Archives for : SOCIAL STATUS

I’m a 28-year veteran of the global healthcare company Abbott, where I’m responsible for the company’s engineering, regulatory, and quality assurance functions in over 150 countries

I started my career at Abbott in 1989 and have held a number of senior positions, including senior manufacturing engineer, production manager, and engineering manager.

In 2012, I began the Abbott’s high school STEM internship program, targeting underrepresented students. A high school engineering internship changed the trajectory of my life when I was 17, and I am passionate about helping young people, especially girls and minorities, realize their STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) dreams. To date, almost 90 young people have taken part and 97 percent are pursuing a STEM degree or have a STEM job.

This is as personal as it gets.

The fact that only one in seven engineers is a woman. That only one in 50 is an African-American female. The fact that I, as an African-American female engineer am 10 times rarer than a woman in Congress.

As a young woman, my mom and my grandfather encouraged me to study math and science, and today I work at Abbott’s as its top engineer. My granddad only made it formally through eighth grade, but he and my family valued education. My mom went to school herself whilst raising five kids.

That’s what made the difference when an opportunity of a lifetime came my way. I was 17, working for $1.76-an-hour at Jack in the Box to cover expenses for extra-curricular programs at school, when IBM came to my inner-city Dallas school, looking for a student who could intern there for the summer.

The support of a few key teachers, a guidance counselor, and my family made the decision to work for IBM that summer a reality. What followed was another internship and eventually a degree – and a career. That internship changed the direction of my life.

This coming weekend, I’m sharing this story and taking this issue head on with thousands of students at the USA Science & Engineering Festival in Washington D.C., along with my colleague, Abbott neuroscientist Beth McQuiston. I know the power of words, and of stories, and hope these girls walk away knowing that no matter their ZIP code, no matter the color of the skin or their gender or their socioeconomic status – they, too, can be an engineer one day.

As much as I am thankful for the opportunity to share this vision, I also know I am just one person. As one of very few African-American female engineers, I have an obligation to do something to help close a real gap of women and minorities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. It’s good for our company and its future, but it’s also just the right thing to do for society and the future of innovation.

A shortage of diverse perspectives means the teams creating the next life-changing technologies in our societies are not as equipped as they otherwise would be. How can we innovate for a diverse world if we don’t have diverse innovators?

The reason STEM recruitment and retention is broken when it comes to attracting and holding on to women and minorities, I think, is they don’t see enough people who look like them in their fields, a signal to them that maybe this field isn’t for them – maybe they weren’t meant to succeed here.

To be sure, the fix to that is not straight forward as it may seem. But one thing parents, schools and companies need to do is invest in these young people early, so they see STEM as a viable career option.

Only 10 percent of girls say their parents encourage them to pursue engineering, for instance. That is way too low.

STEM is not hard and boring – it can be intuitive and exciting. Abbott invests in a high school STEM internship program that reaches students as young as 15, empowering them to work on real business problems and giving them a taste of what it’s really like to work in the field, transforming abstract concepts into tangible career options. Outside of the high school internship, since 2006, Abbott has worked with more than 700 schools and community organizations to inspire more than 285,000 students interested in STEM.

We also need to be quick to speak up for good STEM work and education policy. Like I wrote in The Hill, we need Ph.Ds. and inventors, yes – but we also need people with technical skills to work in labs, build prototypes, write code and fill the many, many other STEM-related jobs of the future.

If you work at another company and you’re still with me, I am here for you. I know it isn’t easy to get something like a high school STEM internship off the ground, but I’ve done it. I am willing to share my blueprints. This is bigger than me, and bigger than Abbott. This is about someday, living in a world where diversity of people, ideas and thoughts are equally balanced in creating life-changing technologies that will further advance innovation, technology – and life as we know it.

Henry Sapiecha

A study of deceitful behaviour on the internet made the surprising finding that women lie almost twice as much as men in social media posts.

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New York women are the least trustworthy on social media, though the girls from Sex and the City may be a special category.

A study of deceitful behaviour on the internet made the surprising finding that women lie almost twice as much as men in social media posts.

The reason women lie is less surprising, if you believe in gender stereotypes: women tell porkies to make other people look good. Men do it to make themselves look good.

The Works Sydney advertising agency working with Dr Suresh Sood, a brand data scientist at the UTS Business School, sought to go deeper than the widely known truth: that without the sweaty palms and facial tics to give them away, everyone lies on the internet, whether about their age, their marital status, their resume or just the all-out envy-making marvellousness of their lives…….


Henry Sapiecha


These were on sale at the markets today, presumably next to the leeches and butter churns.

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Henry Sapiecha



sharia woman in berka being flogged image

Sharia law … A woman is caned in Aceh for selling food during Ramadan in October. A woman and a man will soon be caned publicly for adultery. Photo: AFP


Sharia police in the Indonesian province of Aceh will publicly flog a young woman for adultery after she was turned in by eight vigilantes who had already gang-raped her as punishment.


The woman, a 25-year-old widow, and her alleged partner, a married 40-year old man, were caught inside her home last Thursday by a group of eight who were intent on enforcing the sharia prohibition on sex outside marriage, local media reports say.


The eight, who included a 13-year-old boy, tied up and beat the man and repeatedly raped the woman before dousing both in raw sewage.


They then marched the couple to the office of the local sharia police.


Ibrahim Latif, the head of the sharia police, or Wilayatul Hisbah in the town of Langsa, in Aceh’s far south-east, was quoted in The Jakarta Globe saying: “We want the couple caned because they violated the religious bylaw on sexual relations”.


Under the sharia law, which is peculiar to Aceh, each of the couple faces nine strokes of the cane in a public place.


The woman’s ordeal at the hands of her accusers would not be taken into account in delivering the sentence, Mr Ibrahim said.


“They have to be [caned] as a form of justice … they’ve confessed to having sex several times before, even though the man is married and has five children”.


The Jakarta Globe newspaper reported that Teungku Faisal Ali, the head of the Aceh chapter of the country’s largest Islamic organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama had backed the caning.


The organisation is usually considered part of Indonesia’s moderate muslim maintream.


However, Mr Faisal said the alleged rapists themselves should be treated more harshly than the couple, because they had “set back efforts to uphold sharia in Aceh”.


He said vigilantes should not act directly, but report offences to the sharia police.


Three of the alleged rapists including the boy are in police custody, and police have appealed for the families of the other five to give them up.


They are facing investigation and conviction by the ordinary criminal courts.


Aceh is the only province of Indonesia which enforces sharia law, after the central government in Jakarta granted its religious leaders the right to impose it in 2001 to try to quell separatist sentiment.


A recent bylaw in the province extended its provisions to all residents and visitors, including non-Muslims.


The law is enforced patchily, but Langsa is known to be strict. In nearby Lhokseumawe, women are prohibited from wearing tight jeans and riding astride motor scooters — they are required to go side saddle. Women are also expected to cover their hair, and young unmarried couples are not allowed to sit together in public in case sexual feelings emerge.


The law has often been abused by vigilantes and overzealous officials.


In one tragic case in 2012, a 16-year old girl was at a concert with friends in Langsa when the sharia police harangued her as a prostitute. When local media picked up the story the next day, repeated the accusation and published her full name, the girl hanged herself.


In 2010, three sharia policemen raped a 20-year-old university student after they found her riding a motorcycle with her boyfriend.

Henry Sapiecha



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Many girls and women think being a “mean girl” is a sign of empowerment. Picture: Thinkstock Source: Supplied

BROUGHT to the forefront of popular culture with the 2004 Lindsay Lohan film, Mean Girls, what was once fiction – the hateful manner of certain girls – has become a reality.

Celebrating a decade of Mean Girls , there’s a jewellery line being launched in the USA with friendship necklaces inscribed with lines from the movie such as “best bitches” and “you can’t sit with us”.

The “mean girl”, a term created by Queen Bees and Wannabes author, Rosalind Wiseman, is defined as someone who uses “girl aggression” – nasty comments, trickery, deceit, the spreading of rumours, and stealing boyfriends – to manipulate other girls.

Populating classrooms, social media, mothers’ groups and workplaces, the “mean girl” is flourishing. So much so, psychologist, Meredith Fuller, wrote a book Working with Mean Girls , offering advice on how to deal with destructive workplace relationships cultivated by bitchy, insecure women whose manipulative manner towards their female peers and the damage done often flies under the radar.

Social media has allowed mean girl conduct to both boom and be displayed. Able to shoot off a few nasty words or spiteful lines on various platforms, cyberspace is a breeding ground for bitches, bullies and their victims.

What about ladette culture, born of pre-loading, binge drinking and a desire to emulate a tiny element of male culture? Young women, fuelled by too much alcohol let their meanness find physical and other expression, abusing and fighting girls and sometimes videoing and sharing their anti-social actions for others to ogle.

What was once hidden is now broadcast, shared like a trophy.

With the media latching on to these activities to condemn them, there’s also a degree of defiant notoriety in the (negative) publicity they attract and thus kudos in being caught. Wilfully ignorant parents who refuse to see they have raised a “mean girl” don’t help either.

Afraid of being the next person in the mean girls’ sights, those around them (Wiseman calls them “wannabes”) will often support rather than censure the dominant girl and so rewards for being mean accrue and faux popularity governed by fear dominate.

Another sign of the insidious acceptance of “meanness” as an admired characteristic can be seen in the mass circulation of a well-known Marilyn Monroe quote on Facebook, Twitter and as a meme. Appearing in variations like: “If you can’t accept me at my worst, then you don’t deserve me at my best,” it pops up regularly.

Functioning as an affirmation of the (female) self, deemed empowering by the mostly adult women who post it, it announces a refusal to change. It’s an in-your-face-stance to prospective friends and partners and declares, take me as I am or p-ss off.

It’s a problematic relationship test.

But what an entitled, narcissistic, selfish statement! It infers that any bad behaviour (from the postee) must be accepted unconditionally.

Any relationship with a person that insightless has failed before it’s even begun.

A successful relationship is when people (be they lovers, peers or friends) bring out the best in each other. It’s never about tolerating behaviours and attitudes that are mean, unattractive and highly dysfunctional.

Somewhere along the line, meanness has been construed as acceptable and/or inevitable. It’s regarded as an entertaining if not attractive trait to cultivate – especially if you want to stand out from the crowd.

Reality TV, where competitions create opportunities for mean-girl behaviour, is where this conduct thrives.

Shows like My Kitchen Rules actively foster this. “Keep the contestants mean, keep the audiences’ keen” is the new mantra. The latest stereotypical “mean girls” are the well-travelled Western Australian friends, Kelly and Chloe, whose snide comments, bitchy asides and judgmental looks (cast mainly towards the “two heads, one brain” twins, Helena and Vikki), polarise people.

With ratings in the millions, meanness – especially when delivered by female participants – has become a recipe for success.

The RTV show, Vanderpump Rules, starring 25-year-old Stassi Schroeder, is another program that relies on the “mean girl” status for its global recognition. Described as “outrageous”, “catty”, “feisty”, “she’ll stop at nothing to get what she wants” – Stassi’s the “woman audiences love to hate” and is unapologetic.

Being malicious, let alone staggeringly drunk and violent in public, used to be regarded as disgraceful. It made you a social pariah. Meant to feel remorse, not glee, apologies followed. Nowadays, young women appear to relish the infamy the “mean” tag and its consequences carry. Whether it’s false bravado on their part or genuine is sometimes hard to tell, but sorry, they ain’t.

“Mean” should never be confused with strength, honesty or feistiness, which are all wonderful traits. Nor should it be wielded as a cowardly weapon to control or strike down those perceived as “weak”.

While we’re all capable of being mean occasionally, I’m tired of it being misrepresented as a form of feminine power.

Being mean is not powerful or normal and nor should it be consistently in the spotlight or regarded as aspirational. Women, even mean ones, are the sum of many parts. But until our best traits are also celebrated, “mean” will set the scene.


Dr Karen Brooks is an associate professor at the UQ Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies.


Henry Sapiecha