Work Environments Have Traditionally Been Set Up By Men For Men

Interview with Anca Dragan, Assistant Professor: InterAct Lab, UC Berkeley


Anca Dragan is an Assistant Professor at UC Berkeley. Previously, she was in the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon for her PhD, and at Jacobs University Bremen for her B.S. in Computer Science. At Berkeley, Anca runs the Interactive Autonomy Lab. Her group's research focuses on enabling robots to coordinate and coexist with people, bringing together robotics, machine learning, and cognitive science.

We sat down with her ahead of the Women In STEM Summit, taking place in taking place in San Francisco this June 8 and 9.

How did you get started in your role? 

I liked math and CS since middle school, and during college it became really clear to me that I'd rather invent new theory and algorithms than become a software developer, so I took the research path.

What or who inspired you to pursue a career in STEM? 

It takes a village. I've had fantastic mentors, supportive parents, and great colleagues.

Female scientists & engineers make up 41% of entry and mid-level professionals, yet 52% of women in STEM quit their job by mid-career. What do you think is the biggest factor in this high attrition rate? What do you think is the solution? 

It's probably not just one factor. But I hypothesize that sometimes it's really subtle things stemming from the fact that work environments have been traditionally set up by men for men.

What advice would you give to the next generation of girls and boys looking to enter STEM? 

Take math seriously. It's not just about the content, it's also about a way of thinking. It teaches you to not just come up with a solution, but to also ask yourself if it's the right solution.

What will you be discussing in your presentation? 

We'll discuss how to make robots generate their behavior in a way that accounts not only for their task or function, but also for their end-users.

You can hear more from Anca, along with other leading women in STEM industries, at the Women In STEM Summit. To register your interest, click here.

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