Meet Mary Anne Thygesen
On Joining PDXWIT
Mary Anne joined PDXWIT when the group was just getting started, back when the group met in hotel bars. Mary Anne has many years of experience working with math and computers. She recently designed the survey for PDXWIT and would love to share how her use of questions and data will nurture community and chart future goals.
On Math and Computing
“I am a curious person always asking why; I cannot remember a time when I didn’t like math. My dad is an engineer and he made sure I knew my math facts.
I was always in trouble in school, and my dad backed the teachers — except when it came to math. I got in trouble for reading the back of my first grade math book, the second grade part, asking what the division symbol was. My dad didn't scold me; instead, he taught me division. When I was in junior high they tried to track me out of math. He went to the school and told them to put me back in algebra.
I also got into trouble for arguing with the teachers, spending my short time in school vexing them. I graduated early. When I moved on to community college, I soon ran out of math and science classes to take, so I went to Oregon State.
Although I felt like a kid in a candy store at OSU in terms of my choices to study math, I wasn't prepared for the sexual harassment that came with being a woman in a field of study dominated by men. This is why smart women's groups are so important to me. Together, we help other women cope, deal with the bias and discrimination we face, and get back in the game.
When I started my career, computers were the huge, clunky computers that you talked to with punch cards and tape. Math was done on slide rules and eventually HP programmable calculators. When the first personal computers came out, I didn't like the early PCs because they didn't have enough power for math. Then the Macintosh came along and changed everything — enough power for math and desktop publishing. Things just took off from there. Today, even our phones are amazing.”
On the PDXWIT Survey
“I spent years designing questionnaires for medical research, mostly in the area of epidemiology (the study of how disease spreads and can be controlled). For the PDXWIT questionnaire, I started with the answers we needed and then chose the questions, guided by the gentle techniques used in social science to get information. The first section asks for the person’s job title in three questions. The survey results from the community will help me determine whether “creative,” non-standardized job titles—which are everywhere in tech companies these days — are subtlety discriminatory. By matching job titles to SOC classifications and comparing results to census data on wage gaps, we can begin to see if women in PDXWIT are being paid fair wages. The second part of the survey looks at how well PDXWIT events programming is meeting the needs of the group, while the 3rd section assesses how well we are treating each other. Asking the women of PDXWIT for their input allows our leadership to better fulfill the PDXWIT mission as we grow.
Data clarifies what we see and experience, sometimes surprising us along the way.
It is especially important to me that PDXWIT grows into the most welcoming and accepting place it can be, which is why I want everyone who is part of PDXWIT to understand that completing the survey is important to the future of PDXWIT.