2016 NCWIT Summit – NCWIT Collegiate Award

May 16, 2016

[upbeat music with applause]

PAT RUSSO: It's a pleasure to be here with all of you. Can you hear me? Is this mic working? And thank you, Lucy for that very warm and generous welcome. I wanna start by congratulating all of you and Lucy, in particular, for what you all have done with NCWIT. It was funny when Lucy found her way back to me. It had been a number of years since we had seen each other. Our paths have gone separate ways and I said, "So, what have you been up to?" And when she took me through what she's been up to, I said, "Wow! That is really impressive." And I think evidence of that is this wonderful group of people who are all here today. And you've gathered obviously from a number of different fields here in Las Vegas which is a place, I think, Laura's group often gather. But really to share ideas, exchange views, perspectives, celebrate accomplishments around what Lucy noted is a common goal which is really to increase gender diversity and the representation of diverse backgrounds in computing and technology. And it is clear that this organization and you, its members, are a real driving force behind this important goal and it really is an honor for me because I am truly committed to this to be with you today to help further the conversation about how together we can all be agents of change. And as you know, it goes without saying changed leadership is by definition an urgent response to the need for change. And while women comprise more than half of our country's total population, women are significantly underrepresented. Still, in corporate governance and leadership terms, it is much better certainly than when I started my career in IBM but the gap is even bigger when we considered differences such as race. And to Lucy's point, the highest levels of corporate America, whether it's Wall Street or even Silicon Valley, are also lacking in diversity. And working on the problem, I mean working on improving but clearly still lacking in diversity. In fact, interestingly, and my comments will focus to higher levels of corporate America. But let's not forget it is really all about building the pipeline which is how that really evolves. According to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study on Fortune 500 Board diversity, only 18 percent of the SNP 500 directors are women and only 15 percent are minorities. And as I said, progress has been made but as you can note from those statistics, there's still a lot of work to do. A concerning part is that only 42 percent of female board members believe that having ethnic diversity on board is very important. I happen to be in that 42 percent. And so, this to me is something that feels urgent and I think we need change from the top-down and we need to be very intentional about it. Of course, there really are some notable exceptions. One of which I'm quite proud and consider that Meg Whitman who is the CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise and I formed actually one of the rare examples where two women serve as both Chairman and CEO of one of the leading Fortune 500 companies. And there are other examples, Pepsi. Yeah. [audience applauding] I think it is a relatively rare example in. But there's others. Pepsi's CEO Indra Nooyi, Xerox's Chairman and CEO Ursula Burns and Mircosoft's Satya Nadella are all examples of leaders with diverse backgrounds who have brought new ideas to the table. And we need these exceptions to become more of the norms so that our government and corporations truly benefit from varying perspectives and also really, truly and accurately represent the increasing diversity of our workforces. I can attest to the importance of diversity in the workplace especially at the highest levels per stand. I'll just give you an anecdotal example. When Hewlett Packard separated into two companies last year, I was the lead director of HP at that time and so I took a role, along with Meg Whitman, and our governance committee, in building the two boards for these companies. And as part of the process, we set out with our primary objective to be to build the most experienced, global-minded and diverse members. To find the most diverse members we could to be able to help each company develop its best products and best serve customers in their respective markets. And I will tell you. It was a very deliberate process. We were committed. We took the time that we needed to take. We were very clear with the recruiting firm that diversity was a critical dimension of what we were looking for. And I'm proud to tell you that on both boards of thirteen board members each, five of them are women. And we have a number of minorities represented. We have people from all over the world. And so, they truly are incredibly diverse boards in the most inclusive sense. And my point is that it is absolutely doable. We had many fine candidates but you have to be committed and you have to stick with that commitment. Diversity at the highest level is incredibly important because it also sets the tone for the organization but it also breaks ground for the entire organization. I think everybody in this room wouldn't be here if you didn't see yourself as a changed agent and feel some degree of empowerment and ability to affect change in some way, large or small, in the organizations you represent. Collectively, you've taken a significant step by joining the NCWIT community and by working for change within your own organizations. And one of the reasons as Lucy pointed out for coming together is to share ideas and think about how to accelerate your advocacy for the advancement of women and underrepresented groups into the top and most importantly, leadership roles in your organizations. So, I just like to offer a few insights. You will find these are not rocket science. I happen to think that the degree of commitment and execution around these is as important as what they are. So, the first thing I'd like to talk about is the importance of what we call onboarding. Employees joining the computing field or the corporate world for the first time need well-rounded onboarding and career development programs that go way beyond what we think of as a baseline orientation and preparation. Do your programs go further than the on-the-job training so that new employees, especially members from underrepresented groups, are supported and encouraged early on from day one to think about leadership possibilities? Does the onboarding process in your organization make the hidden rules and norms more transparent? Something particularly important for someone who is a minority in the majority environment. Does your process include candid discussions about how things really get done around here? Or which organizations or which people actually carry more sway? Those kinds of things are incredibly helpful as part of an onboarding process. Next, I think, a mentorship program that actively pairs employees with carefully selected mentors, namely, people who are successful in the organization and share similar experiences, perspectives or backgrounds can be very helpful. This connection provides employees with much more than a resource. It's a real example of how someone similar to them can succeed and go the distance in the company. Recently, I heard Indra Nooyi, the CEO of Pepsi, talk about how she had wonderful mentors along the way but felt badly that none of them were women. She's working to change that for the new generation of women leaders and I couldn't agree more. I, too, had a number of wonderful mentors that I selected or selected me because I like the way they led or I like their management style. But the truth is there were no women in more senior positions as I was starting in my career. And I missed that. And I think that there's a lot more ability today to create a mentorship program for women where there are more women who can be mentors. One step further, think of championing sponsorship broadly in an organization. That can significantly help to foster the growth of your talent. Sponsors, different in mentors, are those senior leaders who not only advise. What mentors often do is provide an advisory role. You sit, you chat about what's going on in your world and they give you some perspective about how to think more broadly about that. But sponsors are those who actually take action and use their what we call political capital organizational capital in an organization to actually sponsor and advance employees. Educating on what's sponsorship entails both from a leadership and an employee perspective and encouraging these types of relationships in organizations can result in positive visibility for employees amongst the senior leadership and career advancement and increased space of promotion. Also in my experience, one has to be particularly attuned and attentive to the changing needs of employees' responsibilities beyond the workplace. It's interesting. I noted that Lucy showed that the primary reason what you're interested in is recruitment. How to recruit? And I would say, that's terrific but equally important is how to keep the talent that you recruit. And employees tend to take on more management roles as they progress through their careers, especially in their 30s and in their 40s. And often at the same time, society often expects of women, perhaps more so than men, to take on new responsibilities at home, particularly, as it relates to children. And this can be a challenging time. And companies need to be attentive. They need to be supportive. And they also need to make it okay for men to take on home responsibilities. The primary key, I think, is flexibility. Recognizing that a flexible work environment can go a long way in helping all employees, perhaps especially women thrive in their careers as well as manage the responsibilities that they have at home while mapping out what leadership role might look like in their organization. And the last insight I would share is the importance of building networks outside your organizational walls. Something that you obviously do here at the NCWIT Summit. And it's great that you can all come together to do that, to take initiative, to reach out to others who have done a good job of incorporating diversity in their workplace and into their programs. Take advantage of that opportunity. Ask each other to come and speak to your organizations or speak to those on campus or within your corporate world. Exchange ideas. Find out what's working and what's not. Fostering connections outside your organization can be extremely valuable when it comes to creating this kind of change. The more future Meg Whitmans, Indra Nooyis, Ursula Burns and Satya Nadellas you can meet and expose your team to, the better. I hope some of these are just helpful nuggets for you to take away and as I said earlier, I think none of these ideas are new. I think what's important about them is the degree of commitment really. The willingness to apply the energy and the dedication to actually make them work. And find out if they're not working, why they're not working. I see so many programs that gets started and then they end up not really producing the outcome that's desired and part of that has to do with the degree of commitment but part of that has to do with not understanding when something is not working, why it's not working. So, I encourage you to think about that dimension of it. On a personal level, I certainly feel privileged to celebrate the accomplishments of this organization. I think they get us one step closer in encouraging more women and members of underrepresented groups to join the technology and computing fields. I feel, particularly, passionate about these fields in part because it has been my career. And I believe it's given me so many advantages. I've always felt that my skills and experiences were in demand. And that my environment was forever changing. And in fact, I found as my career progressed that some of the board opportunities I had were a result to the fact that I had a perspective on technology. And if you step back and think about it, I think the broader point is that technology is increasingly defining how we live our lives. It impacts how we work, how we play, how we get around, how we socially network, how we communicate, how we shop, how we eat, and how we use other services. And the list goes on and on. So, having a solid grounding in technology and computer sciences is helpful not only in obtaining valuable professional skills but also when it comes to really understanding how the world is changing around us and what kind of impact it's gonna have. And it's really important in being able to make a relevant contribution. So, we need a diverse range of people on board to shape and put their stamp, their backgrounds, their perspectives and their ideas on to that changing world which is ever more colorful and complex than it has ever been. So, I wanna say to Lucy, to you and your board, thank you. And to the organization, for all the amazing work you've done and for being changed agents for this very important mission. Thank you. [audience applauding] Okay, now. The fun part. As many of you know, NCWIT has a variety of ways to recognize significant accomplishments in computing. And to open the summit, we are recognizing cross-generational technologists from computing pioneers to today's college students. So, let's start with our college awardees. The NCWIT Collegiate Award honors the outstanding technical accomplishments of college women of any year of study. Conferred annually, the Award recognizes technical projects that demonstrate a high level of creativity and potential societal impact. Hewlett Packard Enterprise is very proud to sponsor this award along with Qualcomm. And this year, together we are extending the award recognition to six recipients and 12 honorable mentions. And many of them are here with us today. Each collegiate award winner receives a $10,000 cash award and an engraved trophy. Each collegiate award honorable mention receives $2,500 cash award and a covered certificate. So, let's begin acknowledging these wonderful technologists with the 2016 NCWIT Collegiate Award honorable mentions. So, we have a group of very talented women here in the front and second rows. So, let me ask you to please stand when your name is called. And I'll ask the audience to please hold your applause until the end. Eleina Cole, College of Charleston. Brittney English ... Oh, you can remain standing if you would. Brittney English, Georgia Institute of Technology. Kathryn Hodge, Vassar College. Wei Low, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT. Nichola Lubold, Arizona State University. Halima Olapade, Drexel University. Farita Tasnim, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT. Stephanie Valentine, Texas A&M. Irene Zhang, University of Washington in Seattle. And Kate Park from Stanford University, Kate Miller from University of Pennsylvania, and Alisha Saxena, MIT, who are unable to be with us here today. Congratulations. [audience applauding] [audience cheering while applauding] Now, I'd like to ask two people to join me on stage to help honor the finalists for the NCWIT collegiate award. Janice Zdankus, Vice President of Quality in Hewlett Packard Enterprises, Customer Experience and Quality Team. Janice also represents HPE on the NCWIT Board of Directors. And Susie Armstrong, Senior Vice President of Engineering at Qualcomm. Susie was a pioneer in bringing internet protocols to the cellular industry. That's what allows you to talk on your phone and get emails at the same time. [audience laughing] Right, Susie? [audience cheering while applauding] I mean, I rather people that help but that was a big part of it. Resulting in the first web surfing on a cellular phone in 1997. Hewlett Packard Enterprise is proud to co-sponsor this award with Qualcomm. Okay. So now, I will ask the collegiate award winners to come up to the stage as I call your name. The 2016 NCWIT Collegiate Award winners are Joy Buolamwini. MIT. [audience applauding] Come on up, Joy. Joy's project called SmartBra is a Bloomer Tech mobile application that allows women to monitor their heart health and detect early warning signs of cardiovascular problems. In addition to this project, Joy is the founder of Code4Rights, C4R, an MIT media lab endeavor that focuses on the intersection of impact coding and inclusion, and is a Google scholar as well as an Astronaut scholar. [audience cheering and applauding] Congratulations, Joy. Jasmine Collins, University of Pittsburgh. [audience applauding] Jasmine has recently graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a double major in Neuroscience and Computer Science, as well as a minor in Chemistry. She was busy. [audience laughing] And is interested in developing algorithms and models that can benefit healthcare and the study of the human brain. Her project, Protein-Ligand Scoring Meets Machine Learning, I'll say that again, Protein-Ligand Scoring Meets Machine Learning, provides predictions of protein-ligand interaction potency to bring about a more efficient and cost-effective method for pharmaceutical drug discovery. It's a mouthful. Congratulations. [audience applauding] Our next recipient is Xyla Foxlin. Case Western Reserve University. [audience applauding] Xyla founded the startup company called Parihug which also served as her collegiate award submission to create a pairable teddy bear that lets individuals hug each other from anywhere in the world, closing the gap between people without verbal communication. She hopes to do a bait around of manufacturing for this technology in the summer of 2016 and go live on Kickstarter following that. Xyla is a mechanical and aerospace engineer with a minor in studio arch at Case Western Reserve University. Congratulations, Xyla. [audience applauding] Our next award winner is Rachel Holladay from Carnegie Mellon. Rachel is a student, as I said, at Carnegie Mellon and is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science with a double major in Robotics. Rachel's project called the Robot Gesture Engine, R-O-G-U-E, RoGuE, is a motion planning approach that enables robots to generate gestures across robot, morphologies and scenarios. You have to explain that one further to me too. [audience laughing] Congratulations, Rachel. [audience applauding] Our next award winner is Meenupriya Swaminathan, Northeastern University. [audience applauding] Meenu is a fourth year doctoral student in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department at Northeastern University. Her project Intra-Body Internet of Implants and Wearables using Galvanic Coupling, is a proposed implant communication technology that allows implants to safely communicate wirelessly by using weak electrical signals in the conductive properties of human body tissue. Congratulations, Meenu. [audience applauding] Jenny Wang, Harvard University. [audience applauding] Jenny is a Computer Science concentrator at Harvard University and serves on the Boards of Women Engineers Code, Harvard College Entrepreneurs Forum, ProjectCSGirls and Harvard Ventures. Her project, Fully Automated Computational Brain Image Segmentation for Cross Modality Analysis of Neuro Degenerative Diseases, that's the name of the project, [audience laughing] is an automatic brain image segmentation technique that contributes directly to President Obama's new BRAIN initiative and allows for efficient and accurate modeling and analysis of the brain. Congratulations, Jenny. And let's hear a round of applause for all of these outstanding students. [audience applauding] That is a truly impressive set of projects and activities. Congratulations to all of you, winners. You clearly represent the future of the computing discipline and speaking for Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Qualcomm, we could not be more proud of your accomplishments and more optimistic about what that future represents. And to all the wonderful academics in the audience, please remember that this new opportunity is available to all of your female students pursuing a degree in computing and participating in the aspirations in computing community.