@Jennifer- We all have built-in biases, preconceived notions, prejudices, etc. I'm no different (and I hate PC talk). But I was surprised that your biases came through (especially as a female engineer), and very disappointed by the disingenous back-pedaling when you were called on it by several people.
That said, I agree it's great to focus on accomplishments of Engineers early in their career... most are under 40, but not all.
The litmus test- is the headline of your blog acceptable for a recruitment ad? Does "We want the Top 40 Male engineers" work for the next contest?
@kenish: There is no shortage of male engineers, or of opportunities for recognition of male engineers, so "Top 40 Male Engineers" would not be a very good contest.
Given the fact that most engineers are male, a list of the top 40 male engineers would not look very different from a list of the top 40 engineers overall. Assuming that talent is equally distributed among women and men, and that 80% of engineers are male, the lists of top 40 overall engineers and top 40 male engineers would only differ by 8 names out of 40. This would not make for very interesting reading.
On the other hand, "Top 40 Female Engineers" would be an interesting list, since it would provide recognition to a significant number of people whose accomplishments might not otherwise be recognized. Furthermore, it might help encourage more young women to consider engineering as a career.
Right now, engineers over 40 outnumber engineers under 40 by a significant margin. There is a need to encourage more young people to consider engineering careers. This is why a "Top 40 Under 40" contest could be valuable.
That being said, the contributions of older engineers are often overlooked, so a "Top 50 Over 50" (or "Top 55 Over 55") might also be valuable.
I am sure the contest is well intended. I would suggest, however, doing away with the limitation by age (under 40). I do not understand the purpose of that. For example, you would not run a contest to select the "top 40 male engineers" or the "top 40 caucasian engineers".
Here is an excerpt from my email to Lauren Muskett on 9/28:
"The "40 Under 40 Nominations" sponsored by Mouser and Design News is highly offensive. Nowhere else in society is it acceptable to discriminate based on age or otherwise yet Mouser and Design News finds it acceptable to do such a thing. Why isn't there just a plain top 40 without regard to age? This is much like awards for black engineers, women engineers, Hispanic engineers... It is the usual double standard. Caucasian middle-aged men must compete with everyone while other "groups" get preferential treatment, awards, hiring, and so on. Society, of which you are a part, claims to want equality while they really want to segregate and discriminate."
Lauren's response was "We are sorry that you FEEL (my emphasis) that way. Our mindset behind this contest was not to discriminate, rather we want to honor the younger generation for their achievements, and let them know that their hard work has not gone unnoticed. If you've followed the trends in the engineering industry over the last decade or so, you've seen that fewer engineers are graduating from US universities and the number outside the US is growing at a higher rate. That's one of the reasons that various groups have popped up to try and get our younger generaton interested and excited about engineering."
So, as usual, discrimination for a particular group is considered acceptable. Odd (sarcastically) yet not an unexpected response given that Lauren is, from her photograph, apparently not a middle-aged caucasian male. It is not that "(I) feel that way." It is fact that THIS CONTEST CLEARLY DISCRIMINATES BASED ON AGE. No one would ever get away with having nominations for caucasian middle-aged males. Because everyone else would "feel" that is discriminatory! The country needs renewed interest in the engineering industry and education - not by a particular group of people but by all people.
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