Hear from Deloitte’s Tonie Leatherberry on how the STEM field is evolving, and how diversity and inclusion are crucial in shaping its future.

Imagine the STEM industry in 10 or 20 years. What do you see? My hope is that more women and people of color will have entered these exciting fields. That collaboration between business, education, and communities will have played a significant role in developing programs to tap into this talent and help them achieve success in this industry.

As an influx of technologies continues to disrupt the business environment, jobs will change as well as workforce demographics. Jobs like data scientist, cloud architect, and virtual assistant didn’t even exist 15 years ago, and are now highly in demand. Just imagine what the next 15 years will bring! For businesses to be able to succeed, a diverse workforce with the skills and mindsets born out of access to STEM education will be an important factor.

As a child, my school didn’t offer STEM courses such as physics or computer sciences. My dad, understanding the value of having a foundation in the science, technology, engineering and math fields, challenged my school to ensure I was still learning these crucial skills. He worked with my teachers to create a customized curriculum that allowed me to take STEM classes at a public technical high school, which I believe played a huge role in setting me up for where I am today.

Bringing diversity to the STEM field

As president of the Deloitte Foundation (the Foundation) and Chair of the Executive Leadership Council (ELC), I have opportunities to create powerful relationships and pay it forward. I’m energized by helping address the lack of diversity in the STEM talent pipeline because of its potential to contribute to our economy, our communities, and the next generation.

By harnessing Deloitte’s leadership in data analytics and computer science, and by working with nonprofits, secondary/higher education institutions, and industry, the Foundation engages diverse talent to pursue STEM competencies and careers. The goal is to build data analytics and computer science resources along a pathway spanning high school, college, and career to create personalized learning and sustained progress in STEM education and careers.

With teacher-delivered curriculum and educational platforms, we’re engaging high school students in underserved communities to help them understand what a STEM career could look like. At the college level, the Foundation collaborates with schools to engage students in competitions that require them to use both their technical and business skills to solve complex real-world challenges, similar to what our clients face every day. For example, students from across the US participate in a cyber incident response simulation during the annual Deloitte Foundation Cyber Threat Competition. The University of Illinois-Deloitte Foundation Center for Business Analytics released two courses and multiple cases that are available free and online for anyone who wants to leverage them for their educational mission. Over the last six years, the Foundation’s high school and higher education programs have reached approximately 7,000 students.

Driving equity through education

Given my passion for leadership development and understanding the critical need to help prepare the next generation of C-suite executives of color, my role as ELC Chair allows me to play a larger role in helping advance the impact of programs on industry, the marketplace, our communities, and beyond to build an inclusive business leadership pipeline. The ELC is working with Historically Black Colleges and Universities to help increase successful internships and graduation rates; provide scholarships for undergraduate students and monetary awards for successful graduate case study submissions; and provide gap funding for rising juniors and seniors to help ensure students can afford the financial challenge of the final years of study.

It’s important for more people to champion future leaders who want to explore the STEM fields. People pursuing these careers can help drive this industry and our economy forward. If a young person shows even a spark of interest in those areas, we owe it to them—and to ourselves—to nurture that spark into a flame. My goal is to help make sure that as many talented young people as possible who want to explore a STEM career have the opportunity to do so.

Watch Tonie’s panel at the Salesforce Trailblazing Women Summit here, a broadcast featuring inspiring and empowering Gender Equality Trailblazers across industries—presented by Deloitte Digital.

Learn about the Pathfinder program and how Deloitte and Salesforce collaborate with local communities to empower individuals from diverse backgrounds by offering them technical and business training to help transform their lives and pursue careers in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Tonie Leatherberry, principal, Deloitte & Touche LLP, in the Risk and Financial Advisory practice and President of the Deloitte Foundation, has had a distinguished career with Deloitte, spanning nearly 30 years. As the Board Relations Leader for the Risk and Financial Advisory practice, Tonie addresses the needs of Corporate Board Directors through innovation, thought leadership and engagement. As the President of the Deloitte Foundation, Tonie leads the strategy to help develop diverse future leaders through education. Tonie also devotes her time to a variety of organizations, including serving as the Chair of the Executive Leadership Council (ELC), which opens channels of opportunity for the development of Black executives.