#MakeYourMark: Q&A with Vildan Kehr

February 21, 2020

In celebration of the 10th anniversary of the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s International Women’s Day Forum on March 5, we’re highlighting 10 inspiring leaders who have made their mark in advancing opportunities for women and girls. Vildan Kehr, Divisional Vice President, Global Talent Acquisition at Abbott, talked to us about the biggest issues facing women today and how we can address them.

What is the biggest issue facing women today? 

As a healthcare technology company, we think one of the biggest issues facing women today is access to experiences and mentors in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields. We know girls are less likely to be encouraged to study STEM. Women who do pursue STEM degrees often don’t take related jobs and many women who work in a STEM industry leave within a decade. Did you know the U.S. Department of Commerce data show that women hold just 24% of STEM jobs nationally? Meanwhile, a federal data project predicts there will be nearly 860,000 more STEM jobs by 2028. 

How can we best engage the next generation to continue the momentum in women’s empowerment?

At Abbott we decided that experience equals empowerment. Almost a decade ago, we started a high school STEM internship program aimed at offering young people, particularly girls, exposure to STEM fields. Of the young people who completed our program, 97% have gone on to study STEM in college. And we’ve recently hired our first former interns as full-time engineers. Eight of the eleven are women. We want more women in our talent pipeline because our own research shows 93% of women in STEM who have a female boss say they plan to remain in STEM. 

What would you like to see change in the next 10 years? 

While our program has been successful, we can’t change the face of STEM alone. We are hoping more companies will offer high school STEM internships, giving more students experience earlier in life. Imagine the impact if 20, 30 or 40 more companies had internship programs. Abbott decided to help by releasing a detailed plan other companies can use to create their own high school STEM internships. We call this blueprint “Shaping the Future of STEM” and you can download it here. We believe if we work together, we can dramatically increase the number of women in the future STEM workforce.
 

Vildan Kehr will be speaking at the 10th Annual International Women’s Day Forum: Marking a Milestone, Continuing the Momentum on March 5 in New York City. Explore the full agenda and register now to save your spot.