While growing the pipeline of women in technology is everyone’s responsibility, many women leaders in particular have a strong passion for inspiring and helping the next generation of female engineers and scientists pursue their goals. Today at Wonder Women Tech in Washington, DC, more than 200 participants gathered to address the barriers facing girls in STEAM today, why diversity in these fields matter, and how to increase and retain girls at every point in the pipeline, from elementary school through college and into the workforce. Recent Lenovo research found that technology is perceived as one the top sectors in advancing D&I and technology sector is seen as needing future progress in terms of the workforce. In two years, there will be 1.4M computer science related jobs and only 400,000 qualified candidates – companies must compete for top talent, and those with more diverse environments will have an advantage in attracting females in STEAM.
The conference hosted change makers, innovators, futurists, and visionaries across government, non-profits and business, including Florence Tan, Deputy Chief Technologist, NASA, and Karene Richards, Finance Chair National Governing Board of the Association of Women in Science.
Among the collection of women speakers – Lenovo’s Global Diversity and Inclusion Director, Seth Smiley-Humphries. So why would we have a male participate in a women’s conference? Simply, because our Lenovo’s diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts focus on including men as allies. We see D&I as a part of everyone’s job and responsibility within the company.
And that’s what Smiley-Humphries’ spoke to attendees about – how he found his calling, and how each one of us can be an advocate for diversity every day. He says, “my life’s work is creating a sense of belonging for people. It’s not only the responsibility of an organization to create that atmosphere, I also have to look at myself and make sure I feel like I belong as well.”
He defines finding your calling as the intersection of your passion, your values, and your strengths. He explained how being aware of your personal journey and how intersectionality shapes your identity. As a child, he struggled with accepting his sexual identity as a gay man, which he recognized in college. A sense of belonging eluded him for a long time. While facing these challenges, he credits his family for instilling in him a sense of social justice and a passion for helping others. “After college I started to experience the world in a very different way from the white, privileged upbringing I had.” After an experience with the police being falsely accused after confronting a man who made racist comments, this firsthand experience with injustice inspired him to take action. For him, that came in moving from a finance career to taking a D&I job.
At Lenovo, that’s led to helping more than 40 women and people of Color advance into executive ranks in the past three years, representing spending power of $20M. He’s proud of strengthening transgender rights through Lenovo’s transition policy, diversifying candidate slates, supporting STEM programs for underrepresented groups, and educating a global organization about what diversity means in their country and the world.
To make changes in your own life, Smiley-Humphries’ advises people to start by looking at their own relationships at work and home, and the businesses you support. See who’s missing, and make specific efforts to broaden your network to other groups.