IBM embraces balance in our workforce and the world for International Women's Day 2019
Today, March 8, is [International Women's Day], which reminded me of a young lady named Samantha Caldwell.
I met young "Sam", as she preferred to be called, back in 2006, on a safari through Kenya organized by [Phi Mu] Alumni association. My coworker Ken Hannigan, married to an alumna of Phi Mu, saw this safari advertised and invited me to join them. Samantha was brought by her grandparents. In total, there were 24 people on the trip, mostly older women in their 50s or 60s. A few brought their husbands, but in general us men were greatly outnumbered. As a young teenager of perhaps 13 or 14 years old, Sam preferred to hang out with Ken and I (the two youngest men on the trip), than her own grandparents.
One day, I asked Sam to stand in front of [Lake Nakuru] for a picture, lifting one leg like the number 4. She had no idea what I was trying to do, but went along with it. It still remains as one my favorites photos of the trip.
At this point, you might be wondering "What does this have anything to do with International Women's Day?" I suggest you watch these two videos, and then the rest of the story will make more sense.
This first video has members of our executive team explaining why International Women's Day is not just important to IBM, but to the Information Technology (IT) industry and the rest of the world as a whole. I am glad to see my sixth-line manager, Tom Rosamilia, prominently featured in the video. Tom will be our keynote speaker at IBM Systems Technical University next month [Atlanta,GA: April 29-May 3].
This second video was made my our Lab Services team, an international team of men and women that provide essential IT services to our clients. Some of these I recognize, but I only just recently joined Lab Services three months ago, so I have many more yet to meet at future events.
Did you happen to catch which video Sam was in? Hint: she was only 13 or 14 back in the picture at Lake Nakuru, in her mid-20s now, if that helps any. Did you only notice the men in the videos? Go back and watch both videos, again!
So now, the rest of the story. A few days later, all 24 of us on the safari were having lunch at a big, long table. Sam was looking sad.
In an effort to cheer her up, I showed her the photo of her in front of the flamingos from my digital camera. She looked at it closely, and noticed many of the flamingos behind her also had one leg up, in the shape of the number 4.
That cheered her up, but suddenly the table immediately became quiet. One by one, the ladies at the table shared their own stories. Several were in tears. They all agreed my advice to Sam was spot on, and they wished someone told them something along those lines back when they were teenagers themselves.
Sadly, I have no idea what Samantha Caldwell is doing today. As far as I know, she is not working at IBM, and not in any of the above videos, but she could be working in IT. Who knows? Her life could have gone in so many directions in the past 13 years.
Maybe, if enough people forward this to their coworkers, friends and family, it will eventually reach Sam. I hope she is doing well, and I hope my little piece of advice helped her get through the rest of her teenage years, and into her adult life.
Happy International Women's Day everyone!