Together, We Can Change the Face of STEM

Corlis Murray and Abbott Laboratories are passionate about bringing more young women into the world of STEM. Here, Corlis shares how they are going about this, as well as Abbott's in-depth blueprint that companies can use to inspire and start their own high school internship programs.

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Together, We Can Change the Face of STEM

“Together, We Can Change the Face of STEM: Here’s a Blueprint to Help” was written by Abbott’s Corlis Murray and published on LinkedIn.


I know I’m not alone in my desire to make an impact on the fact that less than a quarter of today’s U.S. STEM workforce is women. You probably care, too, by the virtue of the fact that this headline drew you in.

When I started in engineering in the 1970s, just 7% of my STEM peers were women. So, we’ve made progress, but not enough.

The reason is cultural. We know girls are less likely to be encouraged to pursue STEM studies. We know they’re less likely to think they’re naturally “good” at the subjects. And I think a big reason why is a lack of exposure.

When a young woman with a natural ability for math and science is exposed, even just once, to an experience that shows her how impactful and creative and fun a job in STEM can be – that has staying power. She’s going to remember that.

I certainly had no idea what an engineer did when IBM plucked me out of my inner-city Dallas high school for an internship when I was 17 years old. But that summer changed my life. And today, I run engineering services at a Fortune 150 healthcare company.

This kind of story is why we started Abbott’s high school STEM internship program in 2012, with three students in one location. We had to figure it out – just like a startup would. We learned a lot over the years about what works, and what doesn’t. Next year, we’re increasing the number of students in our program to 50, in locations across the country.

Everything we’ve learned has made its way into what we’re calling our high school STEM internship blueprint – a jump-starter kit, if you will – for any company interested in implementing a high school internship program of their own. Today, on Women’s Equality Day, we’re releasing it to the public, for other companies to use, modify and share.

If you do decide to start a high school STEM internship program, it will be among your most personal, rewarding accomplishments. The notes I receive from these young people – boys and girls, because our program is open to anyone – are raw, personal and emotional. The ways in which you will impact lives are incredible. But the return to your company is also clear.

Of our 130 interns so far, 97% go on to pursue STEM studies in college. Two thirds, on average are young women. Half of them end up in our college internship program. And so far, we’ve hired seven former high school interns as full-time employees. Five of them are women. The rest are lifetime advocates.

These will be our future leaders. Which is good news when you consider they’ll be making the next life-changing technologies that benefit everyone. Together, we really can change the face of STEM.

 

Corlis Murray headshot

Corlis Murray is the Senior Vice President for Quality Assurance, Regulatory and Engineering Services at Abbott. You can reach out to her about the her article and Abbott’s high school STEM internship blueprint via her linkedin profile.


 

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