This story, Purpose of Purpose Series: Interview with the Ad Council’s Lisa Sherman and Partners of the She Can STEM Campaign, was originally published on Ad Age.
Leaders from GE, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Verizon and UM Worldwide weigh in on the importance of encouraging girls to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).
The Ad Council’s “She Can STEM” campaign also includes nonprofit partners Black Girls Code, ChickTech, Girls Inc., Girl Scouts, Girls Who Code, National Center for Women & Information Technology, the New York Academy of Sciences and the Society of Women Engineers. The campaign, developed pro bono by McCann, will be supported by Facebook, Google, Twitter, MTV and Playbuzz. UM donated its services to support the campaign with strategy and outreach. For more on “She Can STEM,” visit SheCanSTEM.com.
Lisa Sherman, President & CEO of the Ad Council: Why did you get involved with She Can STEM? Why is it so important to your company?
Tara Walpert Levy, vice president, agency and brand solutions, Google: At Google, our future is dependent on girls embracing STEM. We’re a company that wants to build products for everyone, and that means that our products should be built by everyone. Thanks to great role models and teachers, I didn’t realize until college that it was less common for girls to participate in STEM. I am so grateful for the opportunities that science and technology opened up for me and eager to see others benefit in similar ways.
Lynn Lewis, president, East Coast and chief global marketing officer, UM Worldwide: In the media industry, STEM lies at the heart of everything we do, as data, analytics, technology and artificial intelligence play an ever-increasing role. Our company maxim of “Better science, better art, better outcomes” starts with science because data and analytics inform every decision we make and every action we take. This science guides our strategy and planning and is behind every piece of content we execute. As our ability to forecast, track and measure advances, our work requires an analytical mind to match.
Diego Scotti, EVP and chief marketing officer, Verizon: It’s our responsibility as one of the country’s biggest advertisers to take the lead in making the changes we want to see within the industry. This is not only the right thing to do, but it is something we need to do. As the world and job market become increasingly tech dependent, we need to make sure women have a substantial presence at the table.
Lisa Sherman: As part of this initiative, you’re collaborating with many other big tech organizations—how is this different from just tackling this issue alone? Any benefits in working together?
Linda Boff, chief marketing officer, GE: We are thrilled to be collaborating with other top technology companies on these critical issues. We’ll never see the kind of improvements necessary to make real change unless we see collaboration across all industries in education, hiring, promoting and empowering women in STEM.
Tara Walpert Levy: It’s like that old proverb, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” We have far to go, quickly, and this is an issue that no one organization can solve on its own. By joining forces, we can reach and connect with so many more young women in need of encouragement and opportunity.
Diego Scotti: Until now, there have been a lot of organizations making individual moves to impact change, but collective action is so much more powerful. It isn’t easy for big tech companies to come together, as we compete in some areas, but this is something meaningful for the future.
Lisa Sherman: What else are you doing to encourage girls to pursue their interests in STEM?
Kathleen Hall, corporate vice president of brand and advertising, Microsoft: Microsoft is doing a ton of work to encourage girls to stay in STEM, from the #MakeWhatsNext Patent Program—which offers female inventors patent support and mentorship so they can protect their ideas and further their innovation—to producing DigiGirlz camps and partnering with the Imagine Cup, to continuing to address diversity and inclusion within our culture.
Michelle Peluso, SVP and chief marketing officer, IBM: At IBM, we’ve taken a special interest in helping young girls pursue their interests in STEM with our groundbreaking public education reform initiative called Pathways in Technology, or P-Tech. The notion is that many emerging professions aren’t “white collar” or “blue collar” and, in fact, don’t actually require a traditional four-year degree. Rather these “new collar” jobs benefit from extending high school to six years; students can graduate with a high school diploma, a no-cost associate degree aligned to industry needs, and workplace experiences, including mentorship and internships.
Linda Boff: GE has a program called GE Girls, which is designed to encourage girls to explore the world of STEM and STEM-based careers. During the summer of 2018, GE Girls programs were held in 23 GE communities across the United States and around the globe, giving girls an immersive and hands-on experience with STEM subjects and projects.
Lisa Sherman: What do you think needs to happen to reach a tipping point or culture change or to create a movement around this issue?
Kathleen Hall: If we want to reach a tipping point and spark true culture change, we need very senior female technology leaders, which is what the “She Can STEM” campaign is designed to illustrate. We need women coding and driving businesses, so others can look up to them, see them and follow.
Lynn Lewis: I hope that the tipping point is upon us and I’m thrilled to have UM working with the Ad Council on this initiative because never has this issue been more important. We’ve come a long way but it’s our job to keep pushing. That means supporting young girls and women to pursue their STEM interests but it’s also about educating young boys and men to see their female counterparts as just as capable. It means encouraging young girls to speak up in the math and science classes early on. If we’re going to change the culture, it starts with education. Educating the next generation on the importance of STEM and showing them—girls, boys, people of color, minorities—that they have a seat at the table and an opportunity to shape the future of science, technology, engineering and math.
Linda Boff: We must publicly celebrate influential female scientists and engineers to encourage more young women to consider careers in STEM fields, and I’m extremely proud that our industry is finding creative ways to highlight the achievements of women in STEM to inspire a cultural change around this issue. One initiative I am particularly proud of at GE is our “Unseen Stars” campaign. For three days, the 750,000 people who passed through New York City’s Grand Central Terminal experienced a new universe that celebrated innovation, perseverance and the contributions of women. From the first woman to win the National Medal of Science in engineering to the first woman to kill cancer cells with lasers, the “Unseen Stars” projections shed light on the accomplishments of female scientists.
Lisa Sherman: Did you dream of working for a tech company growing up? Why or why not?
Tara Walpert Levy: I grew up loving math and science. Math games were common at the dinner table, and I was only allowed to play video games I programmed myself. When the opportunity arose to join Visible World—the media technology company I ran before Google—I leapt at the position. As entertainment and technology continue to collide, I’ll always be grateful for the familiarity and lack of fear around all things STEM that have opened numerous opportunities for me, many of those ones I never imagined.
Michelle Peluso: Growing up as the daughter of an entrepreneur, I’ve always had an appetite for learning and a deep curiosity to understand how things were designed and how they worked. People always ask me, “You’ve worked in travel with Travelocity, banking with Citigroup, fashion/retail with Gilt; what drew you to working in technology with IBM?” For me, the technology piece and working with exceptional and diverse teams have always been my cornerstone. The ability to use technology to fundamentally reimagine professions, workflows and customer experience has always been at the center.
Kathleen Hall: I actually wanted to be the president one day!