Friday was day 2 at the Women of Color’s STEM Conference virtual event, Oct. 8-10. The seminars included the next big wave in tech, and topics ranged from Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to virtual reality and augmented reality.

The tech panel featured Dr. Jeannice Fairrer Samani, founder of the Fifth Wave Steam Education Initiative, Karen Beagle, a business unit executive at BM corporation, and Christine Burkette, CTO at PICF, Inc. in Michigan.

Drilling down on machine learning —where machines take in data, analyze it, take action and then learn from the results —in the COVID-19 era, Fairrer Samani spoke on the inflection of investment in space technology, online DNA analysis, and immune system engineering. Beagle touched on quantum learning and e-learning, and Burkett illustrated technology use in healthcare applications.

During the Global Health Security panel, the focus turned to vaccine development, vaccines, vaccination, and the importance of clear communication in communities to reduce mistrust of clinical trials.

Thomas A. LaVeist, Ph.D., dean and Weatherhead Presidential Chair in Health Equity, School of Public Health and Tropical medicine at Tulane University, said it was important for people to understand how vaccine development, which normally took 10 years could be sped up to deliver in a matter of months.

Operation Warp Speed officials said the tens of millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines soon to be made available will be affordable for every American, because a large percentage of development, manufacturing, distribution, and administration costs at vaccine sites had been covered. Officials also said vaccines will be tracked from the manufacturers to vials, from distribution to who received vaccines and where. Officials will also track the execution of the vaccine, so the system is not overwhelmed.

Mention was also made of a recent National Academy of Medicine report, which talked about ethical considerations, who should get the COVID-19 vaccine first, such as nursing home residents, and how the science and data will drive what is right for public health officials.

With more than two million COVID-19 tests done at testing sites in underserved communities since April, public health officials stressed the importance of best practices, and engagement of community partners, such as The National Medical Association (NMA), the largest and oldest national organization representing African American physicians and their patients in the United States, Black Greek fraternities and sororities, and faith-based organizations.

Women of Color STEM conference’s first online Technology Recognition Luncheon was a run-away success, garnering tons of comments on YouTube.

Presenting live from Detroit were co-hosts Monica Emerson, national chair of the Women of Color STEM Conference, and Dr. Kendall Harris, provost and vice president for academic affairs, Texas Southern University.

Keynote speakers included Juanita Logan, corporate development at World Wide Technology, Angela Thompkins, vice president and chief diversity officer at Consumers Energy, and Ben Felton, senior vice president-fossil generation at DTE Energy, who spoke glowingly of the successful award winners; his mother who is dean of the veterinary school at Tuskegee University, and pathways in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) for the next generation, including his three daughters.

Mike Petters, president and CEO, Huntington Ingalls Industries, congratulated the nominees from America’s largest military shipbuilding company as well as the more than 300 women who will be recognized over the three-day event.

Petters highlighted the vital work of outstanding women in STEM jobs who often do not have a lot of people that look like them in their fields. He also spoke of how employee resource groups and (STEM) programs are changing the future for the current and future workforce.

Sandy Carter, vice president, Amazon Web Services, and chairman of the Board for Girls in Tech, said the event was much more than about recognition.

Carter called the Technology Recognition Luncheon a showcase of a diverse body of women in the military, academia, government, business, corporations, and not-for-profits, who are helping to make the future diverse, inclusive, and accessible.

Angela Barbee, vice president at Kohler and a longtime member of the Women of Color STEM Conference selection committee, stressed the importance of the virtual event during the COVID-19 era with its rapid social and economic challenges.

Awards given at this venue include the Technology All-Stars award and the Technology Rising Stars award.

Technology All-Stars are accomplished women from mid-level to advanced stages of their careers (approximately 22 or more years in the workforce) that have demonstrated excellence in the workplace and in their communities.

Rising Stars are young women, approximately 1 to 22 years in the workforce, who are helping to shape technology for the future.

For more than 20 years, these prestigious awards have earned widespread praise as they advance the conference’s mission to recognize excellence as a means for sustaining and growing the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) pipeline.

The co-hosts of the event were Courtney Taborn, digital manager at Career Communications Group, and Rayondon Kennedy, managing director of Women of Color magazine.

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