Having just finished Energy of Nations by Jeremy Leggett I was struck by an argument I hadn’t internalized before. I’d always viewed fossil fuel consumption as bounded by the capacity for discovery and extraction. Future reserves would be more difficult to harvest and as such total output would eventually fall. However, the point made in the book that was eye opening is that regardless of harvest capabilities, mankind can’t afford to extract all of the fossil fuels because the total carbon output would be too severe for the climate.
This sets up an unfortunate problem — mankind is likely to continue extracting as much as we can and the boundary where extraction limits start to come into play is far too dangerous for the climate. Ouch.
After day one of the 2014 NCWIT Summit, I was amazed by the progress being made through the various educational stages all the way through college and into the workforce. However, one place that has been difficult to tackle is in the workforce. Mid-career attrition by technical women is hard to quantify as many companies don’t share data but is worrying from the data we do have. Women are not stopping out of the workforce as some might initially suspect due to having children but instead many are changing careers. While hard to generalize, one hypothesis is that they encounter both overt and subtle resistance, challenging environments and difficulty getting promoted. When they switch, rather than becoming role models for other women in technical careers, they create even more vacuum. Many companies are reluctant to share the information they are getting about why these women are leaving or changing jobs — we need them to start opening up and helping to address this issue. One other off the wall idea is to work with LinkedIn on a data-mining project to determine when women leave technical jobs and statistics by company to being to infer potential factors.