Like many women pursuing a career in STEM, in college Darcy Lee often found herself one of only a few women in the room. She enrolled at Indiana University to study biomedicine, but after her first semester she felt she didn’t belong and changed her major to Cognitive Science. “I was still driven to be a scientist, but didn’t feel like I could thrive in biomedicine. I felt treated differently, even unfairly, just because I was a girl,” Lee said. “Cognitive Science and Psychology were forward-thinking scientific disciplines that then were more welcoming to women.” She believes in 2019, there is far more support and encouragement for young girls interested in STEM fields, but notes we still have a long way to go.
Shortly after moving to the Indianapolis area, Darcy was introduced to Women & Hi Tech by its then president, Tonya Hanshew. “At first, I just attended a few events to see what they were like and what the organization was all about. Then I found myself always wondering when the next event was because I enjoyed them so much. That’s when I knew I wanted to get involved on a deeper level,” Lee said. She inquired about volunteer opportunities and began helping with event registration. “It was a great way to meet and connect with like-minded women, including members of the board. I also really believed in their mission, and wanted to be a part of making changes for women in STEM,” Lee said. In 2015 Darcy was asked to chair the next year’s Leading Light Awards, which she did with great success. During its planning, she was asked to join the board as its Treasurer. This was where Lee saw additional opportunities to help the organization grow – through helping to develop more operational efficiency and sustainable infrastructure. “We are an all-volunteer working board. Our Directors focus most of their time on their specific areas, plus serving on committees to develop and assist other areas,” Lee said. “I saw how new software and new approaches to documentation could help us make great strides forward in our ability to serve our members.”
Her tenacity, leadership and willingness to jump in and tackle tasks even outside her specific role made a big impression on the Board of Directors, and part way through her term as Treasurer, Darcy was selected to become the organization’s next President. “I was kind of blown away,” she remarked. “But honestly it’s a great example of what we do in Women & Hi Tech. We see the best in one another, and we help one another shine.”
Prior to becoming President, Lee spent a year as President-Elect learning from then-President Audrey Taylor. “She taught me a lot about being a compassionate and effective leader and always keeping the best interest of our members in mind,” Lee said. That year also allowed her time to begin laying the groundwork for key growth focus areas, including sponsorship and outreach.
Currently halfway through her tenure as President, Lee continues her mission to help Women & Hi Tech solidify its uniqueness and value in the community and expand its impact. “One of the things we do well is provide opportunities for women in STEM to connect with one another in meaningful ways,” Lee said. “Connectedness is highly valued among our members, so I am always thinking about ways to engage new areas of the community and give women in STEM the support they need to thrive.”
"Women need more than education and professional development to be successful. We need a support network, opportunities to grow, allies and sponsors, and recognition for our achievements. I love Women & Hi Tech because it fills these gaps in the development of women in STEM".
Lee’s experience in business development has been an asset in helping Women & Hi Tech members and sponsors connect with one another in meaningful ways. Networking and making connections with members and STEM-related businesses in Indiana have been the linchpins for the organization’s recent growth. Since 2015, the number of sponsors has nearly doubled. “I look at corporate sponsorship not only as a way to positively impact those organizations but also as a way to engage with and create connections between more women in STEM than we can reach through individual membership,” Lee said.
Darcy points out that at a basic level, STEM requires confidence and access to resources, something not guaranteed to women pursuing education and careers in those fields. Lee knows Women & Hi Tech has an important future bringing more resources to women across the state, and to attract more girls to STEM careers. “Achieving these goals is about seeing the bigger picture, then breaking it down into smaller initiatives and tactics that advance that goal,” Lee said. “In twenty years, we’ve created a lot of great programs and opportunities for women in Central Indiana. We intend to continue to build and are beginning to look at ways to replicate our success throughout the state.”
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