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

Female teacher charged with persistent sex abuse of girl student in WA

A teenage girl was subjected to sexual assaults by her 26-year-old female teacher for almost a year,police say.West Australia

The teacher faces 23 sexual assault charges, including 15 counts of sexual penetration and one count of persistent sexual conduct with a child aged under 16.


The WA female teacher faces a spate of sex abuse charges, including rape. 

Police allege the 15-year-old student was abused between July 2015 and May 2016.

The offenses were reported on Friday evening and the woman was arrested on Saturday.

The woman is to appear in the Magistrates Court Midlands on June 14.



Henry Sapiecha


This documentary on sex guide for girls in the 21st century is worth watching 4 all the right reasons


Henry Sapiecha

HSC Results 2015: Girls outperform boys in traditionally male subjects

HSC 2015: Top of the state

Students from 81 public and independent schools have shared the honours at the HSC First in Course awards.

Grace Parker was sick of her family car breaking down – so she took matters into her own hands and enrolled in automotive studies as part of her HSC.

Self-confessed city girl Mala Rigby’s love of animals drew her to agriculture and Claudia Nielsen, a rising hockey star who hopes for a career in science, was attracted to the practical side of primary industries

Sophia Henning, Caitlin Semsarian and Pola Cohen topped the three history coursesm image

Sophia Henning, Caitlin Semsarian and Pola Cohen topped the three history courses. Photo: Janie Barrett

The trio helped girls increase their reign over boys in this year’s HSC results, with females blitzing subjects traditionally dominated by males as well as making a clean sweep of the history and English courses.

At the prestigious First in Course ceremony on Tuesday, 82 girls, including Grace, Mala and Claudia, and 34 boys were recognised for topping the state in at least one of their subjects.

This year, 116 students from 81 schools received First in Course awards, including six students who topped two courses.

Sophia Henning, from Presbyterian Ladies’ College Sydney, was first in ancient history, while Pola Cohen, from Sydney Girls’ High, topped history extension and Caitlin Semsarian, from St George Girls High, came first in modern history.

Girls from Cherrybrook Technology High, St Francis De Sales Regional College, North Sydney Girls and Northern Beaches Secondary College Freshwater Senior Campus topped the five English courses.

“Yet again, the girls have well and truly outperformed the boys, it is about a 70/30 split in terms of girls who have topped courses as opposed to boys,” said NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli.

“Girls have done very well in languages, as they have done over the past years, and we have girls topping what would be historically, but fortunately no longer, male-dominated courses including subjects like agriculture.”

The president of the NSW Board of Studies, Tom Alegounarias, said boys were still strong performers in maths and science.

“I can say that broadly in STEM males still dominate, but the gap is closing and the margin is one now that you cannot say there is a subject that is inherently better suited to females or males,” Mr Alegounarias said

The top students recognised on Tuesday will be joined by about 70,000 students who will receive their HSC results online or via SMS from 6am on Wednesday. The Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) is released on Thursday at 9am.

Mala, 18, from Pymble Ladies’ College, fell in love with agriculture after spending some time working on her north shore school’s small farming plot.

“As a Sydney girl, studying agriculture really made me see the skill involved and showed me just how important agriculture is,” Mala said.

For Claudia, the top student in primary industries, the subject is a family affair. Her dad, Geoff, was her primary industries teacher at Calrossy Anglican School in Tamworth while her mother, Bronwyn, was her agriculture teacher at the school.

A talented hockey player, Claudia, 18, hopes to spend next year at the Australian Institute of Sport before studying science at the University of Western Australia the following year.

Grace, who already has an offer to study international studies at Wollongong University, said she would love to continue her passion for repairing cars.

“I’d love to be a mechanic, I see so many females get ripped off by mechanics because the men think they don’t know what they are talking about,” Grace, 18, from Dubbo, said. “If females knew what mechanics were up to, it would be a whole different game.

“It’s not about a woman’s revolution, it’s about giving women the same opportunities.”


Henry Sapiecha


woman reads & looks good image

Last week, a forum was held in Canberra to coincide with the launch of a national survey looking at the experiences of women aged 16-21 with sex education. The findings indicated that while the more scientific elements of sex were being covered, the emotional side of pleasure, orgasm and desire were being ignored.

My own discussions and correspondence with young women has indicated similar, and confirmed that not much has changed since I was at school and fumbling my way through the basics (by which I mean inside my underpants). I knew what periods were and how they happened (sort of) and I understood the words ‘erection’, ‘gestation’ and even that there was such a thing as an ‘orgasm’. The problem was, I didn’t really know what it all meant for me personally, or how it explained the strange, unquantifiable feelings of pleasure that came whenever I made my Barbie dolls kiss each other or rubbed myself against the rim of the bath.

It was while engaged in some innocent bath rubbing one afternoon that I was hit by the full impact of what this pleasure could feel like. The normally pleasant buzz that I’d associated with the activity escalated into something much more intense and before I knew it my temperature had risen about 50 degrees and my brains seemed to have splattered all over the walls. It felt magnificent, but also disconcerting and a little bit scary. Being a hypochondriac didn’t exactly help matters – clearly, I was having a stroke and I was moments away from death.

I didn’t die that day, but I did discover a neat new trick that could be performed in any place that allowed for discretion (which includes airplane bathrooms – who said you can only go to the Mile High Club in twosomes?). That was over twenty years ago and I’ve been a fierce advocate for masturbation and self pleasure ever since. I truly believe that discovering the abilities of my body at such a young age has led to an easier experience with sex in general. Pleasure has always been within easy reach, and I’ve been able to communicate to partners exactly what floats my boat.

So it’s concerning that pleasure, and the pursuit of it, remains so absent from youth education programs. Orgasms to the uninitiated can be a perplexing and unpleasantly overwhelming experience. I’ve met many women who, even as adults, have talked themselves out of climaxing because they find the feeling too intense and anxiety inducing. When female pleasure isn’t taught as a key component of sexual engagement and intercourse (particularly in hetero contexts), female participation is reinforced as something passive and secondary to the male role.

What is it that society finds so troubling about the idea that young girls learning about female pleasure? Perhaps it’s the puritanical fear that it will encourage them to rush off and ‘sleep around’, as if their bodies and sexual pleasure belong to them and not to the society intent on controlling them. This might explain why girls in America are still being sent home for violating dress codes because their clothes are supposedly proving too distracting for adult men who should know better.

And don’t underestimate the misogyny that’s applied to women’s sexuality and the question of who owns it – as actor Ryan Gosling famously pointed out in a response to his film Blue Valentine being given an NC-17 rating by the Motion Picture Association of America, “The MPAA is okay supporting scenes that portray women in scenarios of sexual torture and violence for entertainment purposes, but they are trying to force us to look away from a scene that shows a woman in a sexual scenario, which is both complicit and complex.”

Melbourne based sex therapist Cyndi Darnell experienced a similar form of censorship recently when Facebook refused to allow her to promote an educational video series she had produced. As she says, “The ad was a link to a trailer for a four part video series which teaches people to engage with their anatomy and sexual pleasure. They’ve let me run the trailer, but they won’t let me run a paid ad because they say it goes against their community guidelines.”

These ‘community guidelines’ have no problem with entire pages devoted to racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia and every other form of bigotry you can think of. Nor will horrific memes glorifying rape and violence against women be considered a violation of them. But promoting a video series which does not fall under the bracket of “acceptable adult products”? Well, as Facebook says, “this decision is final”.

Darnell is understandably frustrated by the hypocrisy, but sees it as the logical product of a culture which still demonises sexually autonomous women. She told me, “A sexually empowered woman is still not something that’s revered in our society. Historically, men have been empowered to be role models for young boys, culturally praised as sexual beings and pursuers. For women, sexuality continues to be linked solely to motherhood and nurturing rather than their own well-being and self esteem. This is why women get to their 30s and are struggling with their own sexual expression – because they have never been taught they’re allowed to take up space erotically.”

Sex education is about so much more than biology. It’s bigger than the conservative binary of expression we continue to force on young people, which includes the furphies that women use sex to get love and men use love to get sex. Pleasure isn’t a peripheral by-product of sexuality but an inseparable part of it. And there’s something desperately wrong with a world that is okay with making the control of female sexuality the domain of everybody else but the woman who owns it. It’s important that women be aware of this, but also that men are too.

Patriarchal society might be afraid of women’s bodies, but that doesn’t mean women should be taught to fear them too. We should be teaching girls to feel pleasure instead of shame, and giving them a framework to express sexual autonomy and confidence. Remember: If you build it, they will come.

Pleasure or pain. Some of my sister sites below (7)

Henry Sapiecha

Ellen Pao lost her gender discrimination case against her former employer, but…….

Ellen Pao leaving court in March. image

Ellen Pao lost her gender discrimination case against her former employer, but the concerns she raises should not be swept aside.

Start-ups need to consider diversity and discrimination in their sphere of influence.

Operating in intimate workplaces, like entrepreneurs often do, there are a lot of complex factors. Managers need to think beyond themselves and what they do; while company policy might not act against diversity, the culture might.

Research from Harvard Business School shows us that men in leadership have a predisposition to belittling female subordinates.

Men who are threatened by women are then more likely to objectify and sexualise her.

This can translate to lower motivation by women and reduced performance. If her contributions aren’t valued, why would she be at her peak? And why would she stay?

Pao, who was gunning for a senior partner role, is asking us to consider the role of group-think. If those who are making decisions are pale, male and stale can gender equity really be achieved? Company direction is not achieved in a vacuum. Organisations can only prosper when stereotypes are challenged.

If anything it seems that Kleiner Perkins has learned almost nothing from this experience, trying to keep Pao quiet. There is huge value in her talking and shedding light on these issues, and helping organisations navigate them themselves.

This is on the mind of investors at the moment – for example, legendary investor Sallie Krawcheck is publicly considering this now.

It is too easy to think that the issues of diversity in the US and the Valley are distant from us in Australia.

For Australian organisations the main issue that Pao raises is workplace conflict. In the competitive and pressure-filled environment of start-ups and investing this can be deeply connected to how we view ourselves. Work is where we source confidence and prestige.

Pao believes she was unfairly passed over. I speak with women from varied industries that have had similar experiences, but none had the confidence to raise it publicly. Current research, including from Bain, shows that men are more likely to be promoted on prospects where women need to shows a record of achievement.

One of the organisations I’m working with at the moment has a male and female founding duo. Their relationship is under strain as she has taken on more executive and operation duties while he is working on strategic thinking.

While both are essential, he is seeking advice from people who are like him. This fails to capitalise on her current on-ground knowledge.

Entrepreneurial women are challenged by a breadth of issues, as innovators and leaders. Expected to juggle organisational success, be feisty but not too aggressive and also somehow balance 60-hour work weeks with a flourishing personal life.

Stereotyping and discrimination like this is not helpful and, although it is less blatant than in the past, it remains a challenge to be overcome and one critical to organisational success.

Division and tension are the seeds of company failure. A culture shift across business is required, but it is start-ups that can achieve this.

Founders and early investors can implore a culture that values a breadth of experiences.

Following the case, Pao has been realistic talking about the complexities of modern womanhood.

Embracing the value and impact of diversity is in the hands of today’s entrepreneurs.

Conrad Liveris is an advocate, adviser and researcher on the politics and economics of diversity.


woman uses microscope image

An all-girls engineering class
Women make up only 14 percent of engineers, and the lack of female engineers in the field has been a topic of much discussion and concern. Morristown High School in Morristown, New Jersey has been experiencing this problem firsthand. The school offers a number of engineering courses, including a Principles of Engineering class, as part of Project Lead the Way. Mariel Kolker, an experienced teacher and engineer, found the number of girls in her classes dwindling from 6 one year to two the next and finally, she taught a class with just one girl.


Henry Sapiecha

Addressing ‘boring science’ with grants for women engineers to teach robot lessons at school


Female students at Brunel University London will teach schoolchildren to programme robots in a new bid to balance the gender divide in STEM subjects.

The university will train 40 Women in Engineering postgraduates to deliver the unique Robo-Code sessions at secondary schools – the result of a £29,625 Ingenious grant from the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Pupils will use the code to create their own robot – and then programme it to do battle with their classmates’ creations, introducing them to engineering thinking and computer programming.

The Robo-Code initiative is part of a wider bid by Brunel University London to engage all genders in science and tackle teenage drift away from the subject.

The sessions will complement the new Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) outreach lab being created as part of a facilities upgrade to excite young people about the jobs that flow from STEM.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at Brunel University London, Professor Geoff Rodgers, said: “Thanks to the backing of the Royal Academy of Engineering, our fantastic female engineering students will be able to share their passion and expertise for science and programming with a new generation of potential scientists.

“As women in engineering they are forging new ground and we hope this will challenge pupil perceptions that science is boring, irrelevant or not for them. The experience will in turn give our students vital career skills.”

Brunel University London students taking part in Robo-Code will be taught creative public engagement and communication skills. The grant will also provide the specialist equipment and tools needed to run the sessions.

Over time, the participants will share their knowledge with other students and professional engineers. This “train the trainer” model should mean the effects of the Academy’s Ingenious grant will be felt widely for years to come.

The Brunel project is one of 22 to be supported by Ingenious grants.

Professor Sarah Spurgeon, chair of the Ingenious funding panel, said: “The Royal Academy of Engineering’s Ingenious projects are finding new and innovative ways to get the public – whether student, family, or adult-audiences – engaged with engineering. Our projects don’t just showcase the diversity of engineering – they also give the public a meaningful opportunity to interact with engineers, ask questions and share their views.”


Henry Sapiecha