Women & Hi Tech exists to change the landscape of women represented in STEM to be equally inclusive to all.
 

Blog

  • 04/17/2021 8:00 AM | Anonymous

    For the last five years, Women & Hi Tech has taken progressive steps to evolve and improve the diversity of our organization, as well as how we engage diverse members. Whether it’s diversity of culture and background, who you love, how you worship, or in STEM expertise and education, and so much more, we recognized years ago that we weren’t doing the best job of understanding, elevating, and increasing the uniqueness of our membership or valuing their authenticity.

    Our commitment to do better began in 2017 with the revision of our mission statement to indicate our desire to change the landscape of women represented in STEM to be equally inclusive to all. And we’re proud to share that we have doubled down on our continued commitment now through a new board position. We’d like to introduce you to our Engagement, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Director role.

    Why Engagement, Diversity, and Inclusion?

    We have been working for years to reflect the importance of having our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion solidified in our infrastructure. At the same time, Women & Hi Tech’s Article of Incorporation and Bylaws state that we may only have 15 board members. This led to deep considerations of how we could specifically install a role committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion at the executive levels of our organizational leadership, while maintaining key functional positions.

    Ultimately, we made the choice to retire an old board position in favor of adding this new Engagement, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Director. The Board has also decided that the person elected to this role will be one of four board members involved in the evaluation and selection of all other board members. In this way, our organization will be held accountable to our values and ensure that actions taken by our organization, from leadership selection, member and sponsor engagement, program or event implementation, and public communication are reflecting and honoring diverse perspectives.

    What are the Goals and Duties of the EDI Director?

    One thing we have learned over the years is that one or two diverse persons cannot and should not be burdened to speak for or represent all diverse people. A key duty of the EDI position will be to organize and lead an Engagement, Diversity, and Inclusion committee of organization members where honest conversation, empathy, and great ideas to continue propelling our organization forward can manifest.

    Another important goal for the EDI Director is to help us understand the diversity of our current membership through information capture and data analysis. We expect this individual will have ideas to broaden small group events, such as the Women & Hi Tech Book Club and our ClickSide Chat Series, which provide opportunities for our members to connect, engage, learn, celebrate, and share their amazingly diverse experiences. And, we hope the EDI Director will be excited to connect with other Indiana STEM organizations to understand how our diverse membership can help achieve mutual goals. Lastly, we expect this EDI Director to have ideas, ambitions, goals, and initiatives they would like us to achieve and accomplish together.

    Interested in applying for the EDI Director position by April 25? Visit the full position description and find the application here. Please note that we will also be accepting applications for an EDI committee soon.

    Want to support this new EDI Director and Women & Hi Tech’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives? Don’t forget to update your member profile and answer new questions about yourself.

    Women & Hi Tech’s 20+ Year History

    Twenty-two years ago, Women & Hi Tech was founded by Eli Lilly scientist, Joyce Gustafson, and Indiana University academic, Georgia Miller. The two noticed that there were very few women working in high tech jobs in the Indianapolis STEM community. Manufacturing, telecommunications, agriculture, biotechnology, health care, information technology, and other technical industries, that are today called STEM fields, were still highly male-dominated. So, Joyce, Georgia, their charter members, and female peers decided to do something about it.

    Throughout the decades, our objective has included networking, professional development, and volunteering opportunities for women currently working in STEM. We have also worked to create opportunities for young girls and women to be exposed and stay connected to science, technology, engineering, and math professionals.

    • By 2001, two years after our founding, we awarded our first college scholarship.
    • By 2003, we joined the K-12 National E-Mentoring program.
    • By 2013, we created the Passport to Hi-Tech program with Connor Prairie.
    • By 2017, we launched the Ignite Your Superpower event with Indy Women in Tech (IWiT) and Connor Prairie.

    In 2017, we also chose to revisit our mission statement and its alignment with our core values. We recast our mission and brand to emphasize the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion of all women in STEM. We began taking action to manifest those values in our organization. As part of these efforts, the organization elected our first African-American president, Angela B. Freeman, to leadership in 2019. Here are some additional steps toward equity, diversity, and inclusion we have taken since 2017:

    • The only in-person event Women & Hi Tech hosted in 2020 was our Special Edition Executive Women's Forum in February, Black History Month. A panel of six diverse female STEM professionals representing each facet of STEM discussed The Disparity of Diversity Amongst Women in STEM and how each of us may use our power of privilege to support and champion diverse women in STEM.
    • The Board unanimously approved, organized, financed, and attended a custom, 2-day training and workshop in February 2020, entitled Interrupting Racism For Our Children by Child Advocates of Indiana.
      • As a result, we revised and revamped our scholarship applications and judging criteria.
      • We also committed to planning a new event to honor and celebrate multicultural diversity in STEM, which will occur in June, 2021
    • As outcome of our 2-year strategic planning meeting in May 2020, we established a Diversity Taskforce to analyze and address better implementation of diversity, equity, and inclusion in our organization’s infrastructure.
    • Women & Hi Tech expanded our partnerships with organizations such as the Girls Scouts, Girls Inc, Every GIRL can STEM, the Startup Ladies, and the Indy CIO Network. Women & Hi Tech also established a new partnership with the Indianapolis Professional Association (IPA), a local nonprofit focused on promoting education and economy of African-Americans, by sponsoring book scholarships awarded to 3 African American females pursuing STEM in college.
    • In 2020, Women & Hi Tech partnered with Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) and donated our full K-12 budget to the IPS Education Equity Fund. This donation bought ~16 Chromebooks for diverse female IPS students who did not have computer technology to enable their remote learning.
    • In July of 2020, the current Board of Directors was elected, which is the most diverse Board in our history. Our current board is 33% diverse, such that 5 out of 15 board members are not Caucasian or white females.

    These accomplishments were made possible because we have taken strategic steps for the past several years to weave the intention of diversity, equity, and inclusion into the fabric of our organization. Well beyond words, we have established our commitment to inclusion through infrastructural policies, processes, and procedures that solidify diversity, equity, and inclusion in the foundational experience of any member or leader of Women & Hi Tech.

    We want this organization to be a place where all people can be themselves, find empathy, and grow. We are supremely confident that adding this new EDI Director position on our board will help us better connect our members to one another, to our greater STEM community, and to their own value and excellence. We can’t wait to meet our new Engagement, Diversity, and Inclusion Director in the next weeks and months and to introduce them to you! If interested, we strongly encourage YOU to apply.


  • 04/15/2021 8:00 AM | Anonymous

    Women & Hi Tech Book Club Expands Perspectives

    Did you know Women & Hi Tech has a book club? Since September 2020, our members have been meeting once a quarter to discuss great books on STEM and professional development topics.

    We sat down to talk with the club’s founder, current Women & Hi Tech Secretary Kelly Sandstrom, as well as members of the club to talk about their experience so far and what is coming next for the group.

    Women & Hi Tech Book Club Details and Meeting Information

    So far, the book club has met three times, once per quarter since its inception. Here are the books they have discussed:

    • September 2020: Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
    • December 2020: Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman
    • March 2021: The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America's Enemies by Jason Fagone.

    The fourth meeting is scheduled for June 21, with the selected book being Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi.

    “Women & Hi Tech members are encouraged to submit book nominations to the book club chair,” explained Kelly. “When enough nominations are collected, a poll is created during a book club meeting to vote on the next read. In the absence of enough nominations, the book club chair will select a relevant title for the book club to read next.”

    The club has been very excited to have two of its meetings joined by authors! Elise Foster, who co-authored The Multiplier Effect with Wiseman, attended the December meeting. And Jason Fagone attended the March meeting where his book was discussed.

    “Sometimes the authors have been facilitators themselves, guiding the meeting in a way that our attendees have gotten more of a workshop during our meeting hour. At other points, the authors have been able to give insight into the book writing process, and book club attendees asked more direct questions about the history and details of the story itself. What a treat for our book club participants!” Kelly celebrated.

    Book club member Sharon Tuttle agreed. She specifically attended the book club due to the relevance of Fagone’s book to her professional life. “I was thrilled to hear the author would be attending our meeting,” she shared. “I was captivated by the level of detail the author researched to write this story. It was insightful to understand how difficult it was for him to find the hidden documents and files relating to this story.”

    And now, Sharon is excited to keep attending the book club. “My initial response to the invitation to join this particular book club meeting was solely based on the significance of the topic of the book to my work. Now, I look forward to reading the next book and participating again. I can attest to these discussions providing diverse viewpoints on a variety of perspectives which I find broaden my own intellect and understanding of the topic.”

    Why a Women & Hi Tech Book Club?

    As the events of 2020 forced our members to be distant from one another, Kelly thought of this idea to connect our members for more structured and intentional conversation. “The book club is such a fun way to get out and network and meet new people with similar interests,” she said. “You can always guarantee that you will either meet someone new at a book club meeting or have a new type of conversation with an old friend.”

    Book club member Josuenny O’Donnell agreed. “It is a joy to hear about other members' experiences with the books and hear how different aspects resonate with each person,” she said. “The discussions help to create a bigger picture of the significant aspects of a book. In particular, when reading Multipliers I felt a disconnect from the material. Yet, when those in leadership roles related the information to their own lives, I began to understand how the lessons are applicable to me (both in the present and when making decisions in the future).”

    Experiencing Diverse Perspectives

    These member experiences point to one of the biggest benefits members are finding in the book club, a chance to engage with others’ perspectives on the reading material. “There is tremendous value in the perspective diversity of book club meetings, because it's a safe space to share without feeling judged,” said Kelly.

    “I love learning the different takeaways each person finds in the story and which part of the book resonated most with everyone,” said book club member and Women & Hi Tech President Rebecca Bormann. “I always gain additional insight or a new perspective during our book club discussion!”

    Another element of diversity inherent in the meetings is the subject material of the books themselves.

    “I don't usually read non-fiction, but The Women Who Smashed Codes had so many fantastic elements, it's even more fascinating that it is a true story,” Josuenny said. “Elizebeth Friedman's accomplishments are something worth discussing. From the beginning the reader is invested in her life story and how she moves from one crazy adventure to another. Moreover, it is an inspiring tale of finding passions and pursuing them. I was also inspired to try cryptograms and use the methods that were described in the book, which made the puzzles a lot more accessible.”

    Rebecca agreed that this was her favorite book so far. “I don't think I would have ever picked this book on my own. And it was a fantastic book; from an educational, inspirational, and enjoyable perspective. I loved learning about code-breaking – I knew nothing about it before. This book shared the history of code breaking along with the joys and challenges the heroine and her family experienced.”

    When asked what comes next for the book club, Kelly says she is sure the incredible discoveries and conversations will continue. “I believe book clubs are best executed face-to-face, to further the social interaction,” she added. “I am looking forward to the day when we will have an in-person meeting option for the book club.”

    Register to attend the Q2 Women & Hi Tech Book Club Meeting Here!


  • 03/29/2021 8:02 AM | Anonymous

    Dear Members, Sponsors, Volunteers, Supporters and Friends,

    Happy Spring everyone, I can feel the excitement of warm weather and maybe the end to the pandemic on the horizon! We are keeping our fingers crossed we will be able to meet face to face very soon. In the meantime, we continue our platform of engaging virtual programming. We are wrapping up a successful ClickSide Chat series on March 31, 2021 focused on interviewing tips and best practices. These interactive sessions have allowed us all to connect, engage, and encourage each other via moderated discussions by Women & Hi Tech Board Members. We also have had on-going Book Club sessions, that have included discussions with the book authors.

    We hope you enjoyed our new social media “templates” to shout out noteworthy women and their accomplishments in STEM. Our Women & Hi Tech International Day of Women and Girls in Science and Women’s History month postings were a hit and conveyed inspirational messages of encouragement to the women in STEM community. A big thank you to those who participated and to our Communications Committee, led by Lori Boyer, who developed the template and trained us on how to use them. You will see more of these in the future!

    As we move forward into 2021, we are busy planning several events that we are sure you will not want to miss. These include our signature Executive Women’s Forums (EWF) and our biennial Fall Retreat. The EWF in April will be virtual and focuses on women Entrepreneurship in STEM. The Fall Retreat is being planned for October at French Lick. The details and registration of these exciting events will be shared soon.

    In our 26th edition of "Grown from STEM" we circle back to Engineering. Women engineers have made many notable technology innovations and developments including designing the Brooklyn Bridge, inventing the frequency hopping theory that serves as the basis for modern communication technology such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, developing Kevlar, ergonomic designs, and the windshield wiper. The movie Hidden Figures brought to light the tremendous contribution women, specifically women of color, made to the space program. But when I decided to pursue engineering, none this information was mainstream. Women engineering accomplishments were not in the news, or otherwise being communicated. My interest in engineering was sparked because I thought it was glamorous and heard I could make a lot of money. My father was an engineer and I thought he looked powerful wearing a hard hat with a clipboard in hand. His travel seemed exciting. His handwriting immaculate. He could build anything (including the a-frame playhouse my sisters and I spent hours enjoying). It just seemed awesome.

    I started my engineering career at a time when there were very few female engineers in the workforce, and quickly learned that the work was anything but “glamorous”. I got a big dose of “educated women” not being welcome or as good as the educated men. The dynamics were not friendly to say the least. There were Playboy pin-ups proudly displayed in male colleague workspaces, trade shows with “Miss Snap-On Tool” parading around, no female bathrooms to be found at plants, constant tests to see if I would climb a ladder to the top of a 120’ tower or crawl inside a boiler because I was the “tiny one”, the pipe grease in my hard hat and secret meetings that I wasn’t invited to. It’s amazing I could do my job given all this “stuff” going on, but I did. And I did it well. I persevered and made it clear that not only was I not leaving (there would be a price to pay for touching my pink hard hat) and more importantly that I was a great engineer. With this, the constant harassment diminished to a low hum and I was given a seat at the table more often than not.

    I point this all out because I think it is now a prominent fact that women are fantastic engineers. While there is still unconscious bias to overcome and work to do to give women engineers equal standing with their male counterparts, women engineers are now being recognized for their talent, given credit for their technical contributions and are an important member of technical teams bringing forward innovative technology platforms.

    This month we feature two talented engineers who continue to drive home the point that women engineers have a high degree of technical expertise, are strong leaders and are making meaningful technical contributions to emerging and innovative technology programs. We would like to introduce you to Women & Hi Tech’s Active Emeritus Board Member and former President, Tiffany White and dedicated Emeritus Board Member Melissa Lavella. Tiffany is the Head of Engineering Operations in Rolls Royce Defense Sector. She is recognized for being a champion for team diversity to leverage the best from all perspectives. Melissa is a Senior Quality Supervisor at Roche Diagnostics. Similar to Tiffany, she couples her technical expertise with a passion for advancing team diversity to drive innovation.

    Both women speak loudly about the value Women & Hi Tech has on the STEM community, girls considering STEM careers and personal career development. In closing, I would encourage you to consider joining our Board of Directors. We recently announced seven open board positions this year. Being part of the leadership of the organization is truly an honor, a lot of fun, and an excellent career development opportunity. Universally, those who serve on the board indicate that it is an absolutely wonderful opportunity to mature as a leader and team member. All the job descriptions are available on our website and applications are being accepted through April 25, 2021

    As we began in the October 2020 edition of "Grown from STEM," we are delighted to continue to feature one of our 2020 Virtual Leading Light Awards (LLAs) recipients in this newsletter. This month we continue to celebrate and recognize Women & Hi Tech Leadership Leading Light Award recipient Christine McDonnell. Christine is Co-Founder and CEO of Codelicious, a K-12 SaaS education technology company. She knew there had to be a way to get Computer Science to more students--and especially girls--and when she didn't see the solution readily available, she decided to create one. She's also used her extensive network to create the Confidence Builders program where young girls are given opportunities to interview influential women. She manifests empathy and care for every employee, student, and fellow human she connects with. Again, congratulations Christine!

    Sincerely,
    Linda M. Hicks
    President-Elect, Women & Hi Tech


  • 03/29/2021 8:01 AM | Anonymous

    Last year, our profile of Tiffany White described her many roles on the board of Women & Hi Tech, including Director of K-12 Programs, Vice President, President, and Past President. When we asked her why she has stayed so committed to involvement as an emeritus board member, her answer was simple: “Women & Hi Tech is my tribe.” She then elaborated a little. “When I first entered the engineering field, I was working in an all-male organization. There were very few female engineers and none in my peer group. Then I tried Society of Women Engineers, but found the membership skewed younger than me. They were very nice people, but I wanted to connect with people at my level—women who are currently executives and leaders in STEM. I found that at Women & Hi Tech.”

    Tiffany is the Head of Engineering Operations in Rolls Royce’s Defense Sector. She has worked at Rolls Royce for over 26 years and credits the confidence and leadership skills she learned with Women & Hi Tech for helping her achieve several promotions. “I have been so impressed with the way Women & Hi Tech has adapted to the virtual landscape of 2020—some of the ideas and tech we have used at networking events, I have turned around and used at work with my team,” she celebrated.

    Tiffany describes the engineering sector, especially defense engineering, as one of the many established industries making pivots to achieve digital transformation. “We used to design things on paper, or even throwing Excel files back and forth to each other. Now we are writing apps and using data digitally,” she explained. “We are putting sensors on aircraft engines—or also trucks, ships, and cars—that send real time info back to an app or to a central hub where we can diagnose issues with machinery. Whether it’s on the fly or certainly at maintenance intervals, we can see trends and schedule early intervention before things break.”

    All this disruption comes with an increased need for cybersecurity to keep pace with innovation. “Once you are moving all these electrons around, someone intentionally or unintentionally wants to do something it wasn’t intended for,” White observed.

    Tiffany believes that the key to overcoming barriers and creating the best products possible is diverse collaboration. “The ability to have diversity in any team makes you be innovative and stops you from groupthink. Whether it’s gender diversity, racial diversity, socioeconomic diversity, or even cross-functional groups within the organization, different voices help us make a better product because we are fully exploring requirements and what could go wrong.” However, she added that this is true of any team, in any industry.

    “In aerospace and defense specifically, seasoned professionals like me are suddenly doing very new things. How do we design an engine digitally, and how do we then test that engine sufficiently in a digital environment? How do we protect our designs, innovations, and extremely sensitive consumer data from cybercrime?” Tiffany said that age diversity and being willing to listen to newer members of the team who have digital skills is essential to achieving these goals. “We have to not only hire but also train and restructure in ways that allow new technology to come in and be leveraged in the best and most efficient ways for our end users.”

    Tiffany concluded that nothing is stopping change. “No matter what the industry, at this point we all know we have no choice but to adapt to technology,” she said. “But at the same time, my team are working with products that have 50-year lifecycles. For some of our projects, it’s like trying to put an automatic transmission in a Model T. Not just challenging, but expensive and time-consuming.”

    Overall, there is alignment between what Tiffany wants for her industry and what she envisions for members of Women & Hi Tech. “We all need tools to become better versions of ourselves,” she explained. “As we find and learn to use the tools that work best for us, we grow and achieve more.”

    “Women & Hi Tech is a place where women don’t need to be on the board to find their tribe and peers. In fact, this year we have learned we don’t even all need to be together in person to have a sense of connection,” she said with amazement. “The fact that we had the same rich interactions in all our virtual events has been literally incredible. And it inspires me to have confidence in all aspects of the new digital world that is getting bigger every day.”


  • 03/29/2021 8:00 AM | Anonymous
    Melissa has been a member of Women & Hi Tech for just over a decade and is now a board member emeritus of the organization. She became an active member of the organization around 2011 with the Rolls-Royce corporate membership. After transitioning to Roche Diagnostics at the end of 2014, she was presented with the opportunity to apply to the Women & Hi Tech Board of Directors. Her biggest hope is that more women will take advantage of the organization’s programming and networking opportunities.

    During her role as the K-12 Outreach Director, she spent numerous hours reaching external partners, growing their involvement, and getting Women & Hi Tech in front of the community at a variety of STEM events, such as the SEFI Celebrate Science exhibition. To support this increased community engagement, Lavella and her team were able to come up with a binary code activity to increase female representation in STEM. When asked about the details of the activity, Lavella said, “We created a sustainable STEM activity that involved making necklaces out of two different colored beads. The STEM element included using binary code to translate letters into various sequences of beads. It was a way to show our girls how computers translate letters into binary.”

    Lavella’s impact on Women & Hi Tech and the STEM community extends beyond her role as Outreach Director from 2015 to 2018. As an engineer, Lavella believes that engineering allows for different perspectives across several industries. When asked about the impact of her role in the engineering field, she said, “Engineering’s presence in STEM is about representation and the opportunity for new and innovative ideas. We can’t all be engineers. It takes a variety of experiences to solve the problems that exist in STEM.” She continued to stay connected to the organization through her company, Roche. She was able to leverage engagement opportunities such as the Leading Light Awards to help launch an annual corporate sponsorship. She is most proud of the additional development and networking opportunities that women at her company have been able to experience due to the partnership. Specifically, Lavella is proud that many of the women at Roche have experienced a heightened sense of visibility due to involvement in Women & Hi Tech, which has led to more women learning about the organization as well getting involved in its programming and initiatives.

    Of the questions that need answering in the STEM community, one that stands out the most to Lavella is How do we increase exposure for girls and families? “From the time I joined Women & Hi Tech board of directors in 2015 to now, a pivotal moment of change in the organization occurred when we updated our mission and vision statement” Lavella said “to be very clear about changing the landscape to make things more equitable in STEM. It’s not just enough to expose more women to STEM. It’s also about changing the rules of the game to create a more equitable scenario for all, especially those who are underrepresented.”

    Because groups like Women & Hi Tech are focused on diversifying STEM talent, Indianapolis has grown its reputation as a tech city. There are great universities that are intentional about keeping talent in the state, and because of the amount of effort put into this growing industry, more students and youth are getting involved in the field. “As an organization, we have become more intentional about getting women and women of color in the forefront of STEM. We built enough confidence to be more radical. We are not afraid to be bold in our pursuit of equity in the STEM community. Twenty years from now, I hope that keeping our small knit community feeling within Women & Hi Tech is our biggest challenge, because we have grown so much with additional members and supporters. I also hope that Central Indiana continues to grow with STEM opportunities that create significant movement for women and other marginalized groups.”

  • 03/26/2021 1:00 PM | Anonymous


    Women & Hi Tech is celebrating Women’s History Month 2021 by reflecting on our organization’s history. As the only Indiana-founded 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focused on women in STEM in existence for over 20 years, we have had significant impact to date. But when we reflect on the last 3-5 years in particular, we are ecstatic to see the tangible impact achieved by our intentional focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

    This March, we are celebrating the legacy of our past and the promise of our future with the release of a new Women & Hi Tech logo, in which we hope all women see themselves reflected. From age, race, gender expression, sexual orientation, and all facets of diversity in between, what unites our members is their passion for our mission - to make the landscape of women in STEM equally inclusive to all.

    Let’s explore how our focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion came to fruition, and the intentional and purposeful steps we have taken in recent years to amplify our mission of inclusion and belonging of all women in STEM in Indiana.

    Women & Hi Tech’s 20+ Year History

    Twenty-two years ago, Women & Hi Tech was founded by Eli Lilly scientist, Joyce Gustafson, and Indiana University academic, Georgia Miller. The two noticed that there were very few women working in high tech jobs in the Indianapolis STEM community. Manufacturing, telecommunications, agriculture, biotechnology, health care, information technology, and other technical industries, that are today called STEM fields, were still highly male-dominated. So, Joyce, Georgia, their charter members, and female peers decided to do something about it.

    Throughout the decades, our mission has included networking and professional development for women currently working in STEM. We have also worked to create opportunities for young girls and women to be exposed and stay connected to science, technology, engineering, and math professionals.

    • By 2001, two years after our founding, we awarded our first college scholarship.
    • By 2003, we joined the K-12 National E-Mentoring program.
    • By 2013, we created the Passport to Hi Tech program with Connor Prairie.
    • By 2017, we launched the Ignite Your Superpower event with Indy Women in Tech (IWiT) and Connor Prairie.

    In 2017, we also chose to revisit our mission statement and its alignment with our core values. We recast our mission and brand to emphasize the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion of all women in STEM. We began taking action to manifest those values in our organization. As part of these efforts, the organization elected our first African-American president, Angela B. Freeman, to leadership in 2019.

    Current State of Women & Hi Tech

    Though 2020 was a year of turmoil, uncertainty, and unrest in our country, it was also a year of progress for Women & Hi Tech as we enabled real change toward inclusion in our organization. Last year, we had more diverse representation in our scholarship and award applicants, judges, and recipients than ever before in our organization’s history. In a national culture of inequity, disparity, and disadvantage for women, our organization continued to provide a safe haven for female professionals by elevating our diverse members, colleagues, and peers for recognition of their STEM excellence and community impact.

    Given the circumstances, our achievements in 2020 is rather impressive!

    • The only in-person event Women & Hi Tech hosted in 2020 was our Special Edition Executive Women's Forum in February, Black History Month. A panel of six diverse female STEM professionals representing each facet of STEM discussed The Disparity of Diversity Amongst Women in STEM and how each of us may use our power of privilege to support and champion diverse women in STEM.
    • The Board unanimously approved, organized, financed, and attended a custom, 2-day training and workshop in February 2020, entitled Interrupting Racism For Our Children by Child Advocates of Indiana.
      • As a result, we revised and revamped our scholarship applications and judging criteria.
      • We also committed to planning a new event to honor and celebrate multicultural diversity in STEM, which will occur in June, 2021
    • Our first-ever virtual Executive Women’s Forum was held in April 2020 and focused on Leveraging the Gift of Feedback. This event had over 500 registered attendees from all over the world - record attendance.
    • Women & Hi Tech expanded our partnerships with organizations such as the Girls Scouts, Girls Inc, Every GIRL can STEM, the Startup Ladies, and the Indy CIO Network. Women and Hi Tech also established a new partnership with the Indianapolis Professional Association (IPA), a local nonprofit focused on promoting education and economy of African-Americans, by sponsoring book scholarships awarded to 3 African American females pursuing STEM in college.
    • Women & Hi Tech also partnered with Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) and donated our full K-12 budget to the IPS Education Equity Fund. This donation bought ~16 Chromebooks for diverse female IPS students who did not have computer technology to enable their remote learning.
    • In July of 2020, the current Board of Directors was elected, which is the most diverse Board in our history. Our current board is 33% diverse, such that 5 out of 15 board members are not white females.
    • We introduced 2 new programs, our Click Side Chats & the Women & Hi Tech Quarterly Book Club. These virtual events enabled members to stay connected, engaged, and encouraged during stay at home orders and social distancing.
    • Women & Hi Tech created, held and/or participated in more community events than ever before, totaling 50 virtual events throughout the year.
      • Our signature annual OperationALLTM event was held in October and was designed especially for our male allies.
      • Our Virtual Holiday Networking Pajama Party raised $3,000, and 100% of the proceeds were donated to the DaySpring Center.
    • We celebrated the 20th Anniversary of our Leading Light Awards and Scholarship Gala by hosting our first-ever virtual gala in October. Over 500 global guests registered, as we awarded over $58,000 of scholarships and grants to 17 women and girls in Indiana and honored 13 outstanding Indiana STEM professionals with our Leading Light Awards.

    These accomplishments were made possible because we have taken strategic steps for the past several years to weave the intention of diversity, equity, and inclusion into the fabric of our organization. Well beyond words, we have established our commitment to inclusion through infrastructural policies, processes, and procedures that solidify diversity, equity, and inclusion in the foundational experience of any member or leader of Women & Hi Tech.

    Our membership is almost 2000 strong; each member with a unique background, set of skills, and talents to help this organization of peers succeed. Our all-volunteer working Board of Directors is committed to advancing our mission and serving our Indiana STEM community. Though every STEM field is unique, the barriers women face go beyond the technical aspects of any STEM career to unite us in vision and the intention of creating a world where those obstacles no longer exist. As reflected by our new logo, our organization’s focus – today and since its inception – remains focused on the women in STEM, particularly those needing a resource of empowerment and encouragement. Every day we seek to identify and engage a growing number of women, a diverse group of STEM professionals, and leaders from across Indiana to help promote and support our cause.

    We are Women & Hi Tech, committed to changing the landscape of women represented in STEM to be equally inclusive to all for over two decades. Won’t you join us and participate in our historical legacy?



  • 03/24/2021 8:00 AM | Anonymous

    Founded in 1999 in Indianapolis by a female scientist from Eli Lilly & Co. and a female academician from Indiana University, Women & Hi Tech exists to change the landscape of women represented in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) to be equally inclusive to all. To achieve our goal, we work to mentor, advance, recognize, and connect female STEM students and professionals with each other and our community in Indiana. Our members and sponsors represent a wide array of STEM fields, including life sciences, accounting, engineering, psychology, statistics, and information technology.

    Women & Hi Tech is run by an all-volunteer, working Board of Directors and are looking for candidates who are actively engaged with the organization, and will bring wisdom, experience, effectiveness, candor, and creative thinking. We are passionate about our organization and the meaningful work we do and are looking for like-minded individuals. We do not take the term “working board” lightly. At any given time, a Director is leading her/his own area of responsibility while also contributing to other areas of the organization, including serving on committees, participating in Women & Hi Tech events, and representing Women & Hi Tech in the community.

    The call for nominations closes April 25, 2021. Multiple nominations from a single candidate are permitted. All nominations will be reviewed by the Nomination Committee. Nominees must be Women & Hi Tech members in good standing at the time of initial voting and must remain in good standing throughout their tenure. New board members take office on July 1, 2021.

    To apply or nominate an individual, please review the job descriptions and policies linked below and complete the online form by April 25, 2021.


  • 02/28/2021 8:02 AM | Anonymous

    Dear Members, Sponsors, Volunteers, Supporters and Friends,

    February has been an exciting month for Women & Hi Tech, and we hope it has been for you too! Women & Hi Tech members have been meeting every other Wednesday during our ClickSide Chat meetings held for a small group of registered members. These interactive sessions provide a mid-week touch-point for Women & Hi Tech members to connect, engage, and encourage each other via a moderated discussion format related to a respective topic hosted by Women & Hi Tech Board Members Upcoming topics include a check-in on 2021 goals and resolutions, self-care best practices and a session focused on interviewing tips & best practices. We are also reading The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America's Enemies by Jason Fagone for our upcoming Virtual Book Club Meeting on March 9th from 6 pm to 7 pm. Spoiler alert: the woman who smashed codes is from Indiana! If you are not already registered for a ClickSide Chat or Book Club please visit our website womenandhitech.org/events.

    We were also delighted to host our kickoff “Special Edition” Executive Women’s Forum (EWF) of 2021 – A Casual and Crucial COVID Conversation with Indiana’s Health Commissioner- Dr Kristina Box, during Black History month and on International Day of Women and Girls in Science as declared by the United Nations General Assembly. The mission of this day is to “achieve full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls and to further achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.” We at Women & Hi Tech, would especially like to recognize and thank all of our Indiana female scientific leaders and healthcare heroes- for their many accomplishments especially accomplishments that have created solutions for problems caused by the global pandemic. Thank you!

    We honor and celebrate February as Black History month and Women & Hi Tech recognizes and celebrates African American History not just in February but year-round. This year we’d like to especially recognize all of the African American women in STEM, especially our Past President, Angela B. Freeman, and EWF Director, Linda Calvin, for making history today in our Indiana community and across the nation and the world. Thank you!

    To continue to honor and celebrate Black History month, I share with you four of innumerous African American women who have or are currently blazing trails in a STEM field.

    Yvonne Young Clark (1929-2019)

    According to BlackPast.org, Yvonne Young Clark was the first African American to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering at Howard University in 1951. She was the first woman to receive a Master’s degree in Engineering from Vanderbilt University in 1972; and, she was the first female faculty at the College of Engineering at Tennessee State University [TSU], endearing her with the title, “TSU’s First Lady of Engineering”.

    Yvonne Young Clark utilized summer breaks during her 55-year higher education career to undertake engineering jobs. She worked on recoilless weapons at Frankfort Arsenal; on Saturn 5 engines where she identified hot spots for the NASA division in Huntsville, Alabama; and receptacles for returning moon specimens to Earth at the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston. She also conducted extensive studies on refrigerants including serving as chief researcher on a project “Experimental Evaluation of the Performance of Alternative Refrigerants in Heat Pump Cycles. To learn more about Yvonne Young Clark please visit: https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/yvonne-young-clark-1929-2019/

    Dr. Jewel Plummer Cobb (1924-2017)

    As I learned on Your Dictonary.com, Dr. Jewel Plummer Cobb a cell biologist and cell physiologist is most known for her work with skin pigment, or melanin. She was an educator and researcher and contributed to the field of chemotherapy with her research on how drugs affected cancer cells. She was also a passionate advocator for women and ethnic minorities to enter into the field of science.

    In 1991, Cobb became principal investigator at Southern California Science and Engineering ACCESS Center and Network, which helps middle school and high school students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds pursue careers in engineering, mathematics, and the sciences. She continued to help in efforts to bring opportunities to minorities. In 2001, she was principal investigator for Science Technology Engineering Program (STEP) Up for Youth—ASCEND project at California State University, Los Angeles.

    For her work helping minorities discover the rewards of a career in science, Cobb received the 1993 Lifetime Achievement Award. This was given by the National Academy of Science for her contributions to the advancement of women and underrepresented minorities. Her photograph hangs in the academy's hall reserved for distinguished scientist. To learn more about Dr. Jewel Plummer Cobb please visit: https://biography.yourdictionary.com/jewel-plummer-cobb

    Angela Benton (1981-)

    Angela Benton is an American businesswoman. Benton founded NewME (acquired), the first startup accelerator for minorities globally in 2011. Through her leadership, NewME has accelerated hundreds of entrepreneurs helping the nascent companies to raise over $47 million in venture capital funding. Prior to that she launched BlackWeb 2.0 in 2007, a multimedia platform that filled a much-needed void by becoming a vital nexus for African-Americans interested in technology. She is a pioneer of diversity and one of the most important African-Americans in the technology industry.

    Today Angela Benton is currently the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Streamlytics, which uses first-party media consumption data to bring transparency to what people are streaming on today’s most popular streaming services while helping consumers own their data in the process. To learn more about Angela Benton please visit: https://www.angelabenton.co/about-angela-benton#about


    Dr. Sylvia T. Bozeman (1947-)

    Dr. Sylvia Bozeman’s professional career has primarily been spent as a member of the mathematics faculty at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. She began as an instructor in 1972, became assistant professor in 1980, an associate in 1984, and professor in 1991. Moreover, Sylvia served as Chair of Math at Spelman (1982-1993), as adjunct faculty in Math at Atlanta University (1983-85) teaching graduate mathematics/ supervising a master’s thesis, and became Director of the Center for the Scientific Applications of Mathematics (1993-present), a center she established at Spelman. In the late 1970's, Sylvia took a three-year leave of absence from Spelman to matriculate at Emory University in Atlanta where she earned a Ph.D. degree in mathematics in 1980 in Functional Analysis; her thesis title : "Representations of Generalized Inverses of Fredholm Operators." Her noted scholarly activities include several publications, funded research (by NASA, the US Office of Army Research and the Kellogg Foundation); and her recognitions, contributions, and services as a gifted teacher and presenter.

    Sylvia Bozeman also has a strong commitment to community service. The elementary students' Tutorial Program at Friendship Baptist Church is one of her favorites. Her awards, honors, and recognitions are many. They include: Distinguished Alumni of the Year Award - Al A&M Univ/NAFEO (1996); Pres. Fac. Award for Dist. Service - Spelman (1995); Dist. Teaching Award - Southeastern Section of the MAA(1995); White House Initiative Fac. Award for Excell. in Sc. & Tech. (1988); Tenneco UNCF Award for Excell in Teaching (1988) and election to Phi Beta Kappa and to Pi Mu Epsilon Honorary Math. Fraternity. In 1997 Sylvia Bozeman was selected to be the Project Shepherd of the most expensive construction project in the history of Spelman: the $25 million (+) Spelman College Science Center. Also in 1997, Sylvia Bozeman was elected Governor of the Southeastern Section of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA).

    She is the first African-American to be elected a Section Governor in MAA's eight-two year history. The MAA is the largest mathematics organization of college and university professors, and the Southeastern Section is one of the largest sections. Dr. Sylvia Bozeman's mentor is her friend of many years, Dr. Etta Falconer.

    In our 25th edition of "Grown from STEM". We are featuring Women & Hi Tech’s Collegiate Outreach Director, Merri Beth Lavagnino and dedicated member Kelley Skelton, both excelling in the field of Tech, Security, Data and Analytics. Both Lavagnino and Skelton are highly accomplished in their respective disciplines in technology and share how their unique paths and careers have led to their success and passion for tech. Lavagnino and Skelton are champions for diversity, equity, and inclusion, particularly for women in STEM, in their careers, volunteerism, and personal lives. Please read more about Lavagnino and Skelton and how their backgrounds, STEM expertise, and passion for equity and inclusion for girls and STEM professionals helps fuel their support and involvement in Women & Hi Tech.

    As we began in the October 2020 edition of "Grown from STEM," we are delighted to continue to feature one of our 2020 Virtual Leading Light Awards (LLAs) recipients in this newsletter. This month we continue to celebrate and recognize Women & Hi Tech's Mentor Me! award recipient, Heather Jones. Heather is an accomplished biochemical engineer in the field of fermentation and a selfless leader at Corteva Agriscience. Heather's impact in mentoring spans across ages from young children to college students to science professionals. Her approachable demeanor, articulate communication style and her own success as a scientist, engineer, and leader make her an effective mentor and inspirational role model for young women. Please watch this segment of the 2020 Virtual LLAs to learn more about what fuels Heather's passion and drive for equality for all in the STEM fields and beyond. Again, Congratulations Heather!

    Kind Regards,

    Rebecca Bormann
    President, Women & Hi Tech



  • 02/28/2021 8:01 AM | Anonymous

    Merri Beth, Collegiate Outreach Director, has been a member of Women & Hi Tech for quite a while and attributes her passion to be an active board member to a few things. When she saw that there was a call for board members, she submitted an application for the role of Collegiate Outreach Director. In her role as Collegiate Outreach Director, Lavagnino is able to network with colleges and universities within Central Indiana. This, in turn, creates the opportunity to do new things, specifically linking students, faculty, and staff to hi-tech events.

    When asked about further motivation to assume a more active role on the Women & Hi Tech board, Lavagnino said, “I am passionate about building relationships with collegiate sponsors to help determine what they need for STEM students as well as faculty and staff working at universities.” As a result, Lavagnino has held several panel sessions for college and university students to gauge interest in STEM careers. For Women & Hi Tech, the good news is that most of the members include women who are already STEM professionals and love to share their stories with students.

    Lavagnino believes that connecting professionals with students is the most valuable thing that colleges and universities want. Because of her discovery, she moderated the Lessons Learned from Women Professionals in STEM Panels which allows STEM professionals to tell their stories and best practices on what undergraduate and graduate students should do as they pursue careers in STEM. “When we have these panel discussions, men also attend, and we appreciate their presence because men can learn what is needed to support and encourage their female counterparts to be a part of the industry,” Lavagnino said in a recent interview.

    Lavagnino assisted with the scholarship awarding process for Women & Hi Tech’s 20th Anniversary in August of 2019, and then she was the scholarships chair for the organization’s Leading Light Awards in October of 2020. “I was responsible for the entire process and spent a lot of time working with a committee to make the application language more inclusive and encouraging, because our goal is to increase diversity,” she stated. While she spent time ensuring a more equitable and inclusive environment, Lavagnino also wants members of Women & Hi Tech to develop like no other.

    As the Collegiate Outreach Director for Women & Hi Tech, Lavagnino believes that members should come to events with a welcoming, growth-mindset to learn not only thoughts and ideas that apply to current STEM careers, but also to understand the careers of their peers who are working in other areas of STEM. Lavagnino goes on to say that, “When we learn more about our peer women, how we can support them, and what techniques they use that we can use to apply to our own lives, we further inspire young women who have a curiosity in STEM. Sometimes we just need to talk to someone outside of our current job, who can help us navigate those waters.”

    As the times and trends change in STEM, Lavagnino makes a priority to highlight a couple of them. “My area of STEM is information technology privacy and security compliance. The biggest barrier that I’ve noticed for women is the lack of detailed technical knowledge, as it pertains to technology,” she said in a recent interview, “prevents women from branching out and pursuing new career opportunities.” To Lavagnino, it seems that young men play with programming more as children and engage in more gaming as teenagers. “The games are written to appeal to young men,” Lavagnino asserted. She feels that women, too, can break through that barrier and get started in tech as early as young men do. If you know young women who have an inkling of interest, help them get started programming and playing with technology hardware and software earlier.

    “I think that throughout our STEM careers, all kinds of women, including diverse women, should have the same opportunities to pursue security, data, and analytics as it applies to their STEM area.” As the industry evolves, and more women pursue executive leadership positions in STEM, data analysis tools will be important to gain business insights. “Some of us work in a lab or teach a STEM discipline, but we aren’t experts in analyzing the data about our work. We’re in a time where we all have to become those experts,” Lavagnino said. “If you’re a woman or underrepresented minority pursuing a STEM career, you’ll set yourself apart with applicable coursework or even a minor or certificate in data analytics, when applying and interviewing for new opportunities.”

  • 02/28/2021 8:00 AM | Anonymous

    Kelley Skelton graduated from IU Kelley School of Business with degrees in Business Management and Human Resource Management. But by the time of graduation, she had also taught herself to code in HTML, CSS, C#, learned the Adobe Creative Design suite, and worked as a webmaster. “I like to stay busy and keep my mind sharp!” Skelton explained simply. “My now-husband was in IT, and I saw what he was doing, and knew I could do it too.” She described how the reactions of her clients and colleagues kept her motivated to continue learning. “I was able to help by doing what others called ‘magic’ but I knew was just tech. My skills allowed me to be efficient and help others achieve efficiency, too. This wasn’t something everyone knew how to do—so it was helping others that kept me motivated.”

    Today, Skelton leverages her skills in both business and IT in an IT Strategic Services role with the Business Solutions Team at Anthem, where she focuses on helping align Anthem’s strategic initiatives with Federal and State regulations. This is a role where her talent for process improvement and efficiency shines. She also serves as Chief of Staff for the Anthem ‘Women’s Inspired Network’. This is one of Anthem’s Associate Resource Groups which amplify and support diversity in the company’s culture. “I am so gratified to be able to leverage my broad experience and passion for analysis to continue to help, not only my colleagues, but the individuals Anthem serves,” Skelton said.

    Kelley was attracted to Women & Hi Tech because she saw so many of her values manifested and shared by the organization’s leadership. “I saw a volunteer opportunity on LinkedIn to help with an event at IUPUI. The president at that time was Angela Freeman and she spoke to the volunteers before the event. She has an incredible and inspiring presence and listening to her made me want to be part of any organization that lifts people up like she does.”

    Since joining Women & Hi Tech, Kelley has been gratified to continue volunteering and inspiring young women to pursue their STEM interests as careers. She shared, “I received a nearly full ride scholarship to the School of Science at Purdue University, and even though I had always loved science, I didn’t have anyone encouraging me to take that scholarship—so I didn’t”. Her own childhood experiences moving from the Dayton Metropolitan area to a rural town in Texas gives her perspective on how different the needs of young women in different areas can be. But what unites them all, she says, is the need for positive role models. “I would love to see bigger outreach, with mentoring programs, not just for school-age girls but even young professionals,” Kelley said. “Women & Hi Tech has an incredible partnership with Pass the Torch for Women that enables many mentoring opportunities. But I would like to see more structured, STEM-specific mentoring among the membership. Not just tools and resources but programming centered on connections with peers to give advice.”

    Kelley thinks this peer support is especially important when it comes to women being okay with failure. “I have been living the test-experiment-fail-try again mantra since before people were really aware of it, but even I am still learning and growing beyond a learned need for perfection,” she shared. “I think most, if not all, women grow up being taught they should be afraid of failing. But I have realized along the way that failure is a part of success. How can you get better if you don’t see failure and grow beyond it?”

    Kelley shared that she does believe these ingrained biases are decreasing with each generation. “I have a high schooler and a third grader, both daughters, and I encourage them every day to look around at possibilities. They can do anything they put their mind to—even if they can’t do it right away.”

    She went on to say, “Women & Hi Tech is a perfect vehicle for effecting positive change. I have been an active volunteer since the day I signed up and I have gotten to meet so many impressive people and do really great things. It’s critical for women in STEM to lift each other up through success as well as failure, and share tools for our next endeavors,” she concluded. “That is what Women & Hi Tech is all about.”

All content Copyright Women & Hi Tech, BigStockPhoto, or Trusty Applications
Women & Hi Tech is a 501(c)3 charitable organization, and all donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. Federal ID Number: 35-2113596. 
Women & Hi Tech, 133 West Market Street, #220, Indianapolis, IN 46204

Contact | Personal Data Usage Policy | Site Map