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.