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Oral-History:Martha Sloan

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<p>Yes. That actually was one of the paths where I came into IEEE. My Ph.D. dissertation was on the Cosine Committee, which was a very early committee trying to get more computers and computing into electrical engineering education. It involved a lot of big names in the field, so to speak, including Ed McCluskey at Stanford, who was in the Electrical Engineering Department and came on my committee. That was a great thing. I set that up, and I was able to do most of the research. When I was back at Michigan Tech teaching I did a series of about forty phone interviews with electrical engineering educators across the country asking various questions about what they knew about the Cosine Committee, what their computer involvement had been before and after that committee's actions and so forth. </p>
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<p>Yes. That actually was one of the paths where I came into IEEE. My Ph.D. dissertation was on the Cosine Committee, which was a very early committee trying to get more computers and computing into electrical engineering education. It involved a lot of big names in the field, so to speak, including [[Edward McCluskey|Ed McCluskey]] at Stanford, who was in the Electrical Engineering Department and came on my committee. That was a great thing. I set that up, and I was able to do most of the research. When I was back at Michigan Tech teaching I did a series of about forty phone interviews with electrical engineering educators across the country asking various questions about what they knew about the Cosine Committee, what their computer involvement had been before and after that committee's actions and so forth. </p>
  
 
=== IEEE Membership &amp; Involvement  ===
 
=== IEEE Membership &amp; Involvement  ===
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<p>'''Sloan:''' </p>
  
<p>Professional registration. I got involved in that the first year I was Division Director. As it came up from time to time, IEEE wanted to take a position on professional engineering registration. They did not want to make it mandatory because they have lost so many of their members. However it was highly encouraged to a degree that the Computer Society felt very comfortable with it, to give you a little bit of background from the Computer Society perspective. Particularly at that time the PE Exam was taken by almost no computer-oriented people, including people who thought of themselves as, as computer engineers. Historically professional registration has been necessary for civil engineers for example so they can sign off on things, but electrical engineering largely was done in corporations and as long as someone in responsibility was a professional engineer and could sign the vast majority – at least as we perceived it, and I can't remember the statistics anymore – of electrical engineers were not professionally registered. There was a periodic effort to encourage registration, and the Computer Society opposed it. I think it was probably at my very first Board of Directors meeting that they decided to convene an ad hoc committee of both pro and anti to discuss this issue. I volunteered for that and soon found myself in a room with Past Presidents like [[John Guarrera|John Guarrera]] and [[Richard Gowen|Dick Gowen]], who are very impressive and powerful people in their own right in terms of advocating positions. We debated this, and the upshot of it basically was that the proposal that the Computer Society found threatening did not go through IEEE. </p>
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<p>Professional registration. I got involved in that the first year I was Division Director. As it came up from time to time, IEEE wanted to take a position on professional engineering registration. They did not want to make it mandatory because they would have lost so many of their members. However it was highly encouraged to a degree that the Computer Society felt very comfortable with it, to give you a little bit of background from the Computer Society perspective. Particularly at that time the PE Exam was taken by almost no computer-oriented people, including people who thought of themselves as, as computer engineers. Historically professional registration has been necessary for civil engineers for example so they can sign off on things, but electrical engineering largely was done in corporations and as long as someone in responsibility was a professional engineer and could sign the vast majority – at least as we perceived it, and I can't remember the statistics anymore – of electrical engineers were not professionally registered. There was a periodic effort to encourage registration, and the Computer Society opposed it. I think it was probably at my very first Board of Directors meeting that they decided to convene an ad hoc committee of both pro and anti to discuss this issue. I volunteered for that and soon found myself in a room with Past Presidents like [[John Guarrera|John Guarrera]] and [[Richard Gowen|Dick Gowen]], who are very impressive and powerful people in their own right in terms of advocating positions. We debated this, and the upshot of it basically was that the proposal that the Computer Society found threatening did not go through IEEE. </p>
  
 
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<p>You are more than welcome. This was a lot of fun. It brought back some memories. I'm sorry I could not speak more about what was important to me as President.</p>
 
<p>You are more than welcome. This was a lot of fun. It brought back some memories. I'm sorry I could not speak more about what was important to me as President.</p>
  
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Revision as of 15:22, 12 September 2013

Contents

About Martha Sloan

Martha Sloan received a BSEE  an MSEE and a PhD from Stanford University. After two years of working at Lockheed Corporation Sloan moved to work at Michigan Technological University. In 1993, she became the first female President of the IEEE. In this interview, Sloan speaks about her early education, inspiration and journey toward engineering, as well as her involvement with the IEEE Computer Society, of which she became President in 1984. Her reflections include important issues in the history of American computer engineering – including interactions between the Computer Society and the Association for Computer Machinery (ACM), accreditation for computer sciences, controversies over professional registration of computer engineers and the differences between computer engineers and computer scientists. She also reflects extensively on the gendered aspects of being a woman in engineering – on her experience of running for elections at the IEEE, and the rising but peaked numbers of women in engineering. The interview also includes important anecdotes about her meetings with Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin.

About the Interview

MARTHA SLOAN: An Interview Conducted by John Vardalas, IEEE History Center, 19 June 2009

Interview #505 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.

Copyright Statement

This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.

Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:

Martha Sloan, an oral history conducted in 2009 by John Vardalas, IEEE History Center, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.


Interview

INTERVIEWEE: Martha Sloan

INTERVIEWER: John Vardalas

DATE: 19 June 2009

PLACE: Burlingame, California

Family Background and Education

Vardalas:

I have the honor of interviewing Martha Sloan. Thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview as part of our project on Past Presidents of IEEE.

Sloan:

You're very welcome. I appreciate the opportunity.

Vardalas:

Excellent. What I would like to do first is get a general understanding about the person that became President of IEEE. Can you say something about your family background and education leading up to university?

Sloan:

I was born in Aurora, Illinois. My father was an obstetrician and my mother was a homemaker as was typical at that time. I had a younger brother. I turned out to be very interested in math and science and very good at it, and when it came time for college I ended up at Stanford University. That happened by a rather strange path. It was simply because my best friend from 8th grade moved out to Los Altos and invited me for a spring vacation that following year and showed me the campus. And that was that. It was lucky that Stanford turned out to be a very good school. It was the campus that brought me.

I intended to major in physics, but three things caused me to go into engineering and particularly into electrical engineering. One was that my father recommended that I go into engineering. The second reason was that I had gone to something called the National High School Institute run by Northwestern University the summer before I was a senior in high school. We were introduced to a lot of different science and engineering experiences at that, and the electrical engineering part happened to be A.C. circuits, and I fell in love with them. They were just so beautiful. Finally, the third thing was that after I had been accepted by Stanford, Stanford wrote and said, "If you are thinking of going into engineering, start out in engineering because you can transfer out without loss of credit, but if you transfer in then it's likely to take more time." Putting the three things together, and in particular the Northwestern experience in A.C. circuits, I went into electrical engineering. I have never regretted it.

Vardalas:

Obviously you had a very early interest in science and math and showed talent in it. Did you receive family encouragement? Did you have any role models? Did this love of science and math come by itself or was there an influence from others?

Sloan:

It probably came from my parents. Both of my parents originally majored in chemistry. My dad as part of pre-med, and my mother up to the point where she went to four different colleges. Finally, in order to graduate more or less on time, she had to switch from chemistry to English and got a degree in English. However basically her interest was in chemistry. I had two parents who were interested in chemistry. That was probably the main factor.

Experience as a Woman in Engineering at Stanford and MIT

Vardalas:

What were your experiences like in engineering as probably the only female undergraduate in engineering and staff at that time? What was it like for you?

Sloan:

It was difficult. The early years, particularly the freshman year, I was mainly taking math, physics and chemistry. There were a number of girls who were majoring in chemistry or physics. In fact in my junior year I had a roommate who was majoring in physics. We had what are now called study groups and such, but as soon as I went into engineering, there I was, the only female. Luckily I had a lot of friends. I did a lot of different things at the campus radio station and this naturally threw me in with a lot of electrical engineering students. They became my buddies so to speak and we worked on classes and things together, and that helped a lot.

Vardalas:

The experience wasn't that bad in terms of social interaction and in terms of how you were treated as a woman in engineering by fellow students.

Sloan:

No. I really felt very well accepted there. Going on into graduate school at Stanford I was on the Honors Co-op Program working in communications research and Lockheed missiles and space, including Palo Alto Research Laboratories by campus. There too my fellow employees had taken the most of the same courses I was taking the year before and were very, very helpful. When I went on for my Ph.D. at MIT I fell into a very different community and felt very, very isolated there.

Vardalas:

Really?

Sloan:

Yes.

Vardalas:

Is that a university cultural thing or was that the staff? Was your experience the same at Stanford?

Sloan:

I was already well-established at Stanford. There were two things. For one thing, I certainly do not blame MIT. They were ahead of themselves in making special accommodations for women. The summer between my junior and senior years at Stanford, my parents encouraged me to spend the summer at MIT. I stayed in a dormitory that MIT had that was strictly for women, and it was ideally located. It was directly across Massachusetts Avenue from the main entrance of MIT. It could not possibly have been closer. I had a roommate there who was interesting. She was from China. She was married and had a son in China and was not going to see that child for five years while she did her Ph.D.

This acquainted me with a very strong commitment in that case. It was not MIT's fault. In addition to this dorm for women students they had a lounge room that was fairly centrally located in the main building that was for women students. It was a very big room, probably twice or more as big as this hotel room, with a kitchenette kind of thing. That was sort of my home away from home between classes when I came back several years later as a graduate student. I had no women in my classes, and I was not successful in finding friends among the men, which had been so easy at Stanford. That was partly because I had started off at the radio station. A complicating factor might be a dominant reason was that I was pregnant that year. My first child was born in May. The other women said, "You have to realize that in the culture of many of these students here once a woman becomes pregnant, she barely leaves the house except to go to the doctor or to church on Sunday. These guys just do not know how to handle not only a woman in their classes but a pregnant woman in their classes." That might have been part of it.

Vardalas:

Okay. Did you do your doctorate at MIT or Stanford?

Sloan:

No. That was enough for me at that point. It was an unpleasant experience, I had a new baby and my husband had taken a job in Germany, I went over to Germany for two and a half years. At that point I was not sure what I was going to do in the future. Then fast-forwarding to a few years later, I found myself with a different husband at an engineering university in a small town where about the only jobs available were for engineers. While I was in Germany I did not do any engineering. My German was not good enough to allow me to get a job in a German firm. Fortuitously I picked up a job teaching 7th and 8th grade math and science. I enjoyed that. I enjoyed the people contact. The two years I had at Lockheed doing research, particular at first, while I was waiting to get my security clearance, I had the feeling that they would hand me a problem and say, "Come back in three months when you have this solved."

It did not satisfy my social needs that I felt pretty isolated much of that time. Then I had the year at MIT, which was not an encouraging year. However the couple years teaching what we now call middle school kids was very rewarding. I liked working with kids. The first year I was learning and the second year I was able to improve on what I was doing, but I could see that within not too many more years I would become bored because there was a lack of challenge technically. Then my life seems to be a series of fortuitous events. I fell into a job teaching engineering at Michigan Tech. At that point I had only a master's degree and the year at MIT. It was beyond a master's degree, but it was a different time. The university had two openings and only three applications all year, so they hired me even though I didn't have a Ph.D. I started doing that and just loved it. It satisfied my need for technical challenge and my need for social interaction. After a couple of years I went back to Stanford and worked on my doctorate. That just seemed to be the best way to do it.

Motherhood and Doctoral Research at Stanford

Vardalas:

Okay. Just for the sake of completeness, in what area was your doctorate?

Sloan:

I realized it was a second-rate path. I talked to some of my friends on the faculty of Electrical Engineering, some of whom advised me not to do it, but it was done mainly to minimize the time I was spending away from my husband. My department didn't care. A Ph.D. was all I needed. They didn't care what it was in.

Vardalas:

It must have been tough doing this with a child. Did the child come with you?

Sloan:

Yes. She came with me. She was my kid.

Vardalas:

Oh, from the first marriage.

Sloan:

Yes. And if you talked to her, you would find that it was one of the best years of her life. It really was great. It was great for all of us. I was living in married student housing in Escondido Village right on the campus. It was a great atmosphere. There were eight families that shared a backyard and did a lot of things together. Most every day somebody would bring a grill out and everyone was welcome to put stuff on the grill. Everybody took care of themselves. If I had an evening class or an evening meeting or something, I could leave her in good hands without having a babysitter. She could stay with one of the neighbors.

She went to Escondido Elementary School and there basically I got her to skip a grade. She had finished first grade in Houghton, but first grade at that time had a special program where you had a homeroom but you were placed in reading and math at whatever level you were functioning. Therefore she in first grade was put in second grade reading and math. When I brought her to Escondido they had a combined 2nd and 3rd classroom, and that seemed right, so she picked up a year during that year. When I took her back to a different school district back home I entered her in 4th grade. At any rate, she had a great time.

Vardalas:

Did your area of research in Education have to do with engineering education?

Sloan:

Yes. That actually was one of the paths where I came into IEEE. My Ph.D. dissertation was on the Cosine Committee, which was a very early committee trying to get more computers and computing into electrical engineering education. It involved a lot of big names in the field, so to speak, including Ed McCluskey at Stanford, who was in the Electrical Engineering Department and came on my committee. That was a great thing. I set that up, and I was able to do most of the research. When I was back at Michigan Tech teaching I did a series of about forty phone interviews with electrical engineering educators across the country asking various questions about what they knew about the Cosine Committee, what their computer involvement had been before and after that committee's actions and so forth.

IEEE Membership & Involvement

Vardalas:

Okay. I see you became a member of IEEE in 1971. Is that when you went to work for Michigan Tech?

Sloan:

As we discussed earlier before we began the formal interview, I had been in IEEE much earlier.

Vardalas:

Oh, right. Tell me about that.

Sloan:

Okay. I don't have exact dates. Some of them are lost in the mist of time and since I had three different names during the time I think the IEEE records may not show that. I got involved in IEEE, actually its predecessors, IRE and AIEE as a student member at Stanford. In my junior year I was Secretary of the joint Stanford Student Branch.

That would have been '59-'60. I kept up my membership. Some of the IEEE meetings are coming back to me. I went to meetings held in the evening particularly when I was working for Lockheed. I am pretty sure I dropped membership when I was over in Germany and at that time being a middle school teacher and not knowing what my future might involve. However as soon as I got back to Michigan Tech I think I joined it. Your records say '71. I would have thought I would have joined it in '69.

Vardalas:

Maybe it was the change of name. If I search under another name I might find it.

Sloan:

Right. I will give you those names in case that will help you.

Vardalas:

Let's go back to when you were a student member. What motivates a student to say, "I want to join IEEE"? Were you encouraged by faculty? Why did you decide, "I am going to join IEEE"?

Sloan:

I had gotten involved with the student radio station KZSU, which naturally brought me into close contact with a lot of other electrical engineering students most of whom were a year ahead of me. They were in IEEE and so I was in IEEE and they were my fellow officers. It was just that. Probably you could find Stanford professors now retired that say, "Every single class I recommended people to join IEEE," so I probably was exposed to kind of thing. However, in my case at least, it was the camaraderie of having friends who were joining it.

Vardalas:

I see that you became President-Elect of the Computer Society in 1983 and President in 1984. That was a culmination of other things you did earlier than that. Can you recall what volunteer work you did and what challenges you faced leading up to the being President of the Computer Society?

Sloan:

Okay. We will focus on the Computer Society since that is your question. At some point I want to go back to talk about my involvement in regional and educational activities.

Vardalas:

Okay.

Sloan:

There were sort of three separate paths that got me into IEEE, but the Computer Society ended up being the overwhelming one. My dissertation was on the impact of the Cosine Society on Electrical Engineering Education. I think that was the formal title, or something very close to that. The February after I had completed my dissertation, which would have been February of '74 there was a Computer Society meeting, COMPCON, that was held in San Francisco. For many years – which was very good for my professional development or my Society involvement – it always happened to be during the break between our quarters at Michigan Tech, Therefore I could go the full week without missing any classes. I was at that, and a guy named Merlin Smith, the incoming President of the Computer Society came up to me and said, "I understand from Ed McCluskey that you've done this fabulous study of computer engineering education. You've got to come to our Computer Society Educational Committee and tell us about it." He got me involved with that.

Running for Office at the IEEE

Sloan:

He became President a year later and put me on the Board of Governors of the Computer Society as the first woman on that Board. I think that same year or shortly thereafter he made me Treasurer, which meant I was the first woman on the Executive Committee. That got me involved in the Computer Society. I became more and more involved and went more or less through the ranks of the Computer Society. I think what happened was that Merlin had appointed me to the Board of Governors and by the next year we had gone to elections for the Board members. Memory fades. At any rate, I continued getting elected to the Board of Governors though it had started as an appointed position, and then ran successfully for Second Vice President, First Vice President and so forth.

Vardalas:

When you say you ran, there was actually an election?

Sloan:

Yes. By the time I got really involved – maybe not the first year, but very soon thereafter members of the Board of Governors were elected for I think two-year terms. First Vice President, Second Vice President and President were elected for one-year terms.

I was nominated for the two Vice President positions and won them. I was not nominated for President, although I felt at that time I was very well qualified for that. Therefore I ran as a Petition Candidate. This became rather interesting because I became a part a sort of maverick group. Not only did I run a petition for President, but someone else ran petition for First Vice President. If memory serves me correctly, roughly five people ran as petition candidates for the Board of Governors. I remember Irv Engelson, who was long director of Technical Activities, telling me what, what a shock it was at IEEE headquarters when they found out that the Computer Society had been taken over by these mavericks with the President, First Vice President and four of the five who had run petition for Board of Governors all being elected the same year.

There were people in the Computer Society that felt the Computer Society was going to fall apart. There were a number of people that said, "I'm not going to work if we have a petition President," although many of those within a matter of days were contacting me, indicating that they would be very happy if I would appoint them to this, that or the other. I think that it actually worked well. At that time Presidents could succeed themselves for a second year, and I was nominated officially and not a petition candidate for the second year.

Vardalas:

Let me take you back down this road of running as a petition candidate. First of all you said this raised quite a hub-bub. Was anyone saying, "Oh, that's what happens. You have this woman running for President and now she's a troublemaker, this maverick," or was that not an issue?

Sloan:

I suspect that was one of the issues, but anything like that was behind my back.

Vardalas:

If you ran as a petition candidate then obviously you must have had a platform. You must have had some issues you wanted to put forward. Do you remember what it was that you wanted to change or do? Was it as clear-cut as that?

Sloan:

It's hard to say. I'd have to go back to Computer Magazine that ran the election statements to see.

Vardalas:

Were there any challenges facing the Computer Society then? Do you recall what kind of, what kind of issues the Computer Society was facing around the time you were on the Board of Governors and then Vice President and President? Were there any big issues or hot button issues then that the Society was facing in the early '80s?

Sloan:

To be honest and frank about it, I thought I was being overlooked because of my gender even though I was very well qualified. However if you were to compare my statement with my opponent's statement, who was a very distinguished professor at UC Berkeley and a true gentleman, very, very nice to me, I felt bad about running against him. He was a very distinguished individual, but he had had almost no involvement in the Computer Society and particularly at the Board of Governors level. I felt that the difference in qualifications really, really stood out.

Vardalas:

Who did you run against?

Sloan:

C. B. Rammamorthy

Vardalas:

Okay. You just did it because they overlooked you and you decided to give a fight.

Sloan:

Right. I don't think I felt differently in terms of the challenge to the Computer Society having to do with growing conferences and having to do with our relationship with AFIPS, which was the American Federation of Information Processing Societies. AFIPS died a few years after that. I don't think I felt differently from the majority.

Work with the IEEE Computer Society

Vardalas:

This was a time of rapid growth for the Computer Society.

Sloan:

Oh yes. Very rapid growth.

Vardalas:

Were there any particular challenges about this rapid growth?

Sloan:

There certainly were challenges vis-à-vis IEEE. We were beginning to be regarded as the 800-lb. gorilla in the room. At about that period of time we pressed to have a second division. There were ten technical divisions at that time. We had Division 5, which was only one, and yet we had 80,000 to 90,000 members, which was way, way out of proportion to many of these Societies that only had hundreds of members or small thousands of members. We felt that we needed more representation. We won that and got more representation. We still didn't have proportional representation, but that's the way it goes.

Relationship between the IEEE Computer Society and the ACM

Vardalas:

I see. Were there any issues with the ACM?

Sloan:

Not really. We got along very, very well with the ACM throughout that period of time.

Vardalas:

Was it common for people to be members of the Computer Society and ACM at the same time?

Sloan:

Oh yes. And each Society gave a $5 discount, and does to this day, to the other. They have not increased it with inflation.

Vardalas:

The membership overlaps a lot?

Sloan:

They overlap a lot. We had lots of, of communal kinds of things, particularly in the engineering realm. We developed a series of curricula over the years that were ACM/IEEE Computer Society-recommended curricula. I would say that our relationships were very, very good.

Work with the IEEE Computer Society (Contd.)

Vardalas:

I noticed that your first year with the Computer Society must have been quite an intense year because in '83-'84 you were on a lot of committees. I have you listed as on the Executive Committee, Nominations Committee, Standing Committee, Operations Committee, Finance Committee and others. It must have been quite a hectic time for you.

Sloan:

Most of these came automatically with the post in which I was in '84.

Vardalas:

Right, but it must have taken a lot of your time and energy.

Sloan:

It took a lot of time. Yes.

Vardalas:

How did your university feel about this?

Sloan:

They were very, very supportive. They liked having Michigan Tech's name connected in that way. I could not have asked for better.

Vardalas:

Were you were given time off as a kind of sabbatical?

Sloan:

Not at that time. The year that I was President of IEEE they basically gave me the year off informally. They didn't even require that I take a sabbatical. This was very good. They knew that I had gone through a very difficult period starting in February of 1986 that lasted three and a half years. My husband had a very severe stroke and was institutionalized. Basically he could neither speak nor move for all that period of time. That was very difficult. He then died. By the time I became IEEE President he been dead for a few years, but the cost of keeping him in a nursing home for most of the three and a half years had a huge financial impact. There was a little bit that Medicare picked up the first nine months he was in the hospital. And just about that time I was moving into IEEE at the Executive Committee level. Then I became President. If I had taken a sabbatical I would have had to go down to half salary. Essentially without any papers being written or anything the university released me from all teaching committee and other responsibilities for the year. It was very good of them.

Reflections on Women in the IEEE and in Engineering

Vardalas:

You mentioned that there were three ways you got into IEEE. One was the Computer Society another one was Education. What was the third one?

Sloan:

The Region.

Vardalas:

The Region. Would you say something about the Education involvement?

Sloan:

I'd like to speak about the Region first, since that was first chronologically.

Vardalas:

Please.

Sloan:

Shortly after I finished my Ph.D. or somewhere around that time – I'll have to look it up, but certainly while I was a Michigan Tech faculty member I got a call from Al Read who was then a Professor at Iowa State and was then Director of Region 4. This was in a time when IEEE was becoming aware of women in electrical engineering and wanting to increase their involvement. Along that line, he invited me to join the Board of Directors of Region 4 as an At Large Member with responsibilities for women. And at that time there was a group called COMPOW, the Committee On Professional Opportunities for Women. That had just been established or was established about that time. At any rate, I was supposed to represent women's interests on the Board. This was of great interest to me, in seeing how IEEE worked and so forth. The Board meetings were always in Chicago, which happened to be fairly convenient for me to attend.

Vardalas:

Do you mean the Board of Region 4?

Sloan:

The Board of Directors for Region 4 met in Chicago. I became involved and realized what IEEE was doing. At that time we didn't really have a Section. Well, we were in the Northeast Wisconsin Section, which at that time covered pretty much all of the upper peninsula of Michigan which is where I'm located and down to just north of Milwaukee. A lot of the meetings were held very close to Milwaukee. It didn't go to Milwaukee. After all, this was northeastern Wisconsin. Occasionally a meeting would be held in Green Bay, which is 200 miles from Houghton, but usually they were held more 400 to 500 miles from Houghton. Needless to say, we didn't have any involvement. With that participation on the Board I established a sub-section which was basically for Michigan Tech and people in the area. I have forgotten how large it was geographically. I guess we went, uh, towards Marquette which is a 100 miles away. I got that sub-section established so we could have a local branch of IEEE so that in addition to faculty members talking to each other we could bring in people in the power company and so forth and have a certain community.

Vardalas:

You were brought in with IEEE realizing that more attention needed to be paid to women's issues in engineering.

Sloan:

Right.

Vardalas:

Did you ever feel that you were being used as a poster child for women in engineering? Did you feel you were taken seriously? Were you able to get things done or were you just there on a token basis?

Sloan:

It's long enough ago that I don't know what achievements the Board can claim in that area. In a way just being in the room at that time was a change. Roughly now I segue into the educational part. At the national level there was also this awareness of women. One thing IEEE did for that was to appoint the first woman on the IEEE Executive Committee. Irene Peden, who was a Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Washington. I had had some contact with Irene back when I was doing my doctoral work at Stanford. At that time the Dean of Engineering at Stanford, Joe Petit , had accepted the Presidency of Georgia Tech. He had about six months of time while he was still Dean of Engineering – lame ducks more or less, but not yet President of Georgia Tech.

I had become concerned as a graduate student about this opening. Going back to my undergraduate school, as I mentioned the year that I graduated from Stanford I was the only female undergraduate in the Stanford School of Engineering. There were 600 guys and me. The year before there had been a couple women who had graduated in chemical engineering whom I knew vaguely. For whatever reason – though we are talking about the loss of small numbers here – I was the only one that year. I had learned, or maybe not until later, that that same year, which was '61, Stanford had graduated its first woman Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering. That was Irene Peden. I did not know her at the time, When I got involved being back in graduate school I had noticed that now there were large numbers of women. I believe there were roughly seventy undergraduates and seventy graduates in the Engineering School who were women. It was great. There didn't happen to be any women in my classes, but there were more women around.

The Provost established a Search Committee for Dean of Engineering and there were no women on that search committee, although it was a fairly diverse search committee. There were students on it, and I knew at that time there were no women faculty in Engineering at Stanford although there had been before. I was aware when I was an undergraduate that there was a woman in Aerospace Engineering. I didn't have any contact with her, but it was somehow comforting and reassuring to know that there was a woman Engineering faculty member at Stanford. She was emeritus by then. Anyway, I went to a public meeting at which the Provost was speaking on some other topic. When he opened up for questions afterward I stood up and asked him why there were no women on the Search Committee for Dean of Engineering. He said something like, "We don't have any women faculty in Engineering." I said, "That's another of your problems, but you have students on this committee and there are a hundred-some women students. Don't you think there should be a woman on that?" He couldn't really answer that. I remember at the time particularly that there happened to be three African American students standing behind me and they were saying, "You've got him, you've got him."

At any rate, that was all I could do at that time. I went back to Escondido Village, to my apartment and wrote a letter explaining to him why I felt there ought to be a woman on the committee. Then it occurred to me that there was this woman that I didn't know but who was the first woman doctorate and I knew she was at the University of Washington. I called her, sight unseen, and told her the situation. As soon as she realized that I was not talking about having a woman Engineering Dean – because to both of us that would have seemed extremely premature – but simply having a woman on the committee, she said she would do what she could. She had been on the Advisory Committee at Stanford, so she had some connections there.

About a week later the Provost tracked me down to my apartment, which I had not put on my letter, and said, "I am appointing a woman to the Search Committee." I was extremely pleased, because he could very well have taken a very shy undergraduate who never said boo, but instead he took the woman who was the affirmative action officer. I'm not sure the title was the same then. He put a very strong-minded woman on the committee. And she was kind enough as names came up to call me and see what my opinion might be on them if I knew them.

Irene and I were both very pleased that the man they appointed as Dean of Engineering was what we thought as they could have found at the time. He was a man who had a wife who was a professional woman, so he understood those issues, and had four daughters and no sons. Well of course in our way of looking at things, these were things that would incline him to be sensitive to women's issues.

At any rate, Irene remembered me still sight-unseen, so when she was appointed Vice President of Educational Activities she got me on the Board, First I was on as one of her appointees and not coming through the Nominations Committee process. Within a year or two I became a regular member of the Educational Activities Board.

Vardalas:

When you were on the Activities Board what kinds of things were you advocating at the time to IEEE Education to get more women into Engineering and Education? Was there something you were pushing for? In what ways were you trying to advance this cause? Do you recall any of the discussions you had with people?

Sloan:

We were doing many of the same things that are continuing today, looking to making girls in high school aware of Engineering and what a rewarding career it could be, recruiting more, making universities more aware of what they might be able to do for women and getting together support of activities at the universities. By then of course this was now past 1964 and the Civil Rights Act. That had really opened up opportunities for women at least legally. This is a problem that has not yet been solved. I just came back from the American Society of Engineering Education at Austin where there were all kinds of events for women and discussing how to recruit more women students and how to retain more women students. That was an exciting time, because the enrollment went up from essentially less than 1 percent, as it had been when Irene and I had gone into school, into several percents and then went on up into the teens. It has now stabilized at roughly 20 percent plus or minus four decades. We were in the time saying, "Hey, look. Women are growing as members of Engineering and here is what you can do to make it better for them." Engineering Schools are reasonably receptive to increasing numbers of women students. It was a good time.

Controversy over Computer Science Accreditation at the IEEE

Vardalas:

You said that the Computer Society became the 800-lb. gorilla in the room.

Sloan:

Yes.

Vardalas:

As you transitioned over from being heavily involved in the Computer Society and started becoming more involved at IEEE corporate organization units, did you have a change in perspective about the relationship between the Computer Society and IEEE? Did you begin to see it differently after you moved from the Computer Society and occupied different positions in IEEE?

Sloan:

Yes, my perspective did change. Naturally what hat one is wearing is going to influence one's perspective. Probably of all the people who represented IEEE as a Division Director – at least during my time, I can't swear to what's happened more recently – I moved more to the IEEE position than the others. I was also the only Computer Society President who ever went on to become IEEE President. I believe that is still true but I haven't kept a close look on it. I could see more the IEEE point of view. This was not necessarily warmly welcomed by the Computer Society, but I was able to be very helpful. It during a time that the Computer Society was trying to get various things through in which I was able to be helpful. The main one was an effort with ACM to form what was called CSAB, the Computer Science Accreditation Board, so that there would accreditation for Computer Engineering that would be different from ABET. That was very controversial within IEEE. I think that happened while I was still Division Director. It took a lot of holding of hands and explaining.

Vardalas:

What exactly was the controversy? Was it felt that it could be done on the existing framework and there was no need to create another one?

Sloan:

Yes. Well, the true blue IEEE electrical engineers said they would welcome accrediting computer science but wanted to do that within ABET. However that was not acceptable to the more liberal part of the computer science community.

Vardalas:

From their perspective, why would that not have been a workable solution?

Sloan:

It was because they felt they were scientists and not engineers. It took a lot of diplomacy, which is not necessarily my greatest strength. I was very pleased and proud that we got that through.

Vardalas:

Okay. What year would that have been approximately that this came to be? Was it during your presidency?

Sloan:

No. It was prior to my presidency. I was still Division Director, so it was the late '80s. I might have moved on [unintelligible word] or something, but at any rate I felt I was guiding that through. It probably was when there was only one Technical Director for the Computer Society. Of course another thing is, you and I had talked about privately, was getting the IEEE to recognize the why due to the population of the Computer Society it should allocate it another Division Director. I think that helped both sides, because it was no longer incumbent on simply one person at the IEEE Board of Directors to argue the Computer Society viewpoint. When we had the one directorship almost no one within memory at the time had moved on to a top IEEE office.

Work with the IEEE Computer Society (Contd.)

Sloan:

There were a few times we thought we had some very strong candidates, but they didn't make it. In a Board of around thirty there was only one person in the room arguing the Computer Society viewpoint. Once we had two Division Directors we always had two people in the room. Then it became easier to get more Computer Society members as officers. Although I was the first Computer Society President to become IEEE President, the two people right after me were both extremely active Computer Society members. Tom Cain and Troy Nagle were Vice Presidents. Oddly enough, the year that I was Past President of the IEEE all three of the Presidents, the Ps as we call them –the incoming, current and outgoing Presidents were from the Computer Society, so at that point we had five people in the room minimum that were at least aware of the Computer Society viewpoints.

Vardalas:

Did they all agree when it came to issues of the Computer Society?

Sloan:

Yes.

Vardalas:

Interesting.

Controversy over Professional Registration for Computer Engineers at the IEEE

Sloan:

Yes. And to indicate another issue that has come and gone and surfaces periodically is the viewpoint on registration.

Vardalas:

Would you elaborate on that?

Sloan:

Professional registration. I got involved in that the first year I was Division Director. As it came up from time to time, IEEE wanted to take a position on professional engineering registration. They did not want to make it mandatory because they would have lost so many of their members. However it was highly encouraged to a degree that the Computer Society felt very comfortable with it, to give you a little bit of background from the Computer Society perspective. Particularly at that time the PE Exam was taken by almost no computer-oriented people, including people who thought of themselves as, as computer engineers. Historically professional registration has been necessary for civil engineers for example so they can sign off on things, but electrical engineering largely was done in corporations and as long as someone in responsibility was a professional engineer and could sign the vast majority – at least as we perceived it, and I can't remember the statistics anymore – of electrical engineers were not professionally registered. There was a periodic effort to encourage registration, and the Computer Society opposed it. I think it was probably at my very first Board of Directors meeting that they decided to convene an ad hoc committee of both pro and anti to discuss this issue. I volunteered for that and soon found myself in a room with Past Presidents like John Guarrera and Dick Gowen, who are very impressive and powerful people in their own right in terms of advocating positions. We debated this, and the upshot of it basically was that the proposal that the Computer Society found threatening did not go through IEEE.

Vardalas:

Was it essentially the Computer Society's position that this was an unnecessary obstacle to put in front of people?

Sloan:

Right. Yes. That would have been part of it. Time has passed. I don't even remember specifically what the proposal was.

Differences between Computer Science and Computer Engineering

Vardalas:

This computer science/engineering distinction is also at the core probably the relation between Computer Society and IEEE. Do you see any cultural difference – and I use that word very loosely – between computer engineers and computer scientists?

Sloan:

Yes. That is a question that's often asked and I've never done a really good job of answering it.

Vardalas:

I had a discussion with Kleinrock . He was Chair at UCLA.

Sloan:

Yes.

Vardalas:

He tried to explain to me the complications of bringing computer scientists and computer engineers in one department.

Sloan:

I can go on about this subject for hours. I'll try and boil it down.

Vardalas:

Okay.

Sloan:

Actually the bottom line is that it works in some places and it doesn't work in other places.

Vardalas:

I'd like to pursue this question of the differences between computer engineering and computer science. Are they two different cultures in terms of what they do, how they do things and how they think institutionally? In all facets. Do you see them as two different groupings?

Sloan:

I don't so much see it as two different groupings as sort of a spectrum from one end or the other.

Vardalas:

Okay.

Sloan:

Some computer scientists regard themselves as being involved in pure science. For example at my own university there have been a number of times when we have tried to merge departments. My department, which was Electrical and Computer Engineering, would have liked to merge with Computer Science. We have never been able to get them to buy into this because they see themselves as scientists.

Vardalas:

Is that a status thing? Science is better than engineering?

Sloan:

They probably in their heart of hearts think that. I'm not sure that they would be able to argue it, but they certainly can argue a difference. And yet at other universities, such Berkeley, the University of Michigan and MIT Computer Science is happy in a group that has both electrical engineers and computer engineers. Extending the spectrum thing, one could almost make a case –although not as easily – that one could go from Computer Science through Computer Engineering and on to other parts of electrical engineering. It varies a lot over the country. I knew from my doctoral dissertation on the Cosine survey that it was quite different in different places.

Vardalas:

From your past experience in the Computer Society, what was the ratio of people who consider themselves computer engineers versus computer scientists who were members of the Computer Society?

Sloan:

The bulk of them would have been computer engineers. The bulk of them had been trained as electrical engineers before there were degrees in computer engineering. Hence they felt more comfortable with electrical engineering than computer engineering. I don't know how it is today, but my guess is that probably the ratio is not as extreme. Now of course people can have degrees in computer engineering and have been able to for a long time.

Vardalas:

In the Computer Society membership, of those who are members of the Society when they you know indicate their intellectual affiliation how many would say computer engineering versus computer science? 50/50? 60/40?

Sloan:

I don't know. I'll bet that somewhere back in IEEE they have answers to that.

Vardalas:

Okay. I'll have to ask that, because I guess that is part of this distinction about "we are not engineers" and their relationship with IEEE. I'm guessing. You would have far more experience in that. I recall when I was interviewing Professor Kleinrock about the creation of ARPANET he started talking about his department. He was Chair at UCLA and he said, "I couldn't get the two solitudes together" to work on joint projects even where they shared a common interest. They couldn't get together.

Sloan:

That is unfortunate. I would say that is fairly extreme.

Vardalas:

That is really extreme? All right.

Running for Office at the IEEE (Contd.)

Vardalas:

You mentioned the two streams of education and the regional, and we went over your education involvement when you were called in to sit on the Board. Did you run for President? Were you nominated and unopposed? How did that work?

Sloan:

Well, I was once again a petition candidate.

Vardalas:

Oh, you ran as a Petition candidate.

Sloan:

I was a Petition candidate twice. The first year there were five of us running. Two of us were Petition and the other was Merrill Buckley, whose basic platform was the working engineer kind of thing.

Vardalas:

Okay.

Sloan:

One of the years the Board nominated Ed Parrish and one of the years they nominated Troy Nagle, both of whom were Computer Society people. The first year I ran there were five candidates and Merill Buckley won. Carl Bayless, who was the Past President, called and notified the winners and losers. He has a sense of humor and to tease me when he called me he said, "I bet you can't guess who won," and went through twenty questions.

Vardalas:

Before he put you out of your misery.

Sloan:

Yes. Merrill Buckley, as a Petition candidate, had finished number one, I had finished number two and the Board candidates had finished three, four and five. That was the first year. The following year I ran Petition again, which was easier to do, because by then I had become an expert on how to do it. I have forgotten how many Petition signatures one required, but my goal was 4,000 just to make sure. They supposedly go through a process where they verify all of them, which is a big clerical burden. At any rate, the second year was easier and the second year I won.

Vardalas:

Let's go back to the first time you ran. Were there any debates happening between the five people that were running?

Sloan:

Yes. The Philadelphia Section traditionally invites the candidates for President to come in. That was the interesting experience. One year my son had just gotten his driver's license and we combined the trip to Philadelphia, which was in the summer, with visiting a number of colleges in which he was interested up and down the East Coast. That was useful. It was a very pleasant experience there. They were very nice

Vardalas:

Do you remember some of the issues and difference of opinion? Do you remember what some of the positions were? Was there any specific one in which you deviated?

Sloan:

The only specific question asked only of me as opposed to the questions that were put to all the other candidates had to do with the gaps in my IEEE membership.

Vardalas:

Really?

Sloan:

Yes. Somebody had done his homework, and he was concerned about the gap when I was over in Germany. I what had happened and he seemed satisfied. That stood out in my mind because of the obvious personal side of it.

Vardalas:

Did you have a difference of opinion? Were there big differences of opinion between the candidates?

Sloan:

No. Probably the biggest difference was the first year with Merrill Buckley, who was really big on working engineers. He really owned that position. The rest of us were mostly university professors and were not well-equipped to claim that position. I think if you compare most of the candidates' positions in any given year there is not a lot of difference. Everyone is for more technical publications, more internationalism and more this, that, and the other.

Reflections on Women in the IEEE and in Engineering (Contd.)

Vardalas:

What do you think swings the vote from one candidate to another if they are all along the same theme? For example when you won, what do you think got you the vote?

Sloan:

Being a woman.

Vardalas:

Oh.

Sloan:

That's what I think.

Vardalas:

Not the first time, but the second time. It was not enough for the first vote?

Sloan:

I finished number two the first time. Over the years I have had a number of interesting discussions sometimes with other candidates on what gets the vote. It can be their name and the photo and that kind of thing. In Technical Activities there was a belief for a long period of time that being a woman was a plus. I remember in particular one woman. I can see her face but cannot remember her name. She was in Technical Activities for a long time. She had been sort of tabulating this in all the Societies and noticing that women tended to win if there was a woman's name and a man's name on the ballot. I remember her telling me that there was one candidate who was running under her initials in a Society that did not have photos. She told that person, "You want to have your name there. That makes you more likely to win."

This was well recognized. I think what that shows is that the average IEEE member was a little more liberal at that time than the average IEEE Board members.

Work as President of the IEEE

Vardalas:

Okay. Now you were President-Elect and the following year you were going to be President. Did you say to yourself, "What initiative am I going to create? What am I doing to do?" Did you find yourself initiating a program? And what was that program?

Sloan:

I knew you were going to ask that. I am embarrassed to say I did not have the time to do the research and I cannot remember. I will tell you one thing off the record because I would not want it to be in the historical— [tape turned off, then back on]

Vardalas:

Thinking back to your Presidency, of what are you most proud at the end of that year that stays with you?

Sloan:

The thing that stays with me most of which I am very proud and I believe has continued pretty much to this day was something that fell in my lap fortuitously. The American Association of Engineering Societies sponsor an Engineers Week every February. IEEE and other Societies do that as well, but AES is the coalition group sort organizes this. There were thirteen Societies at that time that were involved, and the lead Society rotates among the thirteen. By the luck of the draw it was the year that I was President of IEEE that it was IEEE's turn. Therefore I was involved in this. As you can see through my previous history in the Computer Society and in IEEE, the educational activities part was very near and dear to my heart. Not only at that time was I a professor, but I had previously had the experience of teaching at the middle school level and had been a Sunday School teacher at the preschool level. I sort of ran the gamut from 3-year-olds up through graduate school.

Engineering education was particularly close to my heart. It was not my, my decision, so it was not my idea that got innovative, but it worked so well that I was very, very proud of it and IEEE's part in it. They were interested in the issue of how to get more younger students involved in engineering. They decided to have a contest, and this has continued. I believe that contest was aimed at sixth through eighth graders, or basically the middle school level that I had taught in Germany. That year it involved doing a model city. The students were in teams, and since this was the first year we had only six to eight teams from all over the U.S., with IEEE branches helping identify them. There were local competitions out in these six or eight cities. I think the teams were limited to five kids and a teacher. The kids had to do a few things. One of those things, which was sort of novel, was to design a city of the future using the program SIM City, which at that time very, very much of a novelty. Then they were to physically build a model of the city. Thirdly, they were to consider energy and what the basic energy sources would be for that city and write a short paper of what they chose as their primary source of electricity – whether it would be cold-powered, oil, nuclear or whatever. We were able to have Hazel Leary , who was then the Secretary for Energy, do the judging at this competition.

Interactions with Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin

Sloan:

This really was the high point of my whole Presidency, being involved in this Engineering Week thing and seeing these students and what wonderful work they had done. Each of the groups that came to Washington were the winners in their local areas. We had a winner, and then AES and IEEE we arranged to have an audience with President Clinton. He was very interested in this. We had thought it was going to be one of those handshakes in the Oval Office kind of things. However President Clinton, who was then in his first few months of office, learning that these kids had made physical models wanted to see them. Therefore instead of setting it up in the Oval Office they set it up in a fairly large room in the White House where the kids could set up their exhibits. The winning team brought their exhibit. We had trouble getting it through because there were batteries involved and of course Secret Service had to be double sure that everything was okay. Then we had to wait for him to arrive. The White House Staff indicated that they were permanent staff and served one President after another. They said Presidents are very different and with the previous President everything ran on the clock up to the second, and they were having trouble getting used to a more easygoing effort by way of time. They said, "However, you will find out that when Clinton comes in the room you will feel he is giving you all the time in the world because he will be so interested and so engaged in what you're doing." And that turned out to be the case. While we were waiting for him the Clinton's cat Socks, whom the staff took care of during the day, was on a long leash and the kids played with Socks. The President came in and asked a number of very intelligent questions about it. The kids were thrilled. We were thrilled. It was definitely the high point uh of the year.

Vardalas:

You got good press coverage too, right?

Sloan:

We hoped we would. We had arranged press coverage, but some major thing broke, and when they opened up the questions to the press he was not getting questions about this; he was getting questions about the event of the day.

Vardalas:

That's to be expected. Yes.

Sloan:

These things are going to happen.

Vardalas:

Speaking of Presidents, I was told that you had been in Russia and visited Boris Yeltsin too? Is that correct?.

Sloan:

Oh yes.

Vardalas:

Tell me about that experience.

Sloan:

Okay.

Vardalas:

Why did you go? What was the premise?

Sloan:

This was the year that I was President, and one thing that I wanted to do with my presidency was to put more of an emphasis on Asia because Asia was an overlooked part of the world. I had hoped to have an Executive Committee Meeting in Asia because it has never been held there. That did not work out budget-wise. However I did most of my travel in Asia and visited a lot of Sections that had not been visited in years and years, and that was great. I could not go to Pakistan. The senior IEEE person in Pakistan said, "Don't go to Pakistan." That does not really cover Russia, except most of Russia as you know is in Asia. Let's take that visit. Some years before, I think in 1984, I had made a Popov Society visit to Russia. The Popov Society claims to be the largest electrical engineering society in the world, but because they admit people that we would consider hobbyists – amateur radio people and so forth – we don't regard that.

At any rate, IEEE and the Popov Society had an exchange program where every May when they hold their main meeting IEEE would go to Moscow and the Russians would pick different meetings in the United States. I hosted them at a Computer Society meeting in San Francisco the following year. At any rate, we made that visit and visited a number of technical institutes and so forth. Now fast forwarding to 1993, and of course the Berlin Wall had come down and Russian science and engineering in terms of funding was in very bad straits. I decided to go to that, and Irv Engleson, the Staff Director of Technical Activities, came with me. My son, who was a senior in high school at the time, also came with me. He was traveling as my spouse so to speak. There were some interesting things about that. He had been studying Russian and he also studied French in high school and we were going from Moscow on to Geneva. Therefore I claimed he was traveling as my translator. That was a very interesting time.

The down side of that was that this was no longer a Popov Society meeting. It was just the three of us – Irv, my son and I – going to various technical institutes. We visited one that I had visited in 1984. I tell you, it was extremely depressing. I don't think they had swept that place since then. This is an exaggeration of course, but they certainly had bought next to no equipment and it was very sad to talk with some of the same people who had had very exciting research going on and now were just strapped. In a field like electrical engineering if you can't upgrade your instrumentation it is hard to stay on the cutting edge unless you are doing theory and can do it mathematically and so forth. That was depressing. Nonetheless it was an interesting visit. One of them invited us to his home for dinner, which is something we could not have done with a group the size that goes to the Popov Society. That was interesting. Irv, my son and I took a trip out in the country and saw other things. It was an interesting time for Russia. The hotel at which we staying looked out on what the Russians called the White House. We could see it from our hotel window. A few months later that went up in flames because of some attempted coup or something. Another thing I'll always remember about that visit was the food. There was not very much food in the morning. We would go down to breakfast and it would take about an hour and a half to eat. The three of us would show up and find we you could have yogurt. We would have yogurt, and then we would wait. This was a buffet-style kind of thing, and maybe 20 minutes later there would be eggs. Then we would run up and grab the eggs and eat the eggs. Food was dribbled out from time to time, and breakfast is my favorite meal. To get what I felt was a breakfast adequate for a long day of touring we had to wait until the food was out. Then in the evening they had a restaurant, and that was very depressing. Actually it had only been slightly less depressing back in the '80s, because they had these huge menus but when you asked for anything it turned out they had only about two things that day out of the pages and pages of choices. It was even worse in 1993. It would take two hours to eat dinner.

One day we got back to the hotel and I was thumbing through a guidebook and discovered that there was a Pizza Hut within walking distance of the hotel. We went over to the Pizza Hut and saw a long line and stood in it. Then my son, who is a little more attentive than I am, realized there was another shorter line at what seemed to be the same building. In fact there wasn't any line, and people were going into the store. I said, "Hey, you're the Russian speaker. Go over and find what's going on." He went over and found out that the one line was for the ruble-paying people and those who were paying with dollars, any hard currency, could step into what was a very normal Pizza Hut, normal service and so forth. We had pizza there and when we were trying to figure out what we could do to thank our driver who we had for a few days while in Moscow, we decided he would be pleased to be invited to the hard currency to order the pizza.

Vardalas:

How was the visit with Yeltsin arranged?

Sloan:

Oh, about Yeltsin. Okay. Irv Engleson had arranged that. It didn't work out quite as well as we had hoped and we did not actually meet Yeltsin but we were in his office.

Vardalas:

He was an engineer, though I don't know what kind.

Sloan:

I believe he was a civil engineer. It was Irv's idea since the President of Russia was an engineer we should do something about that and give him an honorary membership. That was the idea. We had set up what we thought was going to be a personal audience to give him the honorary membership, but that fell through because he had higher things on his mind. However we were seated in his office. It was impressive while we were waiting for him, before they finally gave up. What was unimpressive but memorable about his office was that there were telephones all over the place because they did not have telephones that you could punch a button and connect to several different lines. They had a different telephone for each line.

The other thing that was interesting about that visit was we flew back to Amsterdam before we went on to Geneva, and Gorbachev was on our plane from Moscow to Amsterdam. It was a KLM flight. We were aware of that when he got on the plane. Of course he was fairly carefully isolated from the other passengers. When we got to Amsterdam everybody had to stay on the plane until Gorbachev was escorted off and we saw him on the ground being picked up in the limo.

Vardalas:

Did you give Yeltsin a lifetime or one-year honorary membership?

Sloan:

I don't know. Irv would probably remember.

Vardalas:

Okay. Before we leave your presidency, were there any disappointments during that year that you say, "Oh, too bad. I could have done that," or "I should have done that but I wasn't able to"? Does anything stick in your memory as a disappointment or something unaccomplished?

Sloan:

No. If I had disappointments they were with individuals, not with programs. I was generally pleased with the way things worked.

Reflections on Women in the IEEE and in Engineering (Contd.)

Vardalas:

Okay. Let's finish off with women in engineering, which is something close to your heart.

Sloan:

Yes, definitely.

Vardalas:

What have your thoughts been on the way women in engineering has been going and the role that IEEE has or has not played in this whole thing?

Sloan:

I have been very pleased, particularly in the early years that I was a professional, with a rapid growth of women in engineering. I think IEEE fully played the part that it could play. You were asking me what gets students to join IEEE student branches. I think we may know a little more about that today than we did in the '60s, but there is no magic bullet. And it's the same with women. I found it a very exciting time to have more and more women, particularly in the years in the '70s and '80s where we went from less than 1 percent up to around 20 percent. Since then, roughly speaking, we've stabilized in terms of bachelor's degree level at about 20 percent. That is very frustrating to some people and less so to others. I personally never felt that it was going to hit 50 percent. I think there are just differences in people, and as long as a person of whichever gender feels free to enter a profession without regard to gender proportion, then I think we have done what we can.

It's great. Now I'm taking a more personal interest because of my eldest granddaughter who will be a senior in high school next year. We have known since she was about three years old that she was going to be an engineer. Her younger sister who is four and a half years younger than her definitely could be an engineer, but it's not so sure that she is going to be an engineer. Oddly enough my older grandson who is the twin of the younger granddaughter is interested in history.

Vardalas:

Do you have any views on why the plateau is at 20 percent? You never expected it to be 50 percent. Do you think there is something else that can be done in terms of institutional issues to make it easier for women? Like you said, as long as everyone has free access whatever turns out to be is going to turn out to be, but do you think all the constraints are still down?

Sloan:

It really should go beyond free access. It should go on to equal support and encouragement, and that has changed slowly over the years. I would like to think that it is much better now than it used to be.

Vardalas:

Is that a family issue too, how families treat the women and how they see women doing engineering and technical things?

Sloan:

Yes. Just this month my daughter, who is big on this issue, brought to my attention a recent study. I believe it was high school valedictorians and where they went to college and that differed by gender – although not as much as it would have forty years ago. There was a time when there were large numbers of families who thought it was very important for the young boys to get educated but not for the young women. There is less of that these days, but the percentages in the study –I have forgotten to who did the study, but it was in the New York Times –would indicate there are still families out there that think it is more important for their sons to get a good education than their daughters. However, to get back to engineering specifically, they said last year [that the 20th century?] was the electrical century.

Another thing in my time in IEEE which made me very, very proud, although it was after I was President, was when I was on the History Committee. There was an NAE study in which they started out by asking each engineering society to nominate two things for the last century that were most important in their field. They were trying to spread it across all the Societies. We at the History Committee took the position that so much had happened in electrical engineering that we were going to nominate everything we thought was really important and nuts to the limit. That was the right strategy, because a very high percentage of the ones that we listed ended up on the list. Basically the 20th century was an electrical century. Some people think this century is going to be a biological century. It is perhaps too early to tell, but biomedical engineering is a field in which [unintelligible word] it is close to 50/50. Biomedical engineering is the field in which my older granddaughter is interested, and I think that is great. Historically women in biomedical, chemical, environmental and industrial engineering are a much higher percentage than in the other fields of engineering. Unfortunately electrical and mechanical, which used to be the two biggies, are near the bottom in terms of the involvement of women. If it should happen that more and more of the engineering challenges are in the biological field or another field – whether because of their contact with people or in the case with environmental engineers things that are very important to people, if things move that way then I think you will see a higher percentage of women there.

The life sciences have always attracted women in higher numbers. If the technology switches in that direction I think that is more likely to be a factor than anything that the existing schools can do. Because I think we're probably near the limit of what the schools can do about it. I know it is not perfect out there. It was not that long ago in my own university that in a different engineering department there was a professor who, after every test posted the average scores of the male students versus the average scores of the female students. The female students said he was so anti-female in his lectures and so forth that they felt intimidated. Whereas in an average class, and I can tell from my own classes and what is shown in the statistics, women students on average are getting higher grades than the males. However no one else in the university would even think of posting scores by gender like that. There are isolated pockets of this, that or the other. I think that is going to disappear.

Incorporation of Biological Sciences in Engineering and the Future of the IEEE

Vardalas:

Do you think the IEEE, with the rise in the biological sciences in engineering, would have to reinvent itself in order to encompass that as well as the traditional electrical and electronics engineering? Currently one does not see the word biology in its image.

Sloan:

There was a while when the Computer Society was trying to get IEEE to change its name to put a C in there for computers. That did not happen, and I think that was the right decision. The ACM, which was originally the Association for Computing Machinery, decided a lot of companies were going down to just letters instead of what the letters stood for. Thus they became ACM and they were no longer the Association of Computing Machinery. Perhaps IEEE no longer trying to spell out the meaning of the letters IEEE would be the way to deal with it. I think that would a wiser way to go, and expand through programs and so forth into the biological area.

Vardalas:

This has been a fascinating interview. Thank you so much for agreeing to do this. You will be getting a transcript for your approval.

Sloan:

Great.

Vardalas:

Thank you so much.

Sloan:

You are more than welcome. This was a lot of fun. It brought back some memories. I'm sorry I could not speak more about what was important to me as President.