Un-hiding ‘Hidden Figures’ of STEM

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Zeljka Ticic

Zeljka Ticic, Diversity Ambassador, IBM SEE, COO, IBM Croatia

Behind every great (hu)man on Earth and on Moon are great women

We’ve all no doubt heard the recent clamor about the new movie hit, Hidden Figures. The movie gives a powerful glimpse into a moment of history which reveals a great deal about how far we’ve come as humankind. On the surface, it tells the story of how three amazing women, Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine Johnson, and Mary Jackson helped transform the world with their participation in the mission of putting John Glenn in space with NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA.

Working as a “computer,” Dorothy Vaughan brought the early IBM 7090 mainframes to life, helping humankind put the first man on the moon. Katherine Johnson calculated trajectories, launch windows, and emergency backup return paths from early NASA missions through Apollo 11’s flight to the moon and Mission to Mars. Mary Jackson became NASA’s first black female engineer, rising through the ranks and later becoming manager of both the Federal Women’s Program Manager in the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs and the Affirmative Action Program.

Scratching a bit further beneath the surface, we see how these women have forever changed the STEM field (science, technology, engineering, and math), forging space for diversity in some of the most profound careers in existence.

hidden figuresSince announcement of IBM’s involvement with the movie at CES 2017, its partnership with New York Times on development of “Outthink Hidden” AR app, and the official release of the movie in the US on January 5th , this video is an exceptional opportunity to emphasize the role and importance of women working in IT and technology industries, as well as the importance of diversity in general.

If we ensure a globally sensitive corporate culture that fosters diversity of thought and relationships, we are ultimately leading to a more innovative approaches across the business and society in general.

Historically, IBM has been on the forefront of diversity and inclusion from the get go. As former president and CEO Thomas J. Watson Jr. put it, “There are many things I would like IBM to be known for, but no matter how big we become, I want this company to be known as the company which has the greatest respect for the individual.” All the way from 1899, when IBM hired our first female employee, to today – when IBM has first female CEO – IBM’s commitment to celebrating the talent of women has been at the forefront of its business and a key driver of its success.

Research shows a clear positive link between increased gender diversity and financial results across different industries and countries. At IBM, we recognize that women play a critical role at the global market and that they have to be present in the industry that drives innovation in all sectors. As a technology company, we encourage and support women in claiming technical leadership roles. We have developed a multitude of programs aimed at helping them with advancement in those fields. However, recent data shows that gender gap in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) has widened since the eighties, when 37% of all computer science graduates in the US were women. Today, this share is a mere 18%.

The European average of women in STEM currently stands at 29% – compared to Latin America with 45%. Our South East Europe region has an even lower share. There is clearly plenty of room for improvement. IBM is committed to working on it continuously and has participated in a number of initiatives in the SEE region last year to promote diversity and the status of women in the society across Bulgaria, Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Hungary and Romania. The aim of such initiatives is to encourage girls and women attending high schools and universities to continue with their education and professional training, and ultimately find the job of their dreams in STEM-related industries.

Diversity is no longer about gender or race, sexual orientation, disability. Diversity at IBM is about much more – it is about understanding our people, our markets that are all multi-culti and diverse, and based on that – becoming truly relevant. IBM has been a pioneer in that which is why our 100+ year history is a circle of growth and progress.

As we have done throughout our century-long history, we will continue to work on ensuring that women around the world have the inspiration, education, tools and all the support they need to not only have a prosperous career at IBM, but engage with the entire world at the highest level possible.

IBM SEE Diversity Ambassador and COO of IBM Croatia

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