I would like to respond to a number of thoughtful emails that I and others at MIT have received regarding the low percentage of women and people of color represented in the program of speakers at the Media Lab’s 30th anniversary symposium, Mind, Magic & Mischief this Friday, October 30.
First let me say that the criticism was justified and we have tried to respond. Although clearly not enough, we have included several additional women as speakers: Media Lab alumna Mary Lou Jepsen, one of the world’s foremost innovators in the field of electro-optic and display technologies; Media Lab faculty member Rosalind W. Picard, a pioneer in developing the field of affective computing; renowned British economic historian Emma Rothschild, who worked closely with Jerome Wiesner as an associate professor in MIT’s Department of Humanities and the Program in Science, Technology, and Society; and MIT Vice President Maria Zuber, a professor in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences and the first woman to lead a NASA spacecraft mission. They join MIT alumnae Ayah Bdeir, founder of littleBits, and Megan Smith, Chief Technology Officer of the United States.
We believe that the addition of these speakers not only helps address the gender inequity issue, but also significantly strengthens the program. We know that our response does not fully address our need to be more inclusive, and we will continue to work on this. We want to send a clear message that the Media Lab always welcomes open discourse, even when the criticism is directed at us and engages us in an uncomfortable conversation.
Joi Ito is director of the MIT Media Lab.