Why Are There Still So Few Women in STEM?


Graphic credit: IBM in ‘Helping Women in STEM Thrive’

At the Solvay Conference on Physics in 1927, the only woman in attendance was Marie Curie.  Today, there are still few women who pursue a STEM degree or career (science, technology, engineering, mathematics).  In the US, only one-fifth of physics Ph.D.’s are awarded to women, and only 14 percent of all the physics professors are women.  Globally, only 30 percent of women, on average, participate in STEM fields, both private and public.  A Yale study published last year demonstrated that a young male scientist applying for a STEM job in education is viewed more favorably on average than a woman with the same qualifications and offered a salary nearly $4000 higher. (All facts sourced from 1 and 2 below in ‘Related’ list).

IBM is investing in women, whether new to the company, previous employees or current employees. It is providing support through mentoring and networks that can create a foundation for a career path towards technical leadership roles.  Watch the Technologista YouTube series (below) for an inside glimpse of what women at IBM are doing, and learn more about women at IBM here.



– Posted by Julie Yamamoto, Program Manager The Greater IBM Connection

Women in Technology at IBM – Rejecting the ‘Expected’

technologista2IBM continues the Women Technologista series this week with two blog posts.  In the first one, IBM Senior Vice President and WITI Hall of Famer, Linda Sanford, talks about ‘Nurturing the Next Generation of Technologistas‘.  She talks about how studies have shown that women are naturally more collaborative and better at listening, two tenets for building strong teams and that teams with at least one woman outperform male-only teams.  However, women still hold less than one-fourth of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) jobs, so how do we best tap into and grow this innate talent pool?  Mentorship is vital. Female-executive support groups and increased participation in industry associations, along with formal training and inclusion programs, would also help.  Read more on the Internet Evolution site.

In the second post, Stefanie Chiras, PhD, IBM Manager of System & Technology Group Design Center, shares how she learned to reject the ‘expected’ when she was 10 and her father told her they were going to fix a car transmission.  She said “I can’t do that,” and he replied without a pause, “People do it every day. You can certainly do it once.”  The advice, and the fact that they did fix the transmission, stuck with her.  Half the challenge is overcoming apprehension and preconceived notions.  As for advice from her own career path, she echoes some of the tenets found in the recent IBM Study of Insights from Women Executives, which are:

  • Stay visible
  • Plan your career
  • Integrate work and life

Read the full post, Rejecting ‘The Expected':  One Woman Engineer’s Story on the Huffington Post.



– Posted by Julie Yamamoto, Program Manager The Greater IBM Connection

Podcast: What Is IBM Doing To Fight The Growing Skills Gap

fast track

In response to the growing technical skills gap revealed by IBM’s 2012 Tech Trends study, and to help professionals and students learn more about cyber security best practices, IBM rolled out the largest expansion of its Academic Initiative to date earlier this month. For the first time, IBM will offer access to pre-packaged curriculum and training resources on IT security, helping students understand enterprise challenges, do in-depth analysis of trends uncovered in the IBM X-Force report, and gain market-ready cyber security skills.

Check out this podcast to hear Dan Hauenstein, a global lead on IBM’s skills programs, discuss how these new initiatives in cyber security and other advanced technologies will help to solve the global skills epidemic. http://bit.ly/XK6uiF

If You’re Ready to Lead, Why Not Join IBM?

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Best Career Advice: What’s Yours?

I’ve been thinking about Ruth’s message on "Career Maintenance"  for a week. It brought up an experience that influenced my career. I’m imagining many of you have your own tales to tell, too — and I hope you will. Here is my story:

In a lifetime, there are a relatively few people that leave an enduring imprint, shaping your future so dramatically as to be considered for a "medal of honor" for best advice given. My choice is an IBM senior leader that I only personally met with one time. His name was Bookie.

I was a relatively new manager at IBM, just promoted to my first staff assignment in a regional marketing office. For reasons I can’t explain, Bookie called me into his office while I was visiting his location. “I want to pass along a little advice to you,” he offered unsolicited. He then shared his secrets to success:

“Jobs, missions, titles and organizations will come and go. Business is dynamic. It changes. Don’t focus your goals toward any of these. What you need to do is learn to master the skills that will allow you to work anywhere. There are four skills:

1. The ability to develop an idea.
2. The ability to effectively plan its implementation.
3. The ability to execute second-to-none.
4. The ability to achieve superior results time after time.

Seek jobs and opportunities with this in mind. Forget what others do. Work to be known for delivering excellence. It speaks for itself and it opens doors.”

Bookie’s words remain fresh in my mind. They were instrumental in shaping my direction, future and achievements. Over the years, I’ve passed them on to many others. He was right-on! I’ve always wished he knew how he influenced me. I keep wondering if he’ll show up at Greater IBM.

What is the “best-ever advice” someone gave you?

I hope you’ll stop to share yours.


Dk_for_skypesmler_2Debbe Kennedy
Contributing Author
Greater IBM Connection
Founder, President & CEO
Global Dialogue Center and Leadership Solutions Companies
IBMer 1970 – 1991 L.A.; Anchorage; Seattle; San Francisco

IBM Alumni Ruth Kaufman: Career maintenance for a former IBMer

Hi. My name is Ruth, and I left IBM 6 months ago after working there for 4 years. While
I was there I worked alongside Ethan who is now managing the IBM alumni
effort. He asked me if I’d be interested in a little blogging, so here
I am! We weren’t sure what I’d blog about at first, so he sent me
these two questions. As you can see below, I’ve tried to answer them
to get the ball rolling.

What did you expect your career to
look like when you joined IBM?

To be honest, when I joined IBM, I really needed a job! The offer came on the heels of 2 years of scattered freelance work and part-time grad school after the dot-com bubble burst. I was just thrilled to have been invited to work at a company like IBM. My first role was as the lead information architect for ibm.com’s content standards; when I left I was the business owner for ibm.com’s taxonomy standards and processes.

Once I settled in at IBM, I started to look for that vision of my career, but didn’t figure it out. I did learn a lot about what I enjoyed doing — the kinds of problems I liked solving, the kinds of relationships I was good at cultivating, the kinds of change I was capable of effecting. But I never really figured out what my future would or could look like. I could see a universe of possibilities — both near and long-term, but I had trouble seeing a path.

Now that I’m outside of the IBM bubble, I see that I didn’t really need to figure anything out. That’s not to say that I’d be happy floundering in the same spot forever. I can just see that things can move forward in a positive direction, even if you’re not directing every event. This is a good segue to the next question.

The conventional wisdom says that
people in your age group will have many careers, not just one. How
are you preparing for that?

It’s funny. I feel as though I’ve already had a few careers — experiences at a handful of companies, each distinct in my mind. But when I read my resume, it sounds as though I planned the whole thing as a natural progression, all focused on some aspect of working with web content. On many occasions, I have tried to get away from this niche — to move towards product development or business development, but it seems to stick to me. What I’ve realized is that by starting in a young field, my career has had room to grow as the information and content industries have grown — or, more to the point, invested in internet technologies, creating the need for people like myself and many of my colleagues. I feel a bit like a pioneer in web content strategy — I can carve out space for myself, rather than migrate among predefined roles.

So to answer the 2nd part of the question — everything I do to "prepare" for future career situations I do by garnering skills, expertise, and experience. I have stopped trying to look too far ahead, setting goals to inflect my career path. For me, attaining personal goals has become underwhelming. I’m trying to focus more on getting into a good mindset, and getting things done in my current job — those accomplishments are the ones that lead to the next opportunities, which can’t be foreseen.

Well, that wraps up the Q&A section of this blog post. I’ll just say that I am so grateful to have been exposed to IBM’s culture, and it’s great to stay connected — not just with my good friends, but with the broader community. Thanks, Ethan!

–Ruth Kaufman