Since Tech officially allowed women to enroll in 1952, women have been making great strides in science, technology and their communities on campus and beyond. Due to the Institute’s failure to fully integrate women into its curriculum until 1968, much was left to be desired in regard to the empowerment of women. However, today, quite the opposite is true. Tech embraces and actively recruits women. The success of these efforts is evident in the growing percentage of women in the freshman class. Four ladies go above and beyond their role as student, professor or administrator and serve as an inspiration to others.
Kate Wharton, a fourth-year EIA major from Cincinnati, Oh., is well on her way to making big changes in the world. A President’s Scholar, Wharton is heavily involved with AIESEC, a global student-run organization that aims to promote cultural understanding through exchange. Kate was president of AIESEC GT in 2010. Through AIESEC, Wharton has traveled to Guatemala, Turkey, Vietnam and India for conferences. She also worked for The Jaago Foundation, a non-profit in Bangladesh, which founded English schools in the slums, where she was completely immersed in poverty for four months.
For more than a year, Wharton has been involved in research regarding people displaced by violence and their education outcomes in Colombia. She also helped design a sanitation system for a refugee camp last year.
After graduation, Wharton plans to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro for charity and to travel though India. Wharton’s plans for the immediate future include working for Deloitte Consulting in Washington, D.C. in their Federal Practice Division, which works with government agencies. Long-term, however, she hopes to return to the non-profit sector. Wharton’s passions include post-conflict resolution in developing countries, specifically the issue of refugees and displaced people.
“Women have very different perspectives and problem-solving skills, so when you bring women into different processes, whether that’s peacekeeping and international development or science and technology, they bring something very important,” Wharton said.
Though she only began her work at Tech in June, Sarah Perkins has already made a name for herself in the Tech community, by improving the very community of Tech and Atlanta all students and faculty share. Perkins’ work follows Georgia Tech’s motto: “Progress and Service.”
As the Community Service Coordinator, she works with students to promote civic engagement through programs like MOVE and Alternative Service Breaks and events like Team Buzz. Recently, she and 5 students coordinated the MLK service day, which gathered over 150 participants who helped in 8 different projects throughout Atlanta.
“It’s eye opening seeing students connect service to their community with technology,” Perkins said. She works on a daily basis with students who have a drive to improve their community and represent Tech off-campus in the most positive way.
Perkins is always willing to help students find volunteer opportunities on campus.
“It’s so important to have women realize they can do anything,” Perkins said.
On a weekly basis, Perkins and the volunteers she works with improve the surrounding community while simultaneously promoting women at Tech. MOVE has 6 tutoring programs within Atlanta, and Tech females play a big role in the organization.
These student role models have a great impact on the children they tutor. “When you see women in science that help you and are your friends, you’re going to follow in their footsteps,” Perkins said.
Billie Pendleton-Parker, fondly known as BP-P, is the Associate Director of the President’s Scholarship Program at Tech. She has been an invaluable part of Tech for nearly 25 years, where she began as a volunteer to help professors improve their teaching methods.
BP-P has been volunteering since the third grade where she began collecting pennies for underprivileged children in other countries. She currently volunteers with Women in Engineering’s Tech camp for middle school girls and hopes to extend such camps to even younger girls in order to fight gender stereotypes early in their lives. She has also been heavily involved with ‘Hands On Atlanta’ working on numerous community service projects.
BP-P’s involvement in the community has been recognized by President Bush himself who met with her when she was selected as a noteworthy volunteer in Atlanta by Hands on Atlanta. She has also received other honors such as the Advisor of the Year Award, Friend of the Student Award, Freshman Partner Award and Women of Distinction Award. She even has an award named after her by the housing department, the BP-P award.
Inspired by her, BP-P’s female students have gone on to achieve their very own stories of significance. Andrea Knight began the genesis of the former Women’s Student Union. Yvette Upton, is the founding director of the Women’s Resource Centre. One student single-handedly managed to extend Women’s History Week to Women’s History Month.
A general service to others has been a main objective for BP-P for the better part of her life.
“Women (and men too) need to strive for significance and not success. Because success is finite and significance has a ripple effect that never ends,” Pendleton said.
The current Interim Chair of the School of Economics, Usha Nair-Reichert loves her job. “I’m privileged to be part of the journey. The passions of the students here at Tech keep my idealism and passion alive,” Nair-Reichert said.
Nair-Reichert has faced much adversity in her life, yet she takes it in her stride. “Growing up in India, I was often told there were a lot of things I could not do. Whenever I’m faced with adversity, I take it as a challenge. I won’t let it overpower me,” Nair-Reichert said.
Not only does Nair-Reichert teach as a Tech professor, but she also spends her Saturday mornings at English Avenue teaching basic banking and money management skills to members of the community.
She hopes to start a non-profit one day that engages young people. “Young people here have passion and idealism, and can do something with it,” Nair-Reichert said. Nair-Reichert is excited about the recent increased recruitment of women at Tech. “It’s a very different campus from when I first started in 1995. We [Tech] need to be able to recruit and retain the best talent,” Nair-Reichert said.
Through programs like the ADVANCE program, Nair-Reichert benefited from the recent family-friendly initiatives for people in research. Now a goal announced by the National Science Foundation, a balance in the life of people in research careers promotes inclusive excellence. “They really facilitate a better work-life balance,” Nair-Reichert said.