Do you know what’s tough? Being in high school, finding that your career path is in STEM, and being a woman.
Women make up just 24% of the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce, way below most other sectors. Why? For starters, high school girls value creative thinking and tend to want a career that has a positive impact on the world but don’t always know how science and engineering can give them both. Lack of exposure to opportunities is a major contributing factor.
Enter STEM superhero Corlis Murray, who is using her powers to create an internship of the future for young women interested in careers in science, engineering, tech, and math.
As Senior Vice President, Quality, Regulatory and Engineering Services at Abbott, a global healthcare leader that helps people live more fully at all stages of life, Murray is shaking up the universe when it comes to engineering, quality, manufacturing, STEM education, mentorship, leadership, diversity, women, and people of color in the workforce.
And in honor of Women’s Equality Day, Murray and Abbott have unveiled an innovative blueprint for a successful high-school internship aimed at exposing girls to STEM fields and increasing the number of women working in STEM.
“Today, we’re doing something companies rarely do: making the secret to our success public. We’re publishing a blueprint, ‘Shaping the Future of STEM,’ which is a detailed playbook for creating a successful high-school internship program that helps expose girls to STEM fields,” Murray said of the announcement. “We are releasing this guide with the hope that other companies will create similar programs, and we have sent it to CEOs and heads of HR at Fortune 500 companies to jumpstart the conversation. We’ve also created a website – www.stem.abbott – that has resources for parents and teachers and inspiring stories about women in STEM,” said Murray.
Success doesn’t happen without adversity, and it no one achieves it alone. Murray hopes to lead and inspire young women in STEM just as she was led and inspired herself. Here’s who changed Murray’s life and how…
Corlis Murray: “When I think back to when I was in high school, I was called into the guidance counselor’s office and found out I’d been selected from my Dallas high school to complete a summer internship at IBM. I had been working at Jack In The Box before, making $1.76 an hour – and to be able to get a job where I was doubling my pay was a big deal because I was from a low-income home.
When I started my internship, I was the only student that I saw there. I met my manager, an African-American man named John. He shared with me that he was a mechanical engineer and that summer, I worked with him in the field. It was an experience that truly demystified engineering for me.
John taught me how to troubleshoot technical problems on mainframe systems – the brains of a computer’s operating system – and it was the first time I truly understood what it meant to be an engineer and the impact you could have on people’s lives. I am incredibly thankful to him for showing me that I, too, could be an engineer.”
Murray shares five important lessons she’s learned about being a woman in STEM—and how to help other women succeed, as well.
My internship with IBM when I was 17 years old gave me the confidence that I was capable of pursuing a career as an engineer. Without that experience, I would not be where I am today. That’s why we have a high school STEM internship program at Abbott, a global healthcare company – to demystify what it really means to be an engineer for these students and ultimately develop a robust pipeline of future talent.
Our internship program also happens to be incredibly diverse (more than half minorities and, on average, two-thirds are young women), so it has helped increase the diversity of our early career pipeline as well.
Your gender, your race, your ZIP code—none of that determines where you end up in life. You have to know how to make your own odds. If there is hardly anyone like you in your chosen field, you have the opportunity to add a new perspective. And even if there are many people like you in your chosen field, remember that each individual, regardless of what we look like, offers a unique perspective. You just have to be self-aware enough to figure out what your unique perspective is. This is about figuring out your own value proposition and letting it shine.
Regardless of whether you’re shy (I, myself, am an introvert) or not, you have to fill up that room. Let people know you’re there, and why the fact that you being there matters.
It could be as simple as keeping your portfolio up to date and being ready to share it at any moment, or not being afraid to talk about your accomplishments and how you achieved what you did. I’ve seen high school interns go from hiding in a corner at 17-years old to lead a team at Abbott at just 24-years old—all because they learned how to fill up the room. They learn to be proud of the contributions they can make.
It’s amazing how many people can’t explain what their company does. Showing an interest in business areas and functions outside of your own will not only give you a deeper understanding of your company but also shows leadership that you are someone who thinks and cares about the bigger picture. Knowing the business helps you to understand the “why” behind things that are needed. You’re more equipped to see the potential impact your work has on the business, as well.
This is my life philosophy and I would argue it’s the most important aspect of leadership. I have been blessed with opportunities and challenges in my career and I believe it is, therefore, my job to go back and reach others who might not have those opportunities unless I help connect them.
We have high school STEM interns who simply would not be who they are today without the Abbott internship experience, and 97% of them go on to study STEM in college. There is not a dry eye in the room each fall when they give their final presentations and head back to class. We affect their lives, but they also affect ours.
This is a quote from one of our interns this summer: “I came into this internship thinking I wasn’t brave enough, fast enough, smart enough or worthy enough for this opportunity. Not only did I learn that engineering was the career I want to pursue, I learned that it was actually possible for me to do it.”
“During my 40 years as an engineer, we’ve gone from a world where just 7% of my STEM peers were women, including me, to 24% today.
Progress. But still a lot of potentially brilliant thinking that never gets to the table. As business leaders, we’re in the best position to change that. In 2012, Abbott created a high school STEM internship program. About two-thirds of the participants are young women,” said Murray.
Learn more about Abbott’s high school STEM internship program:
None of us can change the face of STEM alone, so we hope you’ll join us in this important work. You can download our blueprint at WWW.STEM. ABBOTT.COM
Connect with us at www.abbott.com, on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/company/abbott-/, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Abbott and on Twitter @AbbottNews and @AbbottGlobal.