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I’m sitting with my back against a rotting, red log, my chin resting on my knees as I hug them in toward my chest.
I close my eyes, and listen. There’s the drip, drip, drip of rain hitting the hood of my jacket. There’s the sound of leaves rustling as I fidget, trying to find a more comfortable position without sitting on the wet moss and soaking my pants. There’s my own breath, which suddenly seems like an absurdly loud nuisance I can’t escape. In fact, I feel like I’m messing up the very thing I came out here to find: silence.
I’m in the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park, at a spot that has been christened the “quietest square inch in the United States” by Gordon Hempton, an acoustic ecologist who spent more than three decades traveling the globe and making sound records of pristine environments. These days, however, he is more concerned with protecting these soundscapes than in documenting them — starting with the very patch of forest where I’m sitting.
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Sarah Bird is one of the relatively few female leaders in the local tech industry, serving as CEO of Moz, a Seattle-based outfit that helps businesses build up their online presence. And the company’s gender equity doesn’t stop at the top: while, on average only 29 percent of employees at American tech firms identify as female, a whole 40 percent of “Mozzers” are women.
That seems laudable. But Bird sees it differently. “Our gender diversity numbers are still terrible,” she wrote in the 2015 company report.
Bird has emerged as one of the state’s top advocates for achieving a greater gender balance in tech – within her company, at the state legislature in Olympia, and even at the White House. In her eyes, it is an ethical imperative.
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At the 2013 Women Think Next conference in Israel, Microsoft’s head of Human Resources and “chief people person” Lisa Brummel stood before an audience of 500 women who worked in tech. She was wearing a blue button-down shirt: the stereotypical garb of an American businessman.
“I find that men wear these blue shirts all the time,” Brummel said in her opening remarks. “It’s the oddest thing … there’s something about this color blue that keeps cropping up, I don’t know what it is. So my first career advice is please, go buy a blue shirt.”
An openly gay woman at the top of one of the world’s biggest companies until her retirement in December 2014, Brummel’s career path itself made her a pioneer in women’s and LGBT equality. But it’s no secret that the issues of gender imbalances are still well entrenched in the tech field at large – and Microsoft is no exception. According to the company’s most recent diversity report, only 26.8 percent of employees at the company are female. The number dips down to 17.3 percent if you look at leadership positions.
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The “full-contact” aspect of football – the big hits, the spectacular tackles – has helped make watching the sport a quintessential American pastime. But as we’ve learned more about the associated risks of brain trauma, the brutality is becoming controversial.
Last year, a thousand former players won a class action lawsuit against the National Football League, which provided up to $5 million per athlete in compensation for their head injuries. Some NFL players are retiring early. Some parents are deciding against letting their children play the game – meaning there will be fewer future players from which the NFL has to choose.
As the issue has increasingly made its way into the public discourse – coming to a head with the blockbuster Concussion, which came out last December – it has become clear that something about the sport needs to change. Over the past few years, the NFL implemented some rule changes in the hopes of reducing head injuries, but given that diagnosed concussions rose by nearly 32 percent in 2015, those tweaks don’t seem to be working.