Expanding inclusion in tech: Jennifer Mangold works to empower others
Jennifer Mangold, the Innovation Coach for the Fung Fellowship for Wellness and Technology Innovations, was recently appointed Program Manager for the Women in Technology Initiative (WITI@UC). We had an opportunity to talk with Jennifer about WITI@UC, her take on what is needed on-campus to support the inclusion of women in technical fields, and her own career path that led her to work with students at the intersection of health, technology, and design.
What is WITI@UC and why does UCB need this initiative?
WITI@UC was launched in 2017 to promote inclusive and equitable opportunities and environments for women in engineering and computer science fields. WITI@UC primarily serves as a resource and advocate, bringing together students, faculty and researchers with entrepreneurs and industry stakeholders to address diversity and equity across sectors.
UC Berkeley has definitely made strides and has realized a significant increase in admission and graduation rates for women in technical degrees over the last decade. This past academic year there was a 28 percent increase in the number of female students admitted to the College of Engineering. While these numbers show marked improvement of women in technical majors, the work is far from done. Beyond equal representation we need to foster inclusive environments where once admitted; students are able to thrive. That includes working with industry, to ensure that our graduates continue to experience an inclusive environment outside of the University setting.
“This past academic year there was a 28 percent increase in the number of female students admitted to the College of Engineering.”
What are some of the initiatives happening through WITI@UC?
WITI@UC supports a number of roundtable discussions and public events. In November we are hosting our 3rd annual symposium, and this year’s focus is Women in Tech: The Future of AI with keynote speakers Ellen Ullman, author of My Life in Code, and Amy Heineike, VP of Engineering at Primer.ai. These events provide opportunities for networking and community building.
WITI@UC also collaborates with other initiatives that focus on improvements in academia and industry so that we can learn from each other and leverage best practices to offer support to uniquely serve students at UC. We have been able to connect with some great programs this semester: Women in STEM Mentorship Program (WISMP) and Million Women Mentors program.
Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, we are engaging current students and student groups on-campus so we can better understand their experiences and current gaps in resources and how WITI@UC could fill those. We are creating space for students to have a voice, share their experiences, and co-design our program to ensure that the initiative addresses their real needs.
Why did you want to join WITI@UC?
I joined WITI@UC as a great opportunity to drive change within the tech ecosystem and to help UCB become a model of what academic institutions could do to support students in their educational careers and beyond. And hopefully be impactful enough so those same students will sustain successful careers and become leaders driving change in their organizations.
How does your work with WITI@UC intersect with the Fung Fellowship?
For the Fellowship, we are expanding the opportunities for students across campus to participate in meaningful ways in a space that is often not designed with them in mind. We are working to build an inclusive culture for students where equity is not a talking point but is a core value of how our program operates. We bring together students from diverse backgrounds and majors who are often underrepresented in the technology-innovation ecosystem; from engineering to architecture. We support them with mentorship, professional development, and opportunities to work in transdisciplinary teams on real-world projects with community and industry partners.
“We are working to build an inclusive culture for students where equity is not a talking point, but is a core value of how our program operates.”
Tell us about your career path and how that has shaped you.
I stumbled across engineering as an undergraduate on my original path to pursue medicine. Unsure of what I wanted to study and not really knowing what engineering was, my mom and I sat in on an info session during orientation and it was enough for me to want to explore more. Later, I realized I had made the right choice. Engineering allowed me to engage both my creative and logical self ultimately leading me to mechanical engineering and focusing on design and sustainability.
Before pursuing my PhD at Berkeley I was a process engineer at Nissan where I learned first hand the importance of continuous improvement and was the only female engineer in a department of sixty. Most female engineers have very similar experiences from classrooms to boardrooms, it is common for them to be the minority. Thinking back, I was unaware of the stark reality of the issues at hand. This is what I want to change for those students who come after me. I don’t want them to become desensitized because it is “just the way it is”. My position now allows me to interact with phenomenal students who have great ideas about how to affect change. It’s refreshing to see solutions from their perspective and even better if I can help enact some of those solutions.
“Most female engineers have very similar experiences from classrooms to boardrooms, it is common for them to be the minority.”
During my career at UCB I’ve been lucky to have mentors that advocate, support, and encourage me to challenge my own limits. The generosity and guidance from the late Dave Dornfeld, my PhD and postdoc advisor, was invaluable and allowed me to explore and have fun with research. Not an easy task. Moving into a staff role on campus, Joni Rubin has exhibited servant leadership and helped me to hone my own leadership style. They both provided a space for me to share my voice while I was still finding it. It’s important to share the truth of my journey and acknowledge it hasn’t always been easy — managing my inner critic, being outnumbered, learning to be resilient. I hope to help my students find their voice and support their journey. My door is always open.
Any Last Thoughts?
Like all transformations, this too will take conscious, continued efforts to improve. While current efforts and improvements are incredibly important they cannot be viewed as a side project while we continue to operate in a business as usual mode. Student groups and conferences for women act as support networks, but we need more education and systems thinking to create real change. If we’re not careful, we could fall short of our goals and normalize the status quo. My belief is that we can’t just rebrand our current efforts to be inclusive, we have to rebuild them.
“If we’re not careful, we could fall short of our goals and normalize the status quo. We can’t just rebrand our current efforts to be inclusive, we have to rebuild them.”
Jennifer Mangold is an Innovation Coach and Partnership Lead at Fung Fellowship for Wellness and Technology Innovations at University of California, Berkeley. Before that, she was Director of Research and Special Projects at the Lab for Manufacturing and Sustainability at the UC Berkeley. She earned her B.S, in mechanical engineering at University of Tennessee-Knoxville and her M.S. and PhD in mechanical engineering with emphasis in Design & Sustainability from University of California, Berkeley. Connect with her