Thursday July 30th, 2015

Author: Brad Lifford, Eastman Corporate Communications

A single Red Chair sparked an important conversation with a central question: What can we do to increase the number of women who choose careers in information technology and computing?

Eastman partnered with area K-12 educators, the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), and five universities – East Tennessee State, Virginia Tech, Appalachian State, Radford, and Missouri Science and Technology — for Sit With Me, a half-day community outreach event designed to be one answer to that question.

Executive leaders and IT professionals from Eastman; Lucy Sanders, the CEO of NCWIT; and the more than 80 K-12 teachers participated in a panel discussion pivoting on data that shows women are underrepresented in IT careers. Women held 57 percent of the U.S. professional occupations in 2014, but only 26 percent of the professional computing jobs. In 2013, only 18 percent of bachelor’s degree recipients in computer and information science were women. In 1985, that number was 37 percent.

The signature facet of Sit With Me revolved around the iconic Red Chair, which is used at nationwide Sit With Me events capture conversations and thoughts about how to encourage more women to seek technical careers. Women and men at events throughout the nation have sat in the Red Chair – Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg, actor Meryl Streep and NBA great Shaquille O’Neal are just three – to record their thoughts on barriers that prevent more women from being in IT, potential solutions to removing barriers, as well as inspirational personal accounts.

Many of the teachers and Eastman IT team members occupied the Red Chair at the event and offered their thoughts. Others included panelists from the discussion: Eastman leaders that included Perry Stuckey, senior vice president for human resources at Eastman; David Golden, senior vice president and chief legal officer; Cari Parker, vice president for corporate technology; Lucy Sanders, CEO of NCWIT; and Barbara Ryder, chair of the computer science department at Virginia Tech.