Deb Hallberg became a member over 15 years ago, when she was doing business development at the law firm Barnes & Thornburg, one of Women & Hi Tech’s oldest partners in the community. “One of my colleagues held a board position for Women & Hi Tech, but he saw I could do more in the role to advance the organization than he could, so asked me to take over.” Hallberg’s connections, charisma, and drive made her a natural fit for the role of Director of Events, which included planning Executive Women’s Forums and the biennial French Lick retreat. She held these duties for nine years and has been an active emeritus board member since then. “In addition to delivering content relevant to our members, over time we’ve been able to establish the Executive Women’s Forums as an opportunity for the speakers and panelists to have their voices amplified in the community,” Hallberg said. “With that, we’ve been able to raise the bar on the quality of the speakers and the events to better serve our members. From sixteen years ago to now, things have become much more sophisticated, and much more focused on STEM.”
Hallberg said it hasn’t always been easy for her to stay involved with Women & Hi Tech. But every year when she looks at her busy schedule, Women & Hi Tech stands out as one where she knows her involvement makes a real difference for women. “In my role as Business Development Manager at Barnes & Thornburg I interacted with a lot of STEM professionals in life sciences, technology, cybersecurity, and more. But there were never many women. I was always trying to help the women I knew get ahead and feel supported, and Barnes & Thornburg was a great help in meeting women who needed to be connected, both to each other and to our organization.”
Last year, Deb became the CEO of one of Women & Hi Tech’s partner organizations, Pass the Torch for Women Foundation (PTTFW) - a non-profit that develops female professionals and students through mentorship and other professional support. “We’re about helping women look outside the box when contemplating their career and we provide a place to ask questions and explore opportunities,” she said of PTTFW. As she leads this great organization into the future, she’s happy to have experiences with organizations like Women & Hi Tech to reflect on.
“One thing Women & Hi Tech has done very well is recognize when it was time to diversify. Originally, there was a big focus on academic sponsors and doing remote programming. Then we realized that to be successful, we needed corporate sponsors and to attract the interest of professionals.” Hallberg reflected on the creation of the Leading Light Awards as one of the wisest steps the organization has taken to advance its mission. “It’s an opportunity to recognize women of all ages and levels for their excellence in STEM,” she said. “It provides a great return to sponsors, and great value to women and the community.” She also commented that she’s been happy to see Women & Hi Tech continue to attract male allies like her friend that connected her with the board to begin with. “We have always been lucky to have men among our membership who see the value of what we do,” she said.
Hallberg believes Women & Hi Tech will continue to grow and succeed at connecting women in STEM across Indiana thanks to the excellence of its members. “The quality of our members, I would rate as passionate rock stars,” she said. “As we get more diversity in our membership, the engagement and personal growth of our members keep us a central part of the STEM community.”
Pass the Torch For Women Website