From her first tech start-up in the 1980s, to large enterprises, financial services, to government, Ms. Minerva Tantoco is focused on applied innovation, and has "invented every job I've ever had.". Ms. Tantoco holds four US patents on intelligent workflow. Minerva Tantoco served as New York City’s first-ever Chief Technology Officer (CTO). Appointed in 2014, Tantoco directed the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation with citywide responsibility for the development and implementation of a citywide strategy on technology and innovation. With her team in the Mayor's Office, antoco launched groundbreaking initiatives in smart city policy and government tech, such as LinkNYC, CSforAll, Neighborhoods.NYC, the first-ever IoT Guidelines for New York City, and NYC’s Smart+Equitable City Strategy. Tantoco, a Filipino immigrant, grew up in Queens and attended the Bronx High School of Science. A strong supporter or Women in STEM, and educational opportunity for all, Ms. Tantoco serves on the boards of the New York Hall of Science and New York Tech Alliance. Ms. Tantoco is currently a tech entrepreneur in New York City.
With groups creating programs to encourage females to consider STEM, what is the biggest barrier to entry that is still prevalent today?
Role models and ongoing support were key for me in pursuing a STEM career. Women in my family were doctors, engineers, and scientists, and in spite of some societal pressure like being called a nerd, I got a lot of encouragement to keep me going. I realized also that hurtful comments were not about me, but about the biases of the person saying them to me. It inspired me to prove them wrong. It is critical we solve this issue, since our future depends on more people entering STEM, not less. These are exciting and highly creative and satisfying careers, and I am thankful for my opportunities to contribute.
What or who inspires you?
The great women scientists and technologists like Grace Murray Hopper, Marie Curie, and Hedy Lamarr inspired me, but most of all I was inspired by my mother, who was trained as a chemical engineer, and later as a programmer. Science and tech seemed as natural as cooking dinner, and often my mother would explain the chemistry and physics of the kitchen as she cooked. It inspired me to understand how things worked but also how they could be improved through science.
What is your proudest moment/accomplishment?
I am proud of my time in government and of the inventions, but my proudest moment was competing in an international dragon boat race on the Men's team in Hong Kong 2014. It was the culmination of months of practice, teamwork, and defying age and gender stereotypes, and it was really fun.