Linda Sanford - IBM
Senior Vice President, Enterprise Transformation
Linda Sanford leads the strategy for IBM’s internal transformation to becoming the premier globally integrated enterprise. In this role, she is responsible for driving the company’s ongoing reinvention spanning technology, operations and culture. Ms. Sanford 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. A graduate of St. John's University, Ms. Sanford earned an M.S. in Operations Research from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
How is your company innovating to promote STEM?
Our central value proposition is on delivering technology and expertise in innovative ways to address key problems facing our clients and the world, so clearly we have a vested interest in promoting STEM education. We rely on a pipeline of new talent emerging from universities with firm grounding in math, the sciences and technology. So we’ve been focused on enhancing STEM education for many decades, dating back to the1950s when we worked with Columbia University to develop the computer science discipline.
We’ve also introduced several innovative new programs in the past few years to support STEM. One we call the Transition to Teaching program, which addresses the critical shortage of math and science teachers by leveraging the brains and backgrounds of some of our most experienced employees. Through Transition to Teaching, IBM is enabling its employees to become fully accredited teachers in their local communities when they choose to leave the company, providing tuition reimbursements of up to $15,000, stipends during student teaching, and online mentoring and other support services in conjunction with colleges, universities and school districts. Our first class of Transition to Teaching “graduates” is now in classrooms in North Carolina and New York, the initiative is now active in the United Kingdom, and we’re pleased that several other companies are developing similar programs.
Try Science, a collaboration of the New York Hall of Science, IBM, and the more than 600 member institutions of the Association of Science-Technology Centers, opens an online world of science and discovery to students who otherwise would have no access to the best museums around the world. The site, available in nine languages, provides interactive exhibits, multimedia adventures and live camera “field trips.” A special view for teachers, Teachers Try Science, helps middle school teachers improve their instruction with hands-on projects.
IBM Mentor Place is a key component of IBM's overall commitment to public education and raising student achievement. Through this corporate volunteer program, IBM employees around the world are providing students with online academic assistance and career counseling, while letting them know that adults do care about them. More than 6,000 IBMers in 35countries are currently participating in the program.
Why do you believe STEM education and workforce are important to our nation?
We’re living in a competitive world with an incredibly integrated global economy. The key to economic growth is innovation, and the STEM disciplines are essential for innovation. In every industry, the application of technology is changing the game. We need our young people prepared to become innovators, and a solid STEM education is a core building block. You look at the innovators in just about every industry, and you’ll find they have a solid understanding of STEM principles and how to apply them. The way people work is changing. It is becoming smarter, more collaborative, and in many cases virtual thanks to the penetration of technology. Jobs in STEM fields are on the rise and will make up about five percent of all jobs by 2018, according to Georgetown University Center on Education.
What can we do to attract more women to STEM careers?
I think we need to frame STEM careers in a way that makes them more appealing to women. I try to stress the importance of collaboration, which many women are naturally adept at and which is so essential to successful technology projects today. Women also tend to like solving problems, so I believe it would help greatly if we could keep it at the level of how science and technology can help to solve really important issues in the world. You have to understand the technology and work with it, of course, but the problems that we’re solving are so much more than that --- like disease prevention, water quality, and access to health care. The problems of the world are things that we can tackle. That should be appealing to all of us.