While women hold less than one-fourth of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) jobs, this influential group is already making a huge impact -- in our organizations, our communities, and our world.
Already, women are crucial members of teams transforming crowded towns into Smarter Cities, helping cocoa farmers grow healthier crops, and finding new ways to help doctors cure diseases. We play a key role in space exploration, bring atoms to life on-screen, and successfully run Fortune 100 corporations.
By coupling their business acumen with deep technological expertise, these women can take on the toughest business challenges their customers have. And that doesn't happen by accident.
Studies show they are naturally more collaborative and better at listening, two tenets for building strong teams. In fact, teams with at least one woman outperform male-only teams.
So how do we continue to help build out this enormous pool of talent? Here are a few good ways to start. Mentorship is vital. Female-executive support groups and increased participation in industry associations, along with formal training and inclusion programs, would help.
As a math major myself, I can state with conviction that early encouragement and support for STEM is key -- even at the K-12 level.
Smartphones, apps, tablets, and the immersion of computers into all we do is rekindling the next generation's interest in discovery, science, and technology -- both male and female. It's a curiosity I understand -- even though my fascination with how things work was rooted in something far different.
Growing up on a farm, I didn't imagine I'd eventually be responsible for Enterprise Transformation at IBM. But my sisters and I were fascinated when my grandfather taught us about irrigation, using tossed dirt to determine the wind's direction, and how to bundle our produce together to get the best price at our roadside stand. Those early lessons -- maybe consciously, maybe not -- inspired all five of us enough to get degrees in math and science.
Far too many girls who start out with similar fascinations cast those dreams aside because aspirations -- like produce -- wither without nurturing. It's vital for individual women and organizations to mentor and support these budding scientists, engineers, and developers as they question, experiment, and learn.
As business leaders, women in technology bring vision, empathy, and management skills that allow employees and organizations to thrive. Individually, these creative, strong women will enjoy fulfilling careers, realize their dreams, and shatter glass ceilings into diamonds.
— Linda S. Sanford has been Senior Vice President of Enterprise Transformation at IBM since 2000. She joined IBM in 1975 as an engineer. One of the highest-ranking women at IBM, she is a member of the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame and the National Academy of Engineering. She has been named one of the 50 Most Influential Women in Business by Fortune Magazine, one of the Top Ten Innovators in the Technology Industry by InformationWeek Magazine, and one of the Ten Most Influential Women in Technology.