Constance Wu’s Best Night Includes Pajamas, a Perfect Manhattan, and Bunny Time | Healthyish

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*In Person of Interest, we talk to the people catching our eye right now about what they’re doing, eating, reading, and loving. Up next is Constance Wu, the Golden Globe-nominated star of Crazy Rich Asians and Fresh Off the Boat on ABC.

Constance Wu grew up in a Taiwanese household, but when she thinks of her comfort food, she doesn’t think of spicy mapo tofu (though it is her favorite Taiwanese dish).

“I love Taiwanese food, but I think its aromas and its flavors are a little bit too intricate and delicious to be comfort food—I think comfort food is kind of bland,” Wu said while hosting American Express’s Pay It Plan It event in New York City. “I think of mashed potatoes as comfort food, because they kind of taste like nothing.”

Even though she has never learned to cook her mom’s Taiwanese classics like a thousand-year-old black duck egg with tofu, green onions, and soy sauce, she has fond memories of dishes like that and eats them when she can. But her perfect meal is probably Italian food like a good bolognese or a Caprese salad.

Here’s what else Wu is into right now, from a surprising travel snack to her pet bunny .

My idea of a perfect meal is… probably Italian food, eaten slow and leisurely with people I love and a great cocktail. My go-to drink is a Manhattan—and I take it perfect.

The next place I want to travel is… New Zealand. I really love Lord of the Rings, so I want to go to all the places where they filmed, like the Shire.

My dream dinner party guest list would include… the cast of Crazy Rich Asians, Barack and Michelle Obama, Oprah, Ghandi, and Legolas [Orlando Bloom], obviously.

I always travel with… my Kindle and those pastel-colored fruity Mentos. I carry at least two packs of them. Normally I read physical books, but when I’m traveling, I don’t like to have so much bulk in my bag.

The book on my to-read list is… Ann Patchett’s new book, Nashville: Scenes from the New American South . That’s next, because I loved Commonwealth, which takes place partially in the Commonwealth of Virginia where I grew up.

I’m listening to… Miguel and Khalid on repeat lately.

But my Fresh Off the Boat character, Jessica, would jam to… wholesome, female-driven music like Barbra Streisand, Shania Twain, and Amy Grant.

When I’m stressed out… I love to get full-body massages. That’s when I’m really stressed. If it’s just after a regular long day at work, I like to just talk on the phone to my old friends from high school. I prefer phone calls to texts, because it’s an actual exchange. It’s a flow, and it’s not preplanned. I respond a lot to people’s voices, and I just love conversations. I don’t even like podcasts that are just one person talking.

Podcasts on my rotation are… Another Round, Two Dope Queens, and Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations.

At the end of the day, I unwind by… immediately changing into pajamas. It’s always the first thing I do. It’s a matching set: the button-up, long sleeved shirt and the pants in some kind of fabric that is lightweight and has a bit of stretch to it, like just a regular plain cotton.

My favorite piece of clothing is… a miniskirt. I love to wear miniskirts when I go out with friends. I have a few denim miniskirts and a corduroy one. I like the way it makes my body look, and when you feel like you look great, it boosts your confidence. When your confidence is boosted, you’ll have a great time.

To practice self care…. I take my bunny, Lida Rose, to work with me. She hops around my trailer all day. It feels like self care to take a moment to care for an animal and spend time with an animal. It’s doing something that doesn’t have to do with a screen or with your job; it’s really just about downtime.

If I could give a young Asian person advice, I would say… there’s no one right way to push representation forward. Do what speaks authentically to you and focus on that. Not only will that help with representation, but it makes better work.

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Algonquin College engineering a future that includes more women

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For the past decade, Kathryn Reilander would stand at the front of her classroom and survey her newest crop of students, struggling to find a female face in the crowd.

Reilander is a professor at Algonquin College in Ottawa and every year in her electrical engineering technician program, she only sees an average of eight women in a class of roughly 200. But for the program’s next incoming class, she’s hoping for a dramatic spike in the percentage of women — perhaps as high as 30 per cent, if all goes according to plan.

On Friday, Algonquin College is announcing a bold — and controversial — new approach for increasing the number of women in some of its male-dominated programs: a pilot project that will reserve 30 per cent of classroom seats for female applicants.

The three-year pilot, called “We Saved You a Seat,” guarantees admission to women who meet the minimum admission standards for four of the college’s most popular technology programs: electrical engineering technician, mechanical engineering technology, electro-mechanical engineering technician and computer systems technician.

The initiative is part of a broader push by post-secondary institutions to close the gender gap in so-called STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and math), where women are woefully under-represented.

But the strategy of earmarking seats for female students is something schools have largely avoided. Some say this is due to fears over potential backlash — a particularly acute concern in today’s fraught political climate, where debates around gender and equity issues are increasingly polarized.

While other post-secondary schools are taking more indirect approaches to encourage female enrolment, Algonquin appears to be the first in Canada to actually reserve spots for women in STEM classrooms — or, at least, the first to advertise that they’re doing so.

“What’s really important to know is that we’re absolutely not lowering standards,” said Sarah Gauen, Algonquin College’s inclusion and diversity specialist, who spearheaded the pilot. “We are just making sure that the women who are interested, qualified and applying are entering into our program; that they’re not getting screened out due to any other barriers.”

One of those barriers is the oft-cited problem of women who exclude themselves from consideration, perhaps due to lack of confidence, a reluctance to study in a male-dominated environment, or the assumption that certain disciplines are better-suited for men. The pilot hopes to mitigate such concerns and encourage women who are feeling hesitant to at least consider these programs and apply, Gauen said. “If you’re qualified, and you’re a woman, you’re in,” she said.

Applicants still need to meet or exceed the basic requirements, which often include specific high school courses in math or science. On average, each of the four programs register between 79 and 277 students a year and fewer than 10 per cent are women, according to the school’s statistics — though the female students graduate at higher rates than their male counterparts.

If Algonquin College doesn’t receive enough female applicants to meet the 30 per cent goal, the school will reopen admissions to male applicants to ensure there are no empty seats, Gauen said. But she says early numbers from the current application process are already showing high demand; for the computer systems technician program, the college has already started making offers to qualified female applicants and if they all accept, women will already account for 23 per cent of the classroom when the semester starts in May.

Gauen said the pilot will include parallel initiatives to support female students, including new bursaries, mentorship programs, and training for faculty to give them tools for creating truly supportive and gender-inclusive classrooms.

“It’s not quite so simple that if you build it they will come,” she said. “So we’re going to get (women) in the door and we’re going to wrap our arms around them.”

Gauen said the school chose 30 per cent as its target because research has shown this percentage to represent a “critical mass,” a tipping point where minority groups can meaningfully shift the culture of a classroom, workplace or industry.

Other schools and industry leaders are also setting targets for increasing women in STEM, though most are basing their strategies on awareness campaigns, mentorship networks or outreach work with high schools. Engineers Canada has a “30 by 30” campaign aimed at raising the percentage of newly licensed female engineers to 30 per cent by 2030 (currently, the figure is at 17.4 per cent). The University of British Columbia has a goal of reaching 50 per cent female enrolment in engineering by 2020 and York University’s engineering school is pushing to become the first in Canada to achieve gender parity amongst its student population.

But Algonquin College’s approach is particularly aggressive, said Kim Jones, chair of the Ontario Network of Women in Engineering. And with that comes the risk of backfire.

“It is, I think, a controversial approach,” she said. “(Other) approaches have typically not been as aggressive, partly because there have been concerns about backlash effects.”

One potential consequence is that male students will resent their female counterparts and perceive them as being less qualified or receiving special treatment, Jones said. This could foster a classroom environment that ultimately proves more unwelcoming or hostile — thus exacerbating the “chilly climate” problem often blamed for driving women out of STEM disciplines.

“I absolutely wish them good luck in their initiative and I’m very interested to see what the results are like,” Jones said. “But I think it’s not new to see backlash, and that backlash can be very damaging for the students who experience it.”

Jones said Algonquin College will need to work “very hard” to ensure a welcoming and inclusive environment for female students. This is especially true given the current social climate where identity issues have become so fraught, said Liette Vasseur, past president of the Canadian Coalition of Women in Engineering, Science, Trades and Technology.

She said Algonquin College will also have to work hard to ensure the pilot gets buy-in from professors and instructors, not just students. “I hope that they already have a high level of social acceptability from the faculty members,” she said. “I’m sorry to say this, but I know many faculty members in universities who do not care (about this issue) — and in many cases, it’s not only the men. In some cases it’s women.”

Gauen recognizes the potential for backlash but doesn’t believe a fear of changing the status quo is a good enough reason to shy away from creating more space for women. She believes technology programs offer great career options for women; electrical engineering technologists, for example, enjoy a lot of autonomy and offer starting salaries of at least $50,000, with the potential to hit six figures not long after graduating, according to Reilander.

Gauen pointed to research that gender-diverse classrooms also have positive impacts on male students, teaching them the “soft skills” they need to interact with women in the workplace, or making them more attractive to employers who care about job candidates with diversity skills.

“We are still saving 70 per cent of the seats for men. So this is still in the vast majority,” she said. “This isn’t a win-lose scenario; this is gender equity making things better for everybody.”

Algonquin College student Violet Charbonneau thinks the pilot project will go a long way towards encouraging other women to apply. As a technician student who aspires to get her electrical engineering technology diploma, the 27-year-old sometimes feels lonely in her classrooms, where she’s often either the only woman or just one of two.

Charbonneau sometimes refrains from speaking up or asking questions in class, for fear of drawing even more attention to herself when she already “sticks out like a sore thumb.”

“The guys in the classroom currently have each other and they get all the support they could want,” she said. “I think it’s going to be really great for women to feel the same way.”

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Jennifer Yang is a Toronto-based reporter covering identity and inequality. Follow her on Twitter: @jyangstar

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Ellen van Dusen’s Work Day Includes Fabric Swatches and a Lot of Custom Playlists | Healthyish

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My day is a mix of answering emails, looking at fabric samples, talking to factories, and design stuff. I do most of my designing in Illustrator, and it’s constantly open on my computer, so I go back and forth a lot. Sometimes I’m deep in a design phase and I’ll spend all day working on stuff, and other times of year it’s more sporadic. I occasionally take time to go to the analog side of the studio, which is a no computer zone, to just draw and look at books and find inspiration, but that kind of time is a little tougher to get. I finished the home collection a couple months ago and now product is coming in so we’re a little more focused on that.

We have music playing eight hours a day, and if the vibe isn’t right, none of us can get any work done. Today we listened to a bunch of jazz, but we also listen to indie rock and older music like John Cale, Tom Waits, and a little bit of everything. We got really into making playlists on themes, so I just started my fall mix, which has everything from Lucinda WilliamsReason to Cry to Don’t Walk on the Kitchen Floor by Come On—my renovation theme song.

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