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I’m a 28-year veteran of the global healthcare company Abbott, where I’m responsible for the company’s engineering, regulatory, and quality assurance functions in over 150 countries

I started my career at Abbott in 1989 and have held a number of senior positions, including senior manufacturing engineer, production manager, and engineering manager.

In 2012, I began the Abbott’s high school STEM internship program, targeting underrepresented students. A high school engineering internship changed the trajectory of my life when I was 17, and I am passionate about helping young people, especially girls and minorities, realize their STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) dreams. To date, almost 90 young people have taken part and 97 percent are pursuing a STEM degree or have a STEM job.

This is as personal as it gets.

The fact that only one in seven engineers is a woman. That only one in 50 is an African-American female. The fact that I, as an African-American female engineer am 10 times rarer than a woman in Congress.

As a young woman, my mom and my grandfather encouraged me to study math and science, and today I work at Abbott’s as its top engineer. My granddad only made it formally through eighth grade, but he and my family valued education. My mom went to school herself whilst raising five kids.

That’s what made the difference when an opportunity of a lifetime came my way. I was 17, working for $1.76-an-hour at Jack in the Box to cover expenses for extra-curricular programs at school, when IBM came to my inner-city Dallas school, looking for a student who could intern there for the summer.

The support of a few key teachers, a guidance counselor, and my family made the decision to work for IBM that summer a reality. What followed was another internship and eventually a degree – and a career. That internship changed the direction of my life.

This coming weekend, I’m sharing this story and taking this issue head on with thousands of students at the USA Science & Engineering Festival in Washington D.C., along with my colleague, Abbott neuroscientist Beth McQuiston. I know the power of words, and of stories, and hope these girls walk away knowing that no matter their ZIP code, no matter the color of the skin or their gender or their socioeconomic status – they, too, can be an engineer one day.

As much as I am thankful for the opportunity to share this vision, I also know I am just one person. As one of very few African-American female engineers, I have an obligation to do something to help close a real gap of women and minorities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. It’s good for our company and its future, but it’s also just the right thing to do for society and the future of innovation.

A shortage of diverse perspectives means the teams creating the next life-changing technologies in our societies are not as equipped as they otherwise would be. How can we innovate for a diverse world if we don’t have diverse innovators?

The reason STEM recruitment and retention is broken when it comes to attracting and holding on to women and minorities, I think, is they don’t see enough people who look like them in their fields, a signal to them that maybe this field isn’t for them – maybe they weren’t meant to succeed here.

To be sure, the fix to that is not straight forward as it may seem. But one thing parents, schools and companies need to do is invest in these young people early, so they see STEM as a viable career option.

Only 10 percent of girls say their parents encourage them to pursue engineering, for instance. That is way too low.

STEM is not hard and boring – it can be intuitive and exciting. Abbott invests in a high school STEM internship program that reaches students as young as 15, empowering them to work on real business problems and giving them a taste of what it’s really like to work in the field, transforming abstract concepts into tangible career options. Outside of the high school internship, since 2006, Abbott has worked with more than 700 schools and community organizations to inspire more than 285,000 students interested in STEM.

We also need to be quick to speak up for good STEM work and education policy. Like I wrote in The Hill, we need Ph.Ds. and inventors, yes – but we also need people with technical skills to work in labs, build prototypes, write code and fill the many, many other STEM-related jobs of the future.

If you work at another company and you’re still with me, I am here for you. I know it isn’t easy to get something like a high school STEM internship off the ground, but I’ve done it. I am willing to share my blueprints. This is bigger than me, and bigger than Abbott. This is about someday, living in a world where diversity of people, ideas and thoughts are equally balanced in creating life-changing technologies that will further advance innovation, technology – and life as we know it.

Henry Sapiecha

Charlotte Connell says about her dad “He was my best friend, mentor and surfing buddy”

Get Motivated is a series presented in partnership with the Movember Foundation.

Devastated by the loss of her father to prostate cancer, Charlotte Connell is passionate about improving men’s health for the sake of her son and to prevent men dying too early from cancer and mental illness.

The week her father died Charlotte Connell found out she was pregnant with her first child. After a lengthy battle with prostate cancer her beloved Dad Geoff succumbed to illness he had been diagnosed with in 2007.

“I miss him every day,” Charlotte said. “He wasn’t just my Dad, he was my best friend, mentor and surfing buddy.”

Growing up by the beach her father was a patient and fit man who taught her to surf. And he always told her that she would make a great mum one day.

Sadly he never had the chance to meet his grandson Finn Geoffrey, now 15 months old, but his memory lives on and his positive attitude towards his health is something his daughter wants her son, and other men to benefit from.

“As soon as Dad found out (he was ill) he started talking about it, and it was a good thing he did – he inspired friends and family to get tested and a close family friend caught his prostate cancer early,” she said.

He also inspired Charlotte to raise awareness of both mental and physical health issues in men.

She has been raising money for Movember for the past five years and has managed to rope in friends along the way. But now she has a son she wants Finn to be part of her campaign.

“I have got to do something with my son because he is the future and he’s why I am doing it,” she said. “(When he’s older) I want Finn to ask me why I did all these things so I can explain it to him.”

Not being able to grow a moustache herself has not stopped Charlotte from inventing creative and effective ways to raise funds for Movember.

“Dad had this magnificent moustache – he was like a surfer god. When he got sick I thought ‘Oh no! Dad’s going to lose his moustache’ from the chemo so I wanted to do something positive. I thought if I can wear a moustache and suffer the ridicule (of walking around with a fake mo) then men can go and get a health check!”

She’s as passionate about mental illness as she is about physical health. “I think Finn is growing up in a brilliant time when men talk about mental health issues, there is less stigma attached and there is the realisation that it’s totally OK not to be OK.”

And while older generations of men may have ignored their health concerns, male friends have thanked her for encouraging them to seek regular check-ups.

“I want to get the next generation of men on board with this message,” she said.

Charlotte will again be raising funds for Movember this year – along with son Finn.

Get Motivated. Support Movember and help stop men dying young. Sign up at movember.com and Grow a Mo or Move to be the difference in a man’s life.

Henry Sapiecha

Psychology student Aleksandra Chichikova crowned first Miss Wheelchair World

A psychology student from Belarus, Aleksandra Chichikova, has been crowned Miss Wheelchair World in the first-ever edition of the beauty pageant held in Warsaw, Poland on Saturday.

“Fight your anxiety and your fears,” the 23-year-old Chichikova said at a gala evening, after the contestants had presented themselves in national costumes and evening dresses in elaborate choreographies.

Lebohang Monyatsi from South Africa was the runner-up ahead of Poland’s Adrianna Zawadzinska in the first contest of its kind on a global scale, which brought together 24 young women from 19 countries.

The goal of the contest was to “change the image of women in wheelchairs so they would not be judged solely by this attribute,” contest co-founder and jury president Katarzyna Wojtaszek-Ginalska told AFP.

Miss Belarus Aleksandra Chichikova greets the audience after she was crowned Miss Wheelchair World.

The pageant organised by the Poland-based Only One Foundation also seeks to show that a wheelchair is a luxury in many parts of the world, she added.

The contestants were chosen either in national rounds or, in countries with no such pageants, by non-governmental organisations addressed by the Polish foundation.

“It is not the looks that matter the most,” said Wojtaszek-Ginalska, who is also confined to a wheelchair.

“Of course, a good look counts but we have focused especially on the personality of the girls, their everyday activities, their involvement, social life, plans,” she added.

Miss Belarus Aleksandra Chichikova greets the audience.

The contestants spent eight days in the Polish capital, busy with rehearsals, photo sessions, conferences and visits.

The inaugural Miss Wheelchair World attracted contestants from Angola, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Finland, France, Guatemala, India, Italy, Mexico, Moldova, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Ukraine and the United States.

www.sapiecha.com

www.worldfairs.org

Henry Sapiecha

Woman runs whole London Marathon without tampon

Kiran Gandhi, a Harvard Business School Graduate and professional drummer, pictured right image www.goodgirlsgo.com

A WOMAN who ran the entire London Marathon without wearing a tampon has described how she did so to show that the “stigma of a woman’s period is irrelevant”.

Kiran Gandhi, a Harvard Business School Graduate and professional drummer who has played alongside M.I.A and Thievery Corporation, wrote about the experience on her website under the headline “Sisterhood, blood and boobs at the London Marathon 2015”.

Gandhi ran the event for Breast Cancer Care and, along with “two of the most important women in my life”, collectively raised $6,000 for charity.

“The marathon for me was about family and feminism,” she said – the latter being because she “ran the whole marathon with period blood running down [her] legs”.

www.clublibido.com (5)

Henry Sapiecha