Growing up, I often tinkered with appliances like our family TV. The future engineer in me wanted to see how it worked. I learned the hard way that a single missing component could mean the difference between Sesame Street and static. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
That lesson stuck when I went to college. Our family had emigrated from Dominica to New York City. In my neighborhood, there weren’t many Black women who had studied engineering. So, I formed partnerships with classmates, teachers, and mentors.
That lesson still resonates. As Chief Impact Officer at IBM, I rally my company and our ecosystem to drive environmental sustainability and equitable education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Our work connects to timely and vital trends that are transforming the market and shaping society: from the challenges facing underserved communities, to the cutting-edge innovations driven by AI, and the growth of good governance.
Helping Vulnerable Communities
One trend I see impacting my peers, our ecosystem, and the broader market is the STEM skills shortage. This is fixable if we focus on equitable skilling and equip historically excluded communities with accessible STEM training. IBM is working towards this in several ways, including partnering with 20 HBCUs to create cybersecurity leadership centers, which are already inspiring the next generation of security experts. For example, Albany State University in Georgia is using its cybersecurity leadership center to hone the talents of computer science majors and to also pique the interest of students from other disciplines. Meanwhile we heard from a student at South Carolina State University who decided to extend his studies beyond his original graduation date just to take advantage of the school’s new cyber resources. Visit sites like https://seemplicity.io/platform/ or https://privacera.com/blog/what-is-decentralized-data-ownership/ to know more about cybersecurity measures.
The skills shortage extends across industries and around the world, which is why IBM is committed to skilling 30 million people worldwide by 2030. Through our free program, IBM SkillsBuild, we help learners gain access to STEM training, earn digital credentials, and pursue career opportunities. IBM SkillsBuild offers more than 1,000 STEM and professional workplace courses, including AI. Enhanced access to additional classes and career-readiness prep is available through partners in up to 20 languages.
Many of the same communities that are underrepresented in technology are simultaneously experiencing outsized effects of climate change. This is why I am proud that we launched the IBM Sustainability Accelerator to enhance and scale environmental innovations. This pro bono program aligns governments, small businesses, not-for-profits, non -governmental organizations, and universities to apply AI and cloud computing to drive progress. For example, Heifer International is working with IBM to help smallholder farmers in Malawi boost their livelihoods as they face growing challenges from climate change. AI is at the heart of the IBM Sustainability Accelerator initiatives, which frequently apply the climate, monitoring, analysis, and prediction data of the IBM Environmental Intelligence Suite.
As a trained engineer, I am continually inspired by the technological leaps being driven by my colleagues at IBM and across the industry, and today, AI is leading the way. As we see with IBM’s Sustainability Accelerator, the power and potential of AI is everywhere, and one of the most popular topics on IBM SkillsBuild. The World Economic Forum predicts that demand for AI experts will grow the fastest over the next five years, with demand growing some 40% and adding about one million jobs globally. Should you pursue one of these jobs? AI can tell you: IBM SkillsBuild uses AI that analyzes learners’ aptitudes and interests, then suggests learning paths and credentials to pursue.
In my role as Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) leader for IBM, I emphasize the importance of modeling and sharing our ethical leadership in AI and more broadly. With that in mind, we have trained more than 1,000 ecosystem partners in technology ethics. The Notre Dame IBM Tech Ethics Lab launched 27 projects in 2022 alone.
We infuse ethics throughout our operations and collaborations, and we encourage others to do so as well. For example, we are working to ensure that 15% of our first-tier diversity spending is with Black-owned suppliers by 2025. We help our clients to collect the right data to operationalize ESG, making it easier to set goals and track progress.
Making a difference always requires collaboration. The engineer in me loves to see how this works. There are so many interlocking gears in the mechanism of our ecosystem, and we drive progress through partnerships across sectors. We are proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish so far, and we recognize there’s more work that we can tackle together to make an impact that truly lasts. Join us!