International Women’s Day at IBM: Global thought leadership and more

Image credit: IWD
Image credit: IWD

March is Women’s History Month and March 8 is International Women’s Day. Every year on this day, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women, celebrate their achievements and encourage greater equality. A global array of diverse local activities connects women around the world: political rallies, business conferences, government activities, networking events and more, and in some countries, it is celebrated as a national holiday. I have fond memories of landing in Cusco, Peru for a project on this day last year, to be greeted warmly by a group of female airline employees and given a bracelet with the words “Super Mujer” (Super Woman) written on it.

IBM researcher Stacy Hobson helped the company produce a record 7,534 patents in 2014

IBM CEO, Ginni Rometty, at the IBM PartnerWorld Leadership Conference

I’ve had the opportunity to work with a highly talented group of women in my seven months at IBM so far, and have recently taken the helm of one of our internal women’s groups that convenes monthly to discuss hot topics around women in the workplace and share resources on an ongoing basis. In the spirit of International Women’s Day and IBM’s commitment to thought leadership, I decided to get to know two of our own women thought leaders at the IBM Center for Applied Insights to learn more about what they have been working on.

Caitlin_HalfertyCaitlin Halferty recently celebrated her 10-year anniversary at IBM and has enjoyed a career spanning different parts of the organization. Her recent research covers such topics as shifts in outsourcing approaches and the emerging role of the Chief Data Officer (which I highlighted in my previous post). She also has had the opportunity to work in Africa through IBM’s Corporate Service Corps and in India as a Service Delivery Manager.

The African market is poised for explosive growth: for instance, the mobile payments market is expected to reach a whopping $160 billion in Africa by 2016, versus only $90 billion in the United States by 2017. Not all African companies are poised to take advantage of this, however, facing threats from advanced global competitors, not to mention resource constraints, security risks and infrastructure challenges. For one of Caitlin’s projects, she honed in on the role of the CIO (or IT leader, when a CIO was not present), identifying a group of leaders on the forefront who have been able to manage business risks through cultural shifts and analytics to make decisions based on real information.

africa infographic

For Caitlin, the single most interesting finding was how emerging technology trends in Africa are truly outpacing those in other regions of the world; consumers themselves are driving this very quickly despite the various challenges across the continent. During the study, Caitlin’s team surveyed 180 Africa-based IT leaders across 29 industries in five countries, and she would like to use this research as a springboard for further country-specific insights. Read the study.

Susanne_HupferSusanne Hupfer has worked at IBM for 12 years, with much of her career devoted to cutting-edge software research (she has nine patents!). One of her favorite projects with the IBM Center for Applied Insights has been leading the research for the Business Tech Trends study. This work sought to gain a global snapshot of how companies are using key technology and business models and identifying how to capitalize on these trends, with “pacesetters,” those at the front of the pack, using partnerships, analytics and technology integration to rise above a crowded playing field.

Susanne appreciated that her team worked in a highly collaborative and iterative way during this study, presenting initial findings early on in order to iterate on them and utilizing IBM social tools to obtain team input. She shared with me about needing to ensure that they asked the right survey questions – not a small feat given that they spoke with 1,400 decision makers across 15 industries and five continents – and then “they needed to become storytellers.”

Susanne also led a previous version of the Business Tech Trends study in 2012, and shared with me that one of her biggest “aha moments” from one study to the next was with respect to mobile adoption. Over the past two years, mobile adoption has doubled, and as the study indicates, mobile data traffic in 2013 was almost 18 times the amount of traffic across the whole Internet a little over a decade ago.

BTT Study -
BTT Study –

As it relates to cloud, analytics, mobile and social, it appears that the “future has arrived.” While pacesetters are maintaining their edge, small businesses and individuals aren’t immune to these developments either – when we met, Susanne shared with me an anecdote about observing how people in India managed to run businesses on their mobile phones, mostly through simple text messages and on old phone models. Read the study, watch the webcast, and explore the interactive industry dashboard.

The work of Caitlin, Susanne and many other women is certainly inspiring to me as I explore the vast opportunities to tackle important global technology questions at IBM.

So what can you do to learn more about and get involved in International Women’s Day?

To start off, visit the global hub for International Women’s Day, and follow the conversation on social media via hashtags #womensday #makeithappen.

Here are a few of the programs IBM will be participating in this month:

Global Marathon For, By and About Women in Engineering & Technology, March 9-11, 2015

The Global Marathon is an annual worldwide forum connecting professional women, college students and girls for virtual and in-person conversations about education and careers in engineering and technology. Register to take part in this event, which brings together women in engineering and technology from a diverse range of disciplines, experience levels, ages, cultures, industries and employers to participate in real-time, live group events, webcasts, online chats and teleconferences.

“Do we need to be Super Women to succeed in today’s world?” March 25, 2-3:30pm EST

The IBM Academy of Technology is having a special THINK Event hosted by IBM Senior Advisor Linda Sanford, member of the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame, featuring guest speaker Debora Spar, President of Barnard College, and a panel of women from IBM. The event will be on livestream and open to the public.

Innovation 26×26, ongoing

For 29 days, the Women at IBM website will showcase 29 innovations by 29 IBM women.

Finally, here are a few of my favorite resources for professional women:

Catalyst: This website by nonprofit group Catalyst hosts research about women in business

Ellevate Network, a global professional women’s network dedicated to networking, lifelong learning, and the economic engagement of women worldwide

LearnVest: Easy-to-understand financial advice, information and tools for women (and men!) hoping to take control of their financial lives

The Muse offers exciting job opportunities, expert advice and a peek behind the scenes into fantastic companies and career paths

Women 2.0 provides content, community and conferences for aspiring and current women innovators in technology


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