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Bridging the Divide: Women, Innovation and STEM; Croatian Folk Art: Lace and Embroidery; Authentic Mexican Dinner with Ms. Menchaca

On Friday, April 21st, we went to the City Club for a program titled "Bridging the Divide: Women, Innovation and STEM" which took the form of a conversation between Dr. Evalyn Gates, Ph.D., Executive Director and CEO of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and Mr. Janet L. Kavandi, Ph.D., Director of National Aeronautics and Space Administration's(NASA) John H. Glenn Research Center.

Before the program started, we chatted for a moment with Dr. Ka-Pi Hoh, Ph.D., Operations Manager for Finished Products at "Lubrizol" in Wickcliffe who recently completed a four year assignment in China where her parents (who later immigrated to the U.S.) were born. During lunch, we sat with Ms. Jewel Moulthrop and her husband Mr. Kevin Komito who are, respectively, the mother and stepfather of City Club CEO Mr. Dan Moulthrop. Also sharing our table were Ms. Amy Newman, Mr. Frank Melcori (visiting from New Mexico) and Ms. Lourdes Sanchez (who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico years ago) who has a very extensive background in science and was very much looking forward to the program.

The introduction was given by our friend Ms. Meryl Johnson, member of the Ohio Board of Education, who said, "I am deeply aware of the importance of the need to ensure that education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math is not only effective but it must be inclusive. Making sure that women are prepared to work and lead in STEM fields is vital to the future of our state and our nation. We've all become more focused on these issues since the release of the Oscar-nominated movie 'Hidden Figures' . That movie tells the story of the African-American women who played a crucial but often overlooked role in the space race and John Glenn's successful orbital mission in 1962. Their story was not universal. It wasn't the story of all women in STEM fields. It was the story of Black women at NASA during the infancy of the space program. And it's an unparalleled story. Nevertheless, that movie and Margot Lee Shetterly's book by the same name-which recently won an Anisfield Wolf Award-resonated with people across the country and across every race. I think that is why so many of us are here at the City Club today. In the 60 or so years since the 'Hidden Figures' story, women's labor has expanded the economy by an estimated $2 trillion dollars. In addition, while women hold nearly half of all the jobs in the U.S. economy, they hold less than 25% of the STEM jobs. And this is despite the fact that women today are more likely than men to graduate from college and go on to pursue an advanced degree. As we were reminded in a recent review of Ms. Shetterly's book, 'Black talent is not rare. We just have to be sure that history acknowledges it.' This is part of the context in which our speakers join us today."

During the course of their dialogue, Dr. Gates and Dr. Kavandi touched many points regarding women in the STEM fields. Among the things said were:

***Dr. Gates liked it that the women in "Hidden Figures" were portrayed as strong individuals who supported each other and hoped that the movie/book would young people to follow in the same path even if they chose not to pursue a career in the STEM fields. Dr. Kavandi was glad that the film depicted the parents of the Katherine Johnson character (played by Ms. Taraji P. Henson) as being very supportive of their daughter's educational efforts and impressed upon her that "nothing should be outside the realm of achievement."

***Dr. Gates and Dr. Kavandi discussed how the challenges of balancing their personal lives (married with children) with their careers and they agreed that as difficult as it is there are ways that it can be done. As for the future, equal emphasis on paternity as well as maternity leave (so that the parents coordinate their childrearing and career efforts) is or would be a worthy advance. Of course they also talked about obvious and hidden biases that they encountered and ways that they overcame them. Along these lines, they thought that good leadership can lead to a very supportive work environment. Both agreed that a lot of a lot of progress needs to be made in terms of women in STEM but progress has been made and is being made at this time.

***When asked during the Q and A what men in the STEM fields could do to help women, Dr. Kavandi said that being friends with everyone regardless of gender is a good thing. She was grateful that her father was as supportive of her as he was. She also suggested that moving away from sexist jokes and sexist assumptions is a step in the right direction. Dr. Gates recalled, from her own experience, how important study groups are to a student's success and believed that different perspectives can be enriching. Therefore, students should try to steer away from study groups that are all men/all women and join those that are all inclusive.

***When questioned about leadership styles, Dr. Kavandi recalled a study that showed that the most important traits of a good leader are persistence and determination and, rated not far behind, was kind-mindedness; thus "subtle characteristics" can make for strong leaders. Dr. Gates agreed but said that it was important that a person who plans to enter the STEM fields be not afraid to speak up if he/she has an idea because such discourse is a vital part of success in this realm.

***Dr. Kavandi had taken part in space flights and even though Dr. Gates had studied deep space extensively she had never gone up. Therefore, she asked Dr. Kavandi what was the "coolest thing" about it. Dr. Kavandi replied that the "coolest thing" was her first view of the earth; it was like a 3-D Imax movie-so vivid and so blue! And what made the experience all the more "cool" was viewing earth while she was actually floating.

After we left the City Club we went to the Croatian Museum in Eastlake to view the "Croatian Folk Art: Lace and Embroidery" exhibit that will run until October, 2017. We really had wanted to attend the opening reception on April 9th (Palm Sunday) but we were not able to make it over there.

After we arrived, Ms. Branka Malinar and Ms. Kathy Kuhar were very welcoming and showed us lovely garments/cloths and creations from lace that are an important part of the Croatian heritage. In fact Agave lace, constructed by the Benedictine Nuns on the island of Hvar from a cactus plant, is protected by UNESCO who put it on their list of World Cultural Heritage. We also liked studying Lepoglava lace that is created on bobbins (a very rare and complicated feat) and were entranced when Ms. Kuhar showed us an umbrella made from Lepoglava lace because we didn't think it was possible to fashion such a thing.

To no one's surprise, after such a long day we were ready for some dinner so after our trip to the Croatian Lodge we drove over the the Hale Road Community Christian Church in Painesville where we enjoyed an authentic Mexican dinner prepared by Ms. Alma Menchaca along with her family and friends.

We were served some chips topped with guacamole and spicey salsa (just as we like it) and were given a choice between chicken and beef burritos. However, when we told Ms. Menchaca that we were vegetarians she arranged for veggie burritos to be prepared just for us. After a day of running around, from Euclid to Akron to Cleveland to Eastlake and to Painesville, we can assure you that eating this meal was a nutritious and tasty way to almost conclude it.

The actual conclusion came a half hour later when we arrived at the Mentor Mall to do several laps to keep us in shape so we could be prepared for the weekend events.


Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC