Some statistics can be troubling. For Terri (Rangel) Mitchell, this one certainly was: The percentage of computer science jobs in the United States held by women fell from 37 in the early 1980s to 18 today. A member of the Class of 1985, Mitchell holds a degree in computer science and mathematics. She spent three decades working in information technology before retiring as vice president, Watson Health Integration Executive, at IBM. The idea that the number of women in her field had fallen by nearly 20 percentage points over the course of her career concerned her deeply But, she wondered, how should she respond?
Ultimately Mitchell did what she was trained to do. She thought, she collaborated, and she created. Empowering Women to Innovate and Thrive (eWIT) – a networking event for college students studying science, technology, engineering and math in Mitchell’s adopted home state of North Carolina – was born. Federal officials estimate that by 2020 there will be 1.4 million computer-science related jobs available and just 400,000 computer science graduates with the skills necessary to fill them. Mitchell and her partners at eWIT shined a light on those opportunities, and forged connections between young adults interested in entering this arena and industry professionals eager to serve as their mentors.
“Technology is a tool with extremely broad applications,” said Mitchell. “It is the basis for our every aspect of our lives, not just business, and has the potential to help address some of the world’s greatest challenges. That’s why it was so exciting to see everyone come together at eWIT, and to talk about potential areas for growth and innovation.”
Mitchell has long been passionate about helping to nurture new leaders in her field. Before establishing eWIT, she led and participated in numerous diversity programs at IBM. She is also active in Triangle Women in STEM, an organization that seeks to bring the nation’s leading talent to North Carolina’s Research Triangle in order to build stronger businesses and communities across the state. While she is now retired, she remains committed to these initiatives and to sharing her professional experiences with a new generation aspiring to careers in science, technology, engineering or math.
In fact, Mitchell recently returned to the College to meet with current undergraduates whose aptitude for STEM mirrors her own. She recalled that as a student she was taught how vital it is to communicate clearly and effectively and was mentored by caring professors who showed a genuine interest in her intellectual growth and development. They not only provided her with an excellent foundation in computer science and math, but they also helped her to become comfortable with complexity and ambiguity. As Mitchell told the students, that made all the difference. She built a successful, meaningful career not by remaining in roles that were comfortable and familiar, but by searching out problems and finding solutions to them. She advised them to do the same.
“It’s true,” she said. “Stormy seas make great captains.”
Computer Science at Le Moyne,
Mathematics at Le Moyne,