About Talia Whyte

Posts by Talia Whyte:

My Boston Cycling Craze

Boston's Cycling Craze Book CoverAs a disclaimer, sometimes I get free books at my office to review.  I don’t read most of them, and when I do, I only write about the ones that appeal to me here.  The latest book to come across my desk is one by Boston historian Lorenz J. Finison. Boston’s Cycling Craze, 1880 – 1900: A Story of Race, Sports & Society tells the story of the rising popularity of bicycles one hundred years ago and the social politics that arose out of it.

In the late 1800s, everyone was cycling all over the city.  Most communities had their own cycling clubs.  However, African-Americans were barred from joining these clubs and had to form their own black clubs.  Women were chastised for not wearing long dress while riding bikes and called unladylike (because it makes so much sense to wear long dresses while cycling…).

I really enjoyed reading the book.  I’m a recreational cyclist myself.  I mostly bike during the weekends along the Southwest Corridor and the Charles River Bike Path.  Like the cyclists featured in the book, I feel a certain level of freedom with my cycling.  Because I don’t own a car, I have to either walk or take the T to get around the city.  Having a bike allows me to travel when I want to without having to wait for the next bus or train, I can get to where I need to be for free, and most importantly, I don’t create a carbon footprint.

I used to cycle a lot more when I was a kid and only recently took up cycling again in the last four years to help recover from an injury and have a complementary activity for running and yoga.  Cycling is such a great way to be active for a long time and not injure your knees while keeping in shape.  The only downside here is that sometimes I cycle so much, I lose too much weight!

Also, I get to notice a lot of things about today’s social politics from just peddling around the city for a couple hours.  I see an equal number of male and female cyclists on the roads, but a lot of times its the men who wear the fancy, expensive bike wear to live out their inner Lance Armstrong. Is this ungentlemanlike?

I am more casual, wearing a helmet, a t-shirt and jeans or sometimes running capris if I am cycling long distances.  A far cry from the days of bloomers.

I don’t see a lot of cyclists of color, however, I think that is starting to change.  Over the summer, I went on a couple of trips with a group of my black, Latino and Asian friends along the entire Charles River Bike Path.  We also did the annual Hub on Wheels last September to celebrate and promote cycling in Boston.  It was great to see people from all different backgrounds come together – men, women, black, white, young and old.

It shows how much our society has changed over the last one hundred years, and it would be interesting to see what happens in the next century!

Highlights From The 2014 ATE PI Conference

STEM careers

Last week I was invited to present web design/development instructional prototypes at this year’s ATE PI, an annual conference held in Washington DC that looks at ways to improve STEM education and workforce development in community colleges nationwide.  My presentation was sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

I presented two websites I created from scratch, or hand-coded – Global Exchange Reality Tours and Women Talking to educators and policymakers from around the country.  The point of the presentation was to showcase new ways to teach web design and development skills in an innovative classroom setting that will attract more students.  I received a lot of great feedback on the prototypes.

Web development is one of the fastest growing fields today.  However, there are not enough students pursuing these ICT careers. I have discussed many times here the need to address the fact that the United States beginning to lag behind in the global economy because of the lack of American STEM workers.

In my home state of Massachusetts, its Department of Education released a new report yesterday, Degrees of Urgency, that also warns that the Commonwealth is not graduating enough students in these skilled fields to fulfill growing demands in the economy.

Community colleges are best suited to train future leaders in these fields because they are already set up to provide vocational training.  Also, community colleges are more affordable and accessible to more people than four-year colleges.  In addition, these schools attract a more diverse student body, from young people fresh out of high school, to veterans returning to civilian life, to single parents going back to school, to working professionals looking to enhance their skills.  I went to my local community college last year to take some programming skills.

I also had a chance to talk with other STEM employers at the conference about their hiring frustrations. Terry Iverson, president and CEO of the machinery distributor Iverson and Company, dispelled the common belief that there are no more manufacturing jobs in America.  In fact, he said there are many U.S. based jobs, but many people don’t want them because of social stigma.

Chandra Brown, deputy assistant secretary for manufacturing at the U.S. Department of Commerce, spoke to the conference about her concern about the lack of women and minorities in these fields.  She noted that workforce diversity improves dividends for many STEM employers.

“We need to tap into a resource we haven’t tapped into yet,” she said.

Keith Masback, CEO of the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation, precision technology is the future and can see job growth.

There were other people from around the country presenting STEM educational tools too that I would like to point out:

I finally got to meet the guys behind STEM Guitar, a program that uses guitar building to teach STEM subjects.

Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC)  provides digital media and programming training to underrepresented groups in the San Francisco area.

Concerns of Small Business Owners During The Mid-term Elections


Small business is the fuel in the engine of the American economy.  The vast majority of Americans work for small firms with 50 or less employees.  One would think that the concerns of small business owners would be a priority in Washington.

A new survey says otherwise.  Only seven percent of small business owners approve of what Congress is doing, and 26 percent of them don’t feel either political party represent their best interests.

As a small business owner myself, I have to agree with this sentiment.  Politicians these days are more concerned about deepening their pockets from Wall Street than providing support to Main Street.  Because of this disparity, many believe this is causing the growing income inequality nationwide.

Wage hikes is an issue I have to think about regularly running my own company Global Wire Associates, as well as many of my entrepreneur friends.  Yes, most reasonable employers believe in a living wage, but can’t afford the added health care costs that come with this, so they are not able to grow and maintain their businesses and pay employees the way they would like to in many situations.

Then there is the issue of immigration reform.  A large number of employees at U.S. tech firms are foreign-born but attended American universities.  This is partially due to the lack of Americans pursuing careers in information and communications technology (ICT).  Approximately 90 percent of my past and present employees are foreign-born.  I would love to hire more qualified American and especially women and minority employees, but they can be far and few in between.

The whole process of getting work visas for foreign-born workers is difficult.  The U.S. only randomly selects and admits 65,000 foreign workers annually for six years.  U.S. Immigration Services has already capped out on H-1B visas for fiscal year 2015.

One would say that the solution to this is to invest in better STEM education for American students.  I agree with this, but there also needs to be a mindset change towards STEM careers.  ICT careers are not just for geeks and nerds; it’s also for people who want to be a part of the future global economy.

However, the immigration battle is really raging in the retail/fast food industries, which largely employ immigrants in low-skilled, minimum wage jobs.  This same survey says that small business owners are divided on the issue.  Forty-two percent of owners would vote for a candidate that supports a wage hike, while 38 percent would not.  Health care, immigration and employment rules are top issues for small business, but where is Washington?

These numbers are not only uninspiring for current small business owners, but also for people thinking about starting a business in the future.  A lot of concerns here, but it seems like no one is listening.   

What WWI Posters Say About Early 20th Century War Marketing

Side by side posters of James Montgomery Flagg's poster "I Want You For U.S. Army" (left) and Alfred Leete's "Britons, Lord Kitchener Wants You To Join Your Country's Army. God Save The King" (right)

This year marks the 100 anniversary of the start of World War I.  A good way of judging a society is the way it communicated it values and instincts during a particular time.  Long before modern communication tools like the Internet and television, graphic designers were given the important task of creating propaganda posters to inspire nations and boost morale during the Great War with aesthetically pleasing imagery.

Just like terrorists, the military needs to have a marketing department too.

On 13 April 1917 – seven days after the United States declared war on Germany – President Woodrow Wilson established the Committee on Public Information.  In order to reach out to Americans who didn’t read newspapers, go to the movie theater or attend community meetings, the Division of Pictorial Publicity was created to design visual communications.  This comprised of a group of artists and designers who would meet once a week in New York City to discuss poster requests from the government.

The most well known poster from that period was James Montgomery Flagg’s Uncle Sam “We Want You For U.S. Army” (Above).  Few people know that Flagg’s poster is actually an imitation of British graphic artist Alfred Leete’s “Britons, Lord Kitchener Wants You” poster.

Developed by the Office of Public Sector Information (or His Majesty’s Stationery Office at the time), British poster designers had a way of using images and words to bring the message home, inciting a sense of guilt for not doing your part in the war effort, as evidence in the next two posters.

Side by side posters of "Daddy, what did you do during the Great War?" and "It is far better to face the bullets than to be killed at home by a bomb"

Flagg also designed posters that appealed to America’s worst fear of the war coming stateside, like these poster of Columbia (a personification of America) sleeping while flames are raging behind her and encouraging recruitment.

Side by side posters of "Wake Up America" and "Columbia Calls"

Posters encouraged everyone to fulfil their duty in the Great War, and not just men fighting on the battlefield, but also women. Before the war, most women were housewives. But as men departed to fight on the Front, some women went with them as military nurses. In the United States, women also started doing the jobs men would do, such as machine operators and railroad conductors. There was also a greater demand in the U.S. government for more stenographers, typists and clerks.

While women were doing the work of men, this didn’t mean they received the same rights. Some employers were hostile to women working and didn’t pay them a fair wage or allowed them to unionize. Many employers didn’t provide childcare or even proper bathrooms for women. However, World War I was a major turning point for women, as this was the first time women showed that they could be more than just housewives and, thus, kickstarting the modern women’s rights movement.

Side by side posters of "Do the job he left behind" and "For every fighter a woman worker"

The Committee on Public Information also put out posters encouraging recruitment from African-Americans. Approximately 400,000 African-Americans served in the war, and about 42,000 actually saw action in the European theatre. The posters evoked a sense of heroism, self sacrifice and even the memory of Abraham Lincoln to frame the war effort as a struggle for freedom. Nonetheless, U.S. military units were still heavily segregated and black men still faced the same level of discrimination when they came home after the war.

Side by side WW1 posters of African American soliders

These are some other great posters from the time, encouraging some kind of involvement, whether it was telling men who weren’t enlisted that their labor was just as important, rationing or buying war bonds. World War I propaganda will go down in history as one of the most influential war marketing campaigns.

Posters of "Food Don't Waste It" and "Together We Can"

Posters saying "Little Americans Do Your Part" and "Come On Join Now"

Posters of "Help Them" and "Books Wanted"

Posters of "The Greatest Mother" and "Rivets are Bayonets"

Check out more World War I propaganda posters here.