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In the spirit of International Women’s Day yesterday, it’s certainly appropriate to shine a light on one of Silicon Valley’s most ‘disruptive’ innovators who at the age of 91, is making a name for herself in a young, male-dominated industry.
From the age of 10 in the midst of the Great Depression in the US, Barbara Beskind had dreamed of being an engineer and inventor, and who had created her first hobby horse from a bunch of old tyres she found as being able to buy one was simply not possible.
Despite her broad ambitions, her ability to get into engineering was hindered by one simple fact: she was a woman, she said to NBC.
When she was in high school, her dreams were dashed by her guidance counsellor who, given the times, told her frankly that the country’s engineering colleges simply did not accept applicants from women.
After spending the next few decades in a variety of careers she never felt she fitted in, she saw at the age of 90 that a design job was available in the Silicon Valley design company INDEO.
Speaking of sending her CV, Beskind said, “It took me about two months to write my resume, paring it down from nine pages. Then I wrote the letter and sent it by snail mail.”
One of her latest creations is an adapted walker she calls the ‘Trekker’, which IDEO have now put into the prototype stage.
Speaking of what she can offer her younger co-workers, she said that they need to think a little differently to meet elder people’s needs, “People who design for the elderly think they need jewelled pill boxes or pink canes. We need functional equipment.”