When your headline is "EE schools: Where are the girls?" (Sept. 26, page 1), you continue to perpetuate one aspect of the problem. I'm sure you wouldn't refer to the male students in college or graduate school as boys. I guess I should be thankful you didn't call the women "coeds" (a term from the '50s and '60s that implied less serious students, just as the use of "girls" connotes less serious engineering students).
I received my BS in civil engineering in 1974 from Tufts University College of Engineering (Medford, Mass.). I was one of five women engineering students graduating that year. I then worked for five years for Turner Construction Co. (New York) as an engineer on construction sites, doing construction management.
In 1980, while pursuing an MBA at UC Berkeley, I researched women in engineering schools for Kaiser Aluminum, a corporation that wanted to make a concerted effort to hire more women engineering graduates. The statistics I uncovered showed that the percentages of women in engineering programs were higher at the more-competitive colleges, schools that recruited from the more-competitive high schools. But nowhere did I find more than 20 percent of an engineering school to be female, and in most cases, the percentages were in the single digits. I read your article, hoping to see significant improvement; instead, the statistics are only a few percentage points higher than they were 25 years ago.
The gender gap will shrink only when active mentoring programs reach down into the middle schools, changing the perception of engineering in general and specifically encouraging girls to think of becoming engineers.
Zankowsky & Associates
Castro Valley, Calif.
Taiwan prospers, China bullies
Re. "The other China opportunity" by Rick Merritt (Oct. 10, page 4): I was pleasantly surprised to see someone from the business community call for political reform in China. There seems to be a gold rush mentality about China that has completely forgotten what happened in Tiananmen Square.
I have visited Taiwan on business about half a dozen times and found the Taiwanese very friendly. I resent the way China bullies them and forces them to endure a second-class citizenship in the diplomatic arena.
The Taiwanese have built a prosperous, thriving democracy with about the same political freedom and personal liberty that I enjoy [in the United States]. Taiwan presents an unflattering contrast to China, which is why China wants it back under its wing.
Smart cars can erase distractions
I wish Ron Wilson's editorial "Whizzy cars, dizzy drivers" (Sept. 26, page 4) could be read by every politician and "safety expert" who argues that we need more (expensive) technology to save us from ourselves. So much time, effort and money is put into these projects that essentially do what the human brain is exquisitely designed to do, but is so often distracted from.
The parallel effort to add more distractions-TV, e-mail, cell phones, navigation systems that require manual inputs-only increases the probability that a person will change lanes into someone else, run a red light or stop sign, weave over several lanes, hit a pedestrian, etc., because they are distracted from the real job of driving a deadly weapon on wheels.
As long as we are going to have all this telematics equipment in our vehicles, I'd like to take the concept further-I'd like to see cars that drive themselves, using artificial intelligence to "see" the road, lights, stop signs, pedestrians, etc., and allow the driver to relax and make the phone calls, check e-mail or whatever.
This will probably not happen in my lifetime. In the meantime, perhaps we should be giving some autonomy to the systems.
We already have stability enhancement for higher-end (and some midrange) cars that actively controls throttle and brake to help prevent skids and rollovers. Why not engineer a blind-spot system to not allow you to change lanes?
Mr. Gasket Inc.
Carson City, Nev.