Dolby Laboratories head scientist Poppy Crum knows what it’s like to be the only woman in a roomful of men.
“It happens a lot,” she said on Wednesday at TheWrap’s Power Women Breakfast in San Francisco.
Crum recalled being at a scientific gathering in Geneva where she was among the only women in an auditorium of 250 men. “I do feel that when you don’t have a certain percentage of male-to-female balance, [bias] exists,” she said, noting ways prejudice unconsciously permeates workplace culture. “Nobody’s trying to have a bias — it just happens.”
The Dolby neuroscientist doubles as a professor at Stanford, where she employs a novel technique for recruiting female tech students.
“I don’t have any requirements,” she said of the coding class she teaches at the research university. Why? “Because if I did I’d never get any women.”
She explained why her female students are more readily discouraged from pursuing science and technology fields: “There is a different mindset … A lot of times it’s a mindset of, ‘I don’t already do that so I can’t do that.'”
By removing prerequisite requirements from her class, Crum believes she’s removing extra barriers of entry for women.
Crum closed with some advise: “Don’t define yourself for what you did in the past. Define yourself for what you want to do in the future.”
She also shared observations about her research in brain science and how it relates to immersive audio and visual technology she’s developing for Dolby.
Her job, as she described it, is “thinking about deep science that hasn’t been solved,” which includes developing thermal imaging that the retina interprets as real fire. “I put people in front of it and see their bodies reacting,” she described. “That’s immersive technology.”
Watch TheWrap’s full interview with Crum: