell, her colleague in Hut 6, their ranks have dwindled further. The average age of Bletchley’s veterans now stands at 97, and a reunion held last September to mark the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the war was attended by just 95 former staff. 

Mitchell’s name is on the Bletchley Park Trust’s roll of honour, and with good reason. She was a key part of its remarkable history, though for decades, whenever asked about her service at the Buckinghamshire facility, she relied on her cover story, describing her wartime contribution as office or secretarial work.

Angus and Ann Mitchell on their wedding day on 13 December 1948. Picture Jane Barlow Copyright: JPIMedia

It was only in the 1970s, after details of Bletchley Park’s crucial contribution to the Allied effort began to seep into the public domain, that she acknowledged her secret role, embarking on a series of talks around the country.

MItchell was born and brought up in Oxford, and secured a scholarship at the independent Headington School, where even the biases of those in charge could not discourage her from improving upon a natural aptitude for numbers

“My headmistress firmly told my parents that mathematics was not a ladylike subject,” she recalled. “However, my parents overruled her and I pursued my chosen path.”

She became one of only five women accepted to read maths at Oxford in 1940. Upon her graduation, she was called up by the Foreign Office to work as a “temporary assistant” on a salary of £150. In hindsight, the vagueness of her job title betrayed the importance of the highly classified work Mitchell was about to undertake.

Sustained by little more than a cup of Oxo and a boiled egg most mornings, she cycled the 10 mile commute from her billet to Bletchley, where she would identify links between letters in the German code and ‘cribs’ – commonly used words or phrases in the transmissions. The information would then be used by Turing and teams of cryptologists manning the electromechanical bombe machines nearby in Hut 8.

With the Germans changing every code used by every unit at midnight, Mitchell and her colleagues had to start afresh each day. There were no complaints. She compared the work to completing a crossword, by joining links and chains of letters.

“We were trained to make menus – a sort of program – on the machines,” she reflected in 2013. “I don’t suppose we had ever heard the word ‘computer’; in fact it probably had not been invented then.”

James Turing, the founder and chief executive of the Turing Trust, an Edinburgh-based charity that continues his great uncle’s legacy by providing reused computer and teacher training in sub-Saharan Africa, said Mitchell had to contend not just with complex German encryptions, but societal stigmas at home.

He said: “One of the remarkable impacts that Ann had through her role at Bletchley Park was in helping to overcome prejudices typical of the time which would hold people back from achieving their potential.

“In spite of the additional challenges she was forced to overcome she demonstrated how these prejudices could be overcome enabling her to contribute in a vital way to one of the most challenging aspects of Enigma codebreaking – devising menus – a form of program, if you like – for the bombes.

“Her experience was in many ways like that of Alan Turing and will long remain an inspiration to many.”

Come peacetime, Mitchell, nee Williamson, married the newly demobbed Angus Mitchell, a war hero who was decorated with the Military Cross, and later, became a knight in the Dutch Order of Oranje-Nassau, as well as a Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur.

The couple settled in Edinburgh, raising four children: Jonathan, Charlotte, Catherine, and Andy. The latter said that when the family first discovered its matriarch was an cog in the machine which broke the Nazi encryption system, it gave everyone cause to reappraise the past.

“Up until then, we had heard stories of my father’s wartime exploits, which as a wee boy, were fascinating, because he was on active service just after D-Day with the Inns of Court Regiment.,” Andy explained.

“I think he was surprised to find out his wife had a rather more significant role in the war than he had ever suspected.

“The more we found out, the more amazed we were at how deeply involved she had been in the codebreaking. It wasn’t just pushing paper about – it was a genuinely high-pressure, intellectual job.”

If civvy street proved a shade beige compared to her tenure at Bletchley, Mitchell continued to challenge herself and pursue new interests which benefited the rest of society.

After training as a volunteer counsellor, she obtained a second degree, this time an MPhil from the University of Edinburgh, and embarked on a series of groundbreaking social policy research into the impact of divorce on children.

The discipline required, she told The Scotsman in 2015, was not entirely unrelated to her toil at Bletchley.

“The kind of mind that looks for a crib at Bletchley Park is the kind of mind that looks for a father or mother and will keep looking,” she reflected. “Putting families back together and solving mysteries, there’s a link.”

In her eighth decade, Mitchell also established herself as an author, writing acclaimed local history books on Scotland’s capital, as well as a biography of her mother, Winifred.

Andy, a sports historian, said that his mother attended Bletchley Park reunions over the years, and enjoyed the recognition and appreciation paid to her in the twilight of her life.

“There was so much interest from the media, films, and books,” he said. “People were, and still are, so keen to hear about this episode in history, because for so long it was a hidden part of the war effort, and here were ordinary people doing something that was incredibly important.”

Dunlop said that Mitchell’s rich life meant that she was not defined by Bletchley Park, but she relished looking back on it in her later years.

“Some of the Bletchley women spoke about how they experienced a resurrection in old age as people learned about what they had done,” she said. “But I don’t think Ann ever needed that. She was an accomplished woman in every sphere – a mother of four, a counsellor, her research into divorce.

“As we get older and more societally invisible, we remain the same people, and I think with great poise and modesty, Ann enjoyed speaking about her experiences and receiving recognition.

“And who wouldn’t want to be applauded for their part in a mission that was a success and has subsequently been lauded by history?”

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Disclosure: Smita Nair Jain has nothing to disclose. She doesn’t own stock in any publicly traded companies and does not hold investments in the technology companies. She has equivalent of the American 401(k) plan in India that is automatically managed. (Updated: May 23, 2020)

Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various author(s), publisher(s) and forum participant(s) on this web site do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the @SmitaNairJain or official policies of the #SmitaNairJain

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‘Facebook’s voice synthesis AI generates speech in 500 milliseconds’ – venturebeat.com

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KYLE WIGGERS @KYLE_L_WIGGERS MAY 15, 2020 9:00 AM

Facebook today unveiled a highly efficient, AI text-to-speech (TTS) system that can be hosted in real time using regular processors. It’s currently powering Portal, the company’s brand of smart displays, and it’s available as a service for other apps, like VR, internally at Facebook.

In tandem with a new data collection approach, which leverages a language model for curation, Facebook says the system — which produces a second of audio in 500 milliseconds — enabled it to create a British-accented voice in six months as opposed to over a year for previous voices.

Most modern AI TTS systems require graphics cards, field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), or custom-designed AI chips like Google’s tensor processing units (TPUs) to run, train, or both. For instance, a recently detailed Google AI system was trained across 32 TPUs in parallel. Synthesizing a single second of humanlike audio can require outputting as many as 24,000 samples — sometimes even more. And this can be expensive; Google’s latest-generation TPUs cost between $2.40 and $8 per hour in Google Cloud Platform.

TTS systems like Facebook’s promise to deliver high-quality voices without the need for specialized hardware. In fact, Facebook says its system attained a 160 times speedup compared with a baseline, making it fit for computationally constrained devices. Here’s how it sounds:VB Transform 2020 Online – July 15-17. Join leading AI executives: Register for the free livestream.Audio Player00:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.

“The system … will play an important role in creating and scaling new voice applications that sound more human and expressive,” the company said in a statement. “We’re excited to provide higher-quality audio … so that we can more efficiently continue to bring voice interactions to everyone in our community.”

Components

Facebook’s system has four parts, each of which focuses on a different aspect of speech: a linguistic front-end, a prosody model, an acoustic model, and a neural vocoder.

The front-end converts text into a sequence of linguistic features, such as sentence type and phonemes (units of sound that distinguish one word from another in a language, like pbd, and t in the English words padpatbad, and bat). As for the prosody model, it draws on the linguistic features, style, speaker, and language embeddings — i.e., numerical representations that the model can interpret — to predict sentences’ speech-level rhythms and their frame-level fundamental frequencies. (“Frame” refers to a window of time, while “frequency” refers to melody.)

Style embeddings let the system create new voices including “assistant,” “soft,” “fast,” “projected,” and “formal” using only a small amount of additional data on top of an existing training set.  Only 30 to 60 minutes of data is required for each style, claims Facebook — an order of magnitude less than the “hours” of recordings a similar Amazon TTS system takes to produce new styles.

Facebook’s acoustic model leverages a conditional architecture to make predictions based on spectral inputs, or specific frequency-based features. This enables it to focus on information packed into neighboring frames and train a lighter and smaller vocoder, which consists of two components. The first is a submodel that upsamples (i.e., expands) the input feature encodings from frame rate (187 predictions per second) to sample rate (24,000 predictions per second). A second submodel similar to DeepMind’s WaveRNN speech synthesis algorithm generates audio a sample at a time at a rate of 24,000 samples per second.

Performance boost

The vocoder’s autoregressive nature — that is, its requirement that samples be synthesized in sequential order — makes real-time voice synthesis a major challenge. Case in point: An early version of the TTS system took 80 seconds to generate just one second of audio.

The nature of the neural networks at the heart of the system allowed for optimization, fortunately. All models consist of neurons, which are layered, connected functions. Signals from input data travel from layer to layer and slowly “tune” the output by adjusting the strength (weights) of each connection. Neural networks don’t ingest raw pictures, videos, text, or audio, but rather embeddings in the form of multidimensional arrays like scalars (single numbers), vectors (ordered arrays of scalars), and matrices (scalars arranged into one or more columns and one or more rows). A fourth entity type that encapsulates scalars, vectors, and matrices — tensors — adds in descriptions of valid linear transformations (or relations).

With the help of a tool called PyTorch JIT, Facebook engineers migrated from a training-oriented setup in PyTorch, Facebook’s machine learning framework, to a heavily inference-optimized environment. Compiled operators and tensor-level optimizations, including operator fusion and custom operators with approximations for the activation function (mathematical equations that determine the output of a model), led to additional performance gains.

Another technique called unstructured model sparsification reduced the TTS system’s training inference complexity, achieving 96% unstructured sparsity without degrading audio quality (where 4% of the model’s variables, or parameters, are nonzero). Pairing this with optimized sparse matrix operatorson the inference model led to a 5 times speed increase.

Blockwise sparsification, where nonzero parameters are restricted to blocks of 16-by-1 and stored in contiguous memory blocks, significantly reduced bandwidth utilization and cache usage. Various custom operators helped attain efficient matrix storage and compute, so that compute was proportional to the number of nonzero blocks in the matrix. And knowledge distillation, a compression technique where a small network (called the student) is taught by a larger trained neural network (called the teacher), was used to train the sparse model, with a denser model as the teacher.

Finally, Facebook engineers distributed heavy operators over multiple processor cores on the same socket, chiefly by enforcing nonzero blocks to be evenly distributed over the parameter matrix during training and segmenting and distributing matrix multiplication among several cores during inference.

Data collection

Modern commercial speech synthesis systems like Facebook’s use data sets that often contain 40,000 sentences or more. To collect sufficient training data, the company’s engineers adopted an approach that relies on a corpus of open domain speech recordings — utterances — and selects lines from large, unstructured data sets. The data sets are filtered by a language model based on their readability criteria, maximizing the phonetic and prosodic diversity present in the corpus while ensuring the language remains natural and readable.

Facebook says this led to fewer annotations and edits for audio recorded by a professional voice actor, as well as improved overall TTS quality; by automatically identifying script lines from a more diverse corpus, the method let engineers scale to new languages rapidly without relying on hand-generated data sets.

Future work

Facebook next plans to use the TTS system and data collection method to add more accents, dialogues, and languages beyond French, German, Italian, and Spanish to its portfolio. It’s also focusing on making the system even more light and efficient than it is currently so that it can run on smaller devices, and it’s exploring features to make Portal’s voice respond with different speaking styles based on context.

Last year, Facebook machine learning engineer Parthath Shah told The Telegraph the company was developing technology capable of detecting people’s emotions through voice, preliminarily by having employees and paid volunteers re-enact conversations. Facebook later disputed this report, but the seed of the idea appears to have germinated internally. In early 2019, company researchers published a paper on the topic of producing different contextual voice styles, as well as a paper that explores the idea of building expressive text-to-speech via a technique called join style analysis.

Here’s a sample:Audio Player00:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.

“For example, when you’re rushing out the door in the morning and need to know the time, your assistant would match your hurried pace,” Facebook proposed. “When you’re in a quiet place and you’re speaking softly, your AI assistant would reply to you in a quiet voice. And later, when it gets noisy in the kitchen, your assistant would switch to a projected voice so you can hear the call from your mom.”

It’s a step in the direction toward what Amazon accomplished with Whisper Mode, an Alexa feature that responds to whispered speech by whispering back. Amazon’s assistant also recently gained the ability to detect frustration in a customer’s voice as a result of a mistake it made, and apologetically offer an alternative action (i.e., offer to play a different song) — the fruit of emotion recognition and voice synthesis research begun as far back as 2017.

Beyond Amazon, which offers a range of speaking styles (including a “newscaster” style) in Alexa and its Amazon Polly cloud TTS service, Microsoft recently rolled out new voices in several languages within Azure Cognitive Services. Among them are emotion styles like cheerfulness, empathy, and lyrical, which can be adjusted to express different emotions to fit a given context.

“All these advancements are part of our broader efforts in making systems capable of nuanced, natural speech that fits the content and the situation,” said Facebook. “When combined with our cutting-edge research in empathy and conversational AI, this work will play an important role in building truly intelligent, human-level AI assistants for everyone.”

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Disclosure: Smita Nair Jain has nothing to disclose. She doesn’t own stock in any publicly traded companies and does not hold investments in the technology companies. She has equivalent of the American 401(k) plan in India that is automatically managed. (Updated: May 23, 2020)

Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various author(s), publisher(s) and forum participant(s) on this web site do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the @SmitaNairJain or official policies of the #SmitaNairJain

Source: https://venturebeat.com/2020/05/15/facebooks-voice-synthesis-ai-generates-speech-in-500-milliseconds/

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‘Opinion: Closing of UTHealth childcare center undermines working mothers, women in health care’ – HoustonChronicle.com

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By Kai Li Tan May 21, 2020 Updated: May 21, 2020 3:12 p.m.Registered nurse Margaret Padernal, left, and respiratory therapist Rena Boutte carry balloons they were given as they left work on Wednesday, May 6, 2020 at CHI St. Luke's Health - Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center in Houston. In honor of National Nurses Week and kicking off on National Nurses Day, Party City surprised the hospital's night shift nurses as they got off work.Registered nurse Margaret Padernal, left, and respiratory therapist Rena Boutte carry balloons they were given as they left work on Wednesday, May 6, 2020 at CHI St. Luke’s Health – Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center in Houston. In honor of National Nurses Week and kicking off on National Nurses Day, Party City surprised the hospital’s night shift nurses as they got off work.Photo: Brett Coomer, Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer

Childcare centers are deemed an essential service during a pandemic for obvious reasons, so that essential and frontline workers who have young children can focus on tackling an outbreak without worrying about their families, and so they can continue to work and serve their community. It is baffling that without warning, the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) permanently closed its 40-year standing, high-quality Child Development Center in Houston (UTCDC), which served parents working on the front lines prior to its closure, in the middle of a pandemic. Parents were left scrambling for alternative childcare options while UTCDC staff were immediately unemployed. While the decision to permanently shut down UTCDC may not affect the UTHealth leadership at large, it has far and wide implications toward the working families, especially women, at UTHealth and the Texas Medical Center, as well as the image and values UTHealth leadership wishes to project to its employees.

UTCDC was one of only two onsite childcare centers in the Texas Medical Center, with a collective capacity to care for 260 children. The medical center boasts that it is the largest medical center in the world and has more than 106,000 employees, many of whom are healthcare workers and medical research scientists. But 260 childcare spaces for over 100,000 employees is far from sufficient. Despite the demand, UTHealth abruptly closed the UTCDC, without conferring with the parents and staff or providing a reason. More than half of the parents are working on the frontlines, while the rest are UTHealth and TMC medical and research employees, who are currently being asked to report back to work as Houston begins to reopen. Parents are faced with a paramount question; how are their children going to be taken care of? Quality and affordable childcare options were already scarce pre-pandemic, and full time babysitters are expensive and not a viable long-term option.

Many parents may opt for a difficult decision, which is for one parent to drop out of the workforce to fully care for their children. Although our society is achieving gender parity, mothers typically still take up most of the family and childcare responsibilities, and a majority of working mothers will be the ones trading their paycheck for the care of their children in the midst of a pandemic.

How will this situation apply to a medical institute or hospital? As reported by the New York Times, 77 percent of health-care workers are women. This is the workforce we currently are in dire need of to fight the COVID-19 crisis. With the closure of UTCDC, UTHealth leadership has created a difficult choice for its frontline parents: My child or my job? While the medical institute appeared to launch an all-out fight with the common enemy, COVID-19, its leadership decided to quietly undermine its workforce, leaving many parents, especially mothers, without a choice but to give up their battle to fight the pandemic to care for their children. Who will be the ultimate victim of this decision as our medical workforce dwindles due to a lack of childcare during a pandemic? Our community at large.

The closure of the UTCDC not only disproportionately impacts women in the medical and health professions, it has left the UTCDC staff, who are 97 percent female, without employment. The UTCDC staff made an average of $12 per hour, according to a UTCDC staff. For the ease of comparison, the decision to shut down UTCDC was made by top UTHealth executives, 70 percent of whom are male and the top two UT decision makers are paid an average of a whopping $506 per hour, based on calculations from numbers obtained from govsalaries.com. One hour of their pay would cover an hour of the entire UTCDC staff’s pay. This is a testament to the priorities of the UTHealth leadership.

We are about to have a childcare crisis on our hands, and women will be the ones hit hardest and forced to make tough decisions about their careers. As more institutions and corporations consider closing their on-site childcare facilities we implore them to think of the larger implications of their decisions and whether they want to contribute to the gender gap in this country.

Tan is a parent affected by the closure and a researcher with a PhD in developmental biology in the Texas Medical Center. This op-ed reflects the views of UTCDC parents.

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Disclosure: Smita Nair Jain has nothing to disclose. She doesn’t own stock in any publicly traded companies and does not hold investments in the technology companies. She has equivalent of the American 401(k) plan in India that is automatically managed. (Updated: May 23, 2020)

Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various author(s), publisher(s) and forum participant(s) on this web site do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the @SmitaNairJain or official policies of the #SmitaNairJain

Source: https://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/outlook/article/Opinion-Closing-of-UTHealth-childcare-center-15283364.php

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