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Senior Vice President of IBM Systems and Technology Group and 2011 Black Enterprise Corporate Executive of the Year, Rodney Adkins (Photo by Rayon Richards)

The Stem Advocate
Adkins, a National Academy of Engineering inductee and board member of the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, has made ensuring diversity in the industry one of his professional and personal missions. Currently less than 13% of the more than 70,000 U.S. engineering bachelor’s degrees in 2009 were awarded to minorities, according to NACME. African Americans have obtained only 4.7% of bachelor’s degrees in engineering. Adkins maintains that for companies like IBM, and the United States as a whole, to remain competitive in a global economy, business leaders and policy makers must work to reverse this trend.

As a member of the Board of Governors for the IBM Academy of Technology, Adkins takes a hands-on role in preparing the next generation of engineers and scientists. For example, he has been involved in the development of Pathways in Technology Early College High School, a new school for grades 9 to 12 in Brooklyn, New York, that’s the outgrowth of collaboration between IBM, the New York City Department of Education, New York City College of Technology, and the City University of New York. The students can graduate with an associate degree, along with the skills and knowledge necessary to continue their studies or transition directly into IT jobs.

Such “proactive intervention” is what’s required to increase the number of minorities in the tech sector’s executive ranks, says Arnold Donald, president & CEO of the Executive Leadership Council. Adkins represents a cadre of black professionals who have risen from the engineering ranks to the C-Suite and  “demonstrate to new generations of corporate professionals that you can go beyond the lab and use your science background to move up to the top levels of major corporations.”As one of IBM’s highest-ranking executives and a member of the leadership team, he has a real seat at the table influencing the direction of the company and its involvement in communities around the world.” Adkins’ post at IBM, one of black enterprise’s 40 Best Companies for Diversity, shows, Donald says, that “the company walks the walk when it comes to embracing diversity in evaluating performance.”