Women Inventors in 6 Exciting Charts!

I looked at OECD data for gender-related tables, and found an interesting one on women inventors. Data was gleaned from patent records, detailing the names of people involved in the inventions (“the inventors”) sorting those lists by country-specific common male and female names (which probably means there are slip ups in either direction).
I have tried many different tools, and the most useful were Quartz Chartbuilder for simple graphs, CartoDB for maps and DataHero for all the rest.
First I made a map of the data. I found it interesting that such high concentrations of women inventors were found in Poland and Portugal, as well as Mexico, Greece and Chile.

Country_7.3_chartbuilder (1) (1)


Then I charted differences over time for some countries (Because I couldn’t fit them all in). As you can see, all featured countries have seen peaks which later declined. For Australia and Finland the decline seems to be ongoing, while Greece, Israel and Chile have seen a modest uptick, and the US pretty much flatlined.


Last, I wanted to see if I could find some interesting relationship between women inventors and other indices. Was there a correlation between the percentage of women inventors in a country, and the percentage of women who received tertiary education in that country?


DataHero Women Inventors and Women with Tertiary Education

Yes, there does seem to be a strong correlation between the two. A more educated women populace would mean more women inventors.

What about women entrepreneurs – was there a possible correlation there?

DataHero Women Inventors and Entrepreneurs

There does seem to be a modest correlation between the two.

But I was most surprised when I tried to correlate gender wage gap – often used to describe the level of gender parity in a country – with women inventors. I had expected for the connection to be inverse: the lower the wage gap, the higher the opportunities a woman has to become an inventor. But it was the other way around, at least in the countries I checked: Denmark had a low wage gap – and a low rate of women inventors, while Chile displayed the opposite connection. Whether this is the result of a cultural difference of something else  – or maybe my chart didn’t portray the situation entirely accurately – I don’t know. But it leaves some interesting questions to investigate.

DataHero Share of Women Inventors vs. Gender Wage Gap




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Bridges to Nowhere: City of Boston plans to pay for $90 million bridge for GE

This week GE officially moved its headquarters to Boston.  Many media outlets covered the event with some emphasizing the donation that the company will give to to city, others covering the tax incentive that GE will receive by making the move and others talking about the bridge that the city will pay to rebuild as part of their agreement with GE.

I first heard of the story two weeks ago at a meeting for the Coalition for the Homeless.  The group mentioned that the city has agreed to pay for the bridge for to address traffic flow in response to an anticipated increased usage as a result of the company’s move.  This news shocked me since the city had recently closed the Long Island Bridge and made no efforts to repair or rebuild it.  The Coalition for the homeless were not just upset about the bridge but also about the $150 million in tax breaks that the city and state have agreed to give GE.

For this video I wanted to play with creating voiceover though I found it to be challenging.  Though I knew of the protest I was unable to make it this week, however in putting together the video I had wished that I had been able to attend the event myself and record.

Footage of the protest is filmed by Tayla Andre and the final image of the postcard from a homeless person to Marty Walsh following the closure of Long Island is from an article by the Boston Globe.



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If Flint is the Tip of the Iceberg…

…Where Do I Steer My Boat?

Those who saw The Big Short may have noticed that Christian Bale’s character – real life hedge fund manager Michael Burry – moved from examining the housing market to water. Coincidence? Probably not. If one of the few guys who saw the financial crisis coming now builds his portfolio around this scarce commodity, it’s time to ask a few questions.

The biggest water-related headline these days is Flint, Michigan. It may seem like a leap to go from the abstractions of Wall Street to the very real fears of Flint parents. Yet the essential nature of water relies on our ability to access it. And although Flint is an extreme case, it is not an isolated incident. In Jackson, Mississippi, health officials have advised children and pregnant women to stop drinking tap water. From DC to Chicago, Providence to Greenville, aging infrastructure has led to contaminated drinking water quite a few times over the years.

Any hazardous lead level is, well, hazardous. Approximately 6.5 million lead pipes – many reaching the critical 95-year mark – are still in use. (Remarkably, this a relatively low proportion – though significant, especially when concentrated in single locales.) If this concerns you, you are probably not so keen to rely on the charity of Beyoncé or Cher (or Diddy or Wahlberg) after the fact, no matter how generous or appreciated their donations have been.

There is some movement at the national level to find the funds to start making infrastructure changes. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also has some information to learn more about the science, regulations, and what to do in your own home. The CDC also has a Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program that has been looking into the issue for decades. Or you might prefer to take a local approach – many states have an agency that addresses these issues, such as Massachusetts’ Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

We might also learn something from our neighbors to the north. Back in 2010, Toronto looked into replacing lead pipes in the city – and some research conducted at Virginia Tech University that demonstrated replacing only part of the pipe would not resolve contamination issues. In fact, civil engineer Charles Marohn suggests that building a new system might be more cost effective than replacing the old ones.

But at the end of the day, you ought not to worry alone. Let us help you talk to your neighbors that are having the same thoughts you are – compare notes, reach out to the right officials, and find out what actions you need to take next. Who knows, you might be able to enjoy your water free of concern, but if not, you will have a whole community behind you.

Community Connection Template

Note: Obviously, the above is just a hypothetical template – to go with the sample “solutions” approach to the water crisis story – that someone with more programming skills than me might turn into a real mechanism to organize people around issues of shared concern.

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The Panama Papers

In reaction to the story about the Panama Papers which captured my attention (like I’m sure it did everyone else’s), I created a short slideshow as a companion piece to this NPR article about the topic.

This was an exercise in keeping my companion piece brief — I wanted to highlight the actors in the story and what the consequences were for offshore accounts / shell companies. In addition, my call to action wasn’t very direct — most of the implicated politicians are overseas as journalists are still pursuing clients of Mossack Fonseca, so I urged people to vote for politicians this upcoming election cycle who are dedicated to tax reform.

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#illgowithyou transgender bathroom laws

My action is related to this story about North Carolina’s shameful transgender law. I wanted to give allies an idea of one thing they might do. So I created a YouTube video in Keynote with some really bad motion graphics.

LGBT rights are the civil rights of my generation (although I could make a good argument that neither people of color nor women have achieved full participation in American society), but often people who want to be allies don’t know what to do. This is a very practical step to take.

The idea for motion graphics came from one of the blogs Ethan recommended in this week’s readings (although I’m not sure which blog now). Here’s the inspiration video from Linda Dong.

More on restroom access rights here from Lambda Legal. The “I’ll Go With You” ally site is here.

Writing A Code of Conduct For Your Nerd Space


Note: No fancy tools for this one. A write-up.

Earlier this week, female gamer and Tumblr user Latining published a harrowing post titled “Tabletop Gaming Has a White Male Terrorism Problem.”The post describes in graphic detail the harassment and outright sexual assault the author experienced in gaming stores and conventions, and the general apathy and hostility other members of the game community and law enforcement showed when she tried to report it. Sexual harassment and assault, she writes, are tabletop gaming’s “white male terrorism problem.”

The post exploded within the gaming community. It was retweeted by feminist gamer and developer Brianna Wu, debated on BoardGameGeek, and picked up on reddit.

It prompted soul-searching, rebuttals, and support.

While the original author’s claims are being debated in the wider world, she is right about one thing: this isn’t the first time misogyny has reared its head in nerd culture (yep, each of those words goes to a different link) or in nerd spaces.

So the question is: why is this still happening, and how have people taken action?

Jessamyn West, formerly a head moderator at the comment community MetaFilter, suggested a solution: “Some initial work at creating practical and enforceable ground rules can keep every contentious discussion from turning into a first-principles slugfest.”

Jessamyn has years of experience in community management, and knows that rules matter. They send a signal and they set a standard. Many groups – conventions, Meetups, stores, movements and forums – basically any space where people gather and interact – have adopted codes of conduct. And you can adopt one too, even if your space is just six people who get together to play games every Friday night.

Bad Codes of Conduct are fusty bits of bureaucratic language that no one ever reads, handed down from one generation of bosses to another with little feedback from a community. Kind of like Terms of Service, if TOS were even less cool. The worst codes of conduct are those are those that are never enforced, because lack of enforcement “sends the message that the values in the code of conduct aren’t actually important or respected in your community.

But at their best, Codes of Conduct can provide a space for a community to gather, share experiences, and discuss how they want to govern themselves. They can turn good intentions into a system, and open space for dialogue.

If the word “code” sounds too authoritarian, you can opt for something like “Community guidelines” or “Our Principles” or even something like “What We Can and Can’t Do Here.”

Here are some guidelines to get you started:

According to the Geek Feminism Wiki, a good code of conduct includes the following:

  • Specific descriptions of common but unacceptable behavior (sexist jokes, etc.)
  • Reporting instructions with contact information
  • Information about how it may be enforced
  • A clear demarcation between unacceptable behaviour (which may be reported per the reporting instructions and may have severe consequences for the perpetrator) and community guidelines such as general disagreement resolution.

Geek Feminism also includes a list of links to organizations that have adopted codes of conduct, and an evaluation of these codes.

I’ll add my own two cents:

A code of conduct should send a strong signal about how you want people in your group to treat each other. It sends that signal to those who might abuse the space, but it especially sends a message to members of marginalized groups who might otherwise be wary because they are used to being unwelcome or unprotected. The folks at Cosplay is Not Consent link to a photo of the Jekyll Comic Con’s “Respect Thy Fellow Cosplayer” policy. Is the policy perfect? No. But that’s not the point. The point is that it’s there, and the organizers put thought and energy into crafting it, and its existence signals that they’re (hopefully!) not going to ignore complaints or reports of inappropriate behavior.

But a good code of conduct goes a step further. It answers practical, thorny questions. How does your group feel about anonymity? And if you allow it, how do you signal it? What about confidentiality? If someone faces a threat, what phone number should they call? What person – in a position of authority – can they talk to? It forces your group to construct a pipeline of responsibility, rather than just trusting to people’s hazy good intentions. Any space, no matter how small or informal, can benefit from having policies around these questions.

It provides an opportunity for your community to debate and discuss how you feel about norms. If you have an old code of conduct that was written years ago, maybe it’s time to pull it out and have a discussion about it. A good code should evolve with its community, and be open to feedback. It should be something that the people in your space buy into.

Finally, at least according to the team at the Ada Initiative, it should get specific: “The major weapon of harassers is arguing whether something is actually harassing. It is difficult to enforce a CoC if you have to have a month long nasty argument about whether it was violated. It burns out people like you.” A good code of conduct saves you – a person who wants to have a good time in your space – from tedious discussions. You can just point at it and say, ‘this is how we work.’

If you need guidance on how to word your code, here’s some free language courtesy of Geek Feminism.

In reading the responses to the original Tumblr post, I was struck by one from gamer Samwise Seven RPG, who said “In all honesty, I tend to stay away from gender and race topics when they concern the role playing game community. My internal dialogue tends to be: can’t we just play elf games and get along while we forget the real world and all of its miseries.”

If only everyone could.

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It’s low cost energy, stupid.

Recently, the Department of Energy announced it will participate in the development of the Plains & Eastern Clean Line Project (Clean Line), a major clean energy infrastructure project which will bring low-cost renewable power to my home state of Arkansas, Tennessee and other markets in the Mid-South and Southeast. The approximately 700-mile, high voltage direct current transmission line and associated facilities has the capacity to deliver 4,000 megawatts (MW) of wind power from the Oklahoma Panhandle region.

The all-Republican Arkansas congressional delegation has already issued a statement against the decision, citing executive overreach. Yet, in a state whose per capita GDP of $40,924 trails well below the US average of $54,307 and where access to inexpensive energy is hard to come by, I thought the case for the project deserved to be made.

For this assignment, I designed the following graphic for the Arkansas Times, the state’s go-to alternative news source.

Clean Line Energy (2)



Complementary Post

For this assignment, I made a complimentary call to action in response to this article about Bernie Sander’s potential chances in winning the Democratic nomination. Below is my infographic that guides democrats who agree with the content of the initial article to quick and easy voting platforms.


Vintage Gay Weddingsfor Your Inspiration

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