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Giving Back to Women in Tech

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In this season of giving, it’s important not just to focus on monetary donations, but on giving back in other ways: Through mentorships and opportunities for others.

I’m proud to work for a company that demonstrates the value of giving back in so many ways, especially to women in our industry.

Grace Hopper Celebration of Women

In October, I was fortunate to participate in the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference, where our IBM CEO, Ginni Rometty, was a featured keynote speaker. The inspiring message she delivered (via a very touching, personal story) was strong: “Never let someone define who you are.” Read more about her speech in Forbes.

The conference, aside from providing a great showcase of sessions, features a student-to-expert mentor program, where young girls get to pick the brains of those of us already in the tech industry to learn more about potential future careers. Providing students with one-to-one access is an invaluable experience I wish I’d had when I was their age. Through frank and candid discussions about the industry and its various disciplines, they get their questions answered in a safe, positive environment with other women.

Techbridge Visit

Earlier this month, IBM Client Executive Rosalinda Mendoza and I hosted a young class from Techbridge. The girls first got a tour of the Bluemix Private Cloud office, then settled in for a morning of learning and fun.

Icebreaker Exercises

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The students were divided into small groups and assigned to a “role model” (made up of Seattle-area IBM employee volunteers), and after a brief session of icebreakers, got down to business working on a tech task. Each pair of girls was responsible for inventing a product that would need to be patented. They had to jot down the idea, draw a prototype (or find props to illustrate it) and present it to the entire group.

Students Share Their Inventions

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I was blown away by their creations!

Among their invention ideas: A backpack with a built-in umbrella that could be opened by tugging on shoulder straps; a robot that could paint all of your nails in record time; a writing utensil (inspired by a boring class some of them were in) that would vibrate to wake you when it sensed you dozing off and hair conditioner that dissolves within seconds of being exposed to wet hair (to save time in the shower and help conserve water).

If that’s what they’re coming up with as middle schoolers, imagine where their minds will take them as adults.

It’s exciting to see female students expressing a passion for technology at such a young age, and so important that we as representatives from the existing technology community cultivate that spirit.

Thanks to the girls, teachers and parent chaperones at Techbridge for bringing such an energetic, lively group and much appreciation to IBMers Katie Knauss, Hannah Jones, Jodi Mahoney, Rosalinda Mendoza, Tracey Stone and Linda Wilson for their work on the event.

Team Photo: Students and Their Role Models

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To learn more about IBM’s broader corporate program initiatives, visit Responsibility at IBM.

Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season.

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