One way to cheer up about the economy is to look for untapped resources and imagine what could be gained if their full potential were realized. Our cover story on women entrepreneurs, compellingly illustrated by Prism designer Francis Igot, presents a prime example. Although they account for half the population and more than half of college graduates, women are woefully underrepresented in start-ups and among small-business owners. That’s partly because they have less access to capital than men do; investors tend to be overwhelmingly male. But as Assistant Editor Jenn Pocock found in her interviews and research, many women are reluctant to take the necessary risks. This is particularly true if they’re mothers or hope to be – a reason offered by industrial engineer Kate Groot for putting off her dream of launching a smoothie business. Women faculty who might commercialize the results of their research can be made to feel out of place in academe. But that’s changing, thanks to such groups as Ohio State’s REACH for commercialization and the University of Florida’s Empowering Women in Technology Startups. And more women recognize that they can make a worthwhile contribution to healthcare, say, or the environment through launching a small business. Of course, since so many marketable innovations spring from engineering, it would help to have more women engineers to begin with.
An irony of technological advances is that they can occasionally cause an unforeseen slide backward. That’s the case with public-opinion polling, as our feature “Margin of Error” describes. Back when every household used a landline and we had no idea who was calling us, pollsters could readily find out what people thought. But in an era of unlisted cellphones with caller ID, the response rate has plummeted, resulting in less reliable polls and a polling industry with egg on its face. While at present this is mostly a social science story, it ought to be an engineering story. At a time of ever more sophisticated data analytics, it’s strange that face-to-face interviews remain the gold standard of public-opinion research.
We hope you find the December Prism interesting. Please send us your comments. Happy holidays from all of us at ASEE.