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


  • 09/10/2019 8:00 AM | Lori Boyer (Administrator)

    Ignite Your SuperpowerOn August 22, 2019, Women & Hi Tech partnered with Conner Prairie and Indy Women in Tech to host the 3rd annual Ignite Your Superpower (IYS) STEM day on the campus of IUPUI.  Around 700 middle school students from central Indiana schools participated in IYS for a day full of fun-filled STEM activities and events featuring more than 30 different corporate, academic, and non-profit exhibitors.

    Studies have shown that girls lose interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) as they get older.1 This was a trend that the founders of Women & Hi Tech recognized 20 years ago, which has increasingly mobilized the organization to provide programs, events, and scholarships that cater to K-12 girls.

    “Many girls, particularly diverse young ladies, not only receive a message that they aren’t good at math and science, they also do not have an opportunity to see STEM professionals that look like them or with whom they share common experiences. So STEM is never presented in a way that intrigues or inspires them to pursue it,” said Angela B. Freeman, President of Women & Hi Tech.

    “This same dilemma is perpetuated in rural communities where there are also limited opportunities, for boys and girls alike, to be exposed to the breadth of STEM careers and female STEM professionals that are available. For many of the attendees, IYS is also the first time they have ever set foot on a college campus or been exposed to what is required to go to college. It’s a very empowering and inspiring day for us all,” Angela noted.

    During IYS, groups of students were teamed with one or more of the 50 teachers and chaperones and over 150 volunteer "Superheroes" from the Indianapolis STEM community. These adults led the students through the exhibits and activities, providing the students with time to explore interactive presentations, watch live demos, eat lunch, and work with some of the coolest tools and gadgets available in STEM.

    “With our K-12 outreach we are trying to reach every corner of Indiana and make diverse students aware of the opportunities in STEM,” said Amanda McCammon, Women & Hi-Tech’s K-12 Outreach Director. “That means calling on our local STEM community partners to serve as exhibitors and presenters to help us inspire the talent of the future to stay focused and interested in STEM, and ideally to stay in Indiana.”

    Ignite Your Superpower is an annual event achieved with the support of a coalition of community partners. Women & Hi Tech is very grateful for all of our friends and allies that continually and loyally support our mission by inspiring the next generation of STEM innovators through programs like IYS.

    Pictures from the 2019 event are available online at: https://womenandhitech.org/2019-Ignite-Your-Superpower

    For more information about IYS, please contact us at WHTInfo@Womenandhitech.org

    About Women & Hi Tech
    Women & Hi Tech exists to change the landscape of women represented in STEM to be equally inclusive to all. To achieve our goal, we work to advance, promote, support, recognize, and connect female STEM professionals in our community in Indiana.

    1Choney, Suzanne  (2018, March 13). Why do girls lose interest in STEM? New research has some answers — and what we can do about it https://news.microsoft.com/features/why-do-girls-lose-interest-in-stem-new-research-has-some-answers-and-what-we-can-do-about-it/

  • 08/31/2019 10:15 AM | Lori Boyer (Administrator)

    Dear Women & Hi Tech Members, Sponsors, Partners, and Friends:

    With the close of August and the dawn of fall comes a long Labor Day weekend, and the final flickers and glows of the spotlight we have had shining on The Women & Hi Tech 20th Anniversary Celebration throughout this year. Proclaimed to be “Women & Hi Tech Day” and “Women in STEM Day” in the city of Indianapolis and the state of Indiana, respectively, on August 16, 2019, Women & Hi Tech celebrated its 20th year of successfully effecting change to advance women in STEM in Indiana with the theme of "Celebrating Our Past and Investing in Our Future." Women & Hi Tech was also presented with an entry made into the U.S. House of Representatives Congressional Record, our nation’s history, to honor the 20th Anniversary of Women & Hi Tech by Congresswoman Susan Brooks of Indiana's 5th District.

    To "Celebrate Our Past” at the event, the co-founders and the founding member were honored with awards, while all past and present board members were recognized. To “Invest in Our Future,” the organization exceeded its goal of awarding $20,000 in scholarships and grants via its #WHT20for20 campaign, and with the help of key partners, Women & Hi Tech awarded over $30,000 to 17 deserving and diverse women and girls pursuing STEM fields in Indiana. The evening was capped by dancing and music from the band, Liquid Groove, along with custom 20th Anniversary and STEM cupcakes, a candy table, and live 20th Anniversary “Grown from STEM” plant party favors. Click here to see photographs by Faith Blackwell Photography of The Women & Hi Tech 20th Anniversary Celebration - a truly historic occasion.

    As a final conclusion of our theme “Celebrating Our Past” in honor of our 20th Anniversary and to continue to highlight so many women who have provided significant contributions to this organization through their service on the Board of Directors (as shown to left), Women & Hi Tech would like to focus on our women in science. More specifically, this month, we are featuring women of our past and present board who are biologists, chemists, geneticists, neuroscientists, meteorologists, physicists, and more. As a former molecular biologist turned patent attorney, I am particularly excited about this feature since I know and represent so many female scientific practitioners in academia and industry, including both of these ladies with whom I worked at Eli Lilly & Co.

    In this eighth edition of “Grown from STEM,” Women & Hi Tech would like to show special appreciation to co-founder, Past President, and the “passion behind the progress,” Joyce Gustafson. By training, Joyce is a biologist who now directs business processes, strategies, and quality control within the life sciences industry. Networking Director for Women & Hi Tech, Maria Alvim-Gaston, Ph.D., is a pharmacist, an organic chemist, and now a pharmaceutical chemist. Please read more about Joyce and Maria and how their STEM backgrounds, business acumen, and passion for helping other women drives their support and involvement in Women & Hi Tech.


    Angela B. Freeman, M.S., J.D.
    Women & Hi Tech President

  • 08/31/2019 10:05 AM | Lori Boyer (Administrator)

    If there is one word that you could use to describe Maria Alvim-Gaston, it’s passionate. She has passion for her work as a pharmaceutical chemist, but even more for the work she does to help young women get into a STEM field. Right now, Alvim-Gaston is in her second year as the Networking Director for Women & Hi Tech, but her journey to this position started when she was a child.

    Raised in Brazil, she knew that she wanted to be a pharmacist, but that had different connotations where she grew up. “In the culture that I am from, as a woman, my father and my family had some ideas of what they wanted me to be. They thought a pharmacist was just someone that worked behind the counter at a drugstore. I had to break a lot of barriers to educate my parents because they weren't educated, they didn't go to college.” Alvim-Gaston’s parents worked at a manufacturing plant and strove to give each of their children a better life through college education. “But there was still this stigma growing up in Latin communities that there are jobs for girls and there are jobs for boys.”

    This perspective didn’t stop her though. In fact, it motivated her to help change the landscape for women who wanted to pursue careers in the STEM field. “I wanted to make sure that the new generations to come don't go through that. There is no such thing as a ‘girl’ job and a ‘boy’ job–there are just jobs. Whatever you're passionate about and you have a talent for it, you should do it independent of your gender, ethnicity, or background.”

    Alvim-Gaston had a drive to succeed as a woman in the STEM field that followed her throughout her education at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, where she received a BS in Pharmacy and a degree in Industrial Pharmacy and eventually a Masters in Organic Chemistry. She continued to University of Mississippi where she was part of the Medicinal Chemistry PhD program. The completion of that program brought her to Eli Lilly in Indianapolis where she has worked in Computational Chemistry and Operations Discovery. She is now the Principal Research Scientist in the External Innovation group, where she lends her scientific expertise to expand access of scientific discoveries to scientists working outside of the pharmaceutical industry.

    It was during her time in Discovery Operations at Eli Lilly that she met Joyce Gustafson, co-founder of Women & Hi Tech. Joyce introduced her to Women & Hi Tech, so that she was able to really focus her passion for gender equality in the STEM field. “Joyce was part of my group. We were colleagues and Joyce invited me to some of the Women & Hi Tech events. I liked the STEM field and I liked to volunteer to give back to the community–especially to help minorities. I wanted to see more Latino women get involved and see that it's okay to be in STEM. That is my main passion and motivates me to give back.” Before becoming a board member, Alvim-Gaston spent five years volunteering for the organization, where she spent a lot of time mentoring young women.

    Through that time as a volunteer, she noticed the dedication of those who volunteered beside her. “I realized that organizations like Women & Hi Tech do important work because devoted full-time employees, full-time mothers, and full-time academics find time to make other generations understand the importance of STEM. Groups like Women & Hi Tech help young women reach the same levels of success as the women they meet at our events and see as role models. This is done through scholarships, through mentorships, through leading by example in order to give back to younger generations.”

    After seeing how much the organization impacted the lives of others, she took on the role of networking director. As the networking director, Alvin-Gaston realized something very quickly, “For an organization to be powerful, have members, and make an impact, you need to make sure that the members are engaged. As networking director, I am able to bring in others and create opportunities for women to interact with other women in STEM. Sometimes, if you are an engineer, you are with engineers. If you are a scientist, you are with other scientists. So, networking gives people the opportunity to bring different parts of STEM together. Once you create those opportunities you can then bring in young talent to be part of it. We don't want an organization full of one generation.”

    Age isn’t the only thing she is concerned with, as diversity within the organization is also important to her. “We bring in a diverse group of people. We try to reach out to Latinos, African-Americans, Asian Americans, etc.… in order to expand opportunities in STEM to these communities. As networking director, I wanted to use my background to focus on creating more diversity and make the organization reflect the community that we live in.”

    Alvim-Gaston remains optimistic and looks forward to continuing to work with Women & Hi Tech as the organization sets its sights on even newer generations and older ones as well. “We are trying to reach kids from kindergarten through STEM days at Connor Prairie. We provide scholarships for women to go back to school in order to create career opportunities , not just for young people, but also for women who are already in science but need a certification to further their careers. We mentor these people to help them navigate the STEM field, because we have already been through that.”

    Through her vast experience in STEM and passion to invoke change, Alvim-Gaston knows the importance of continuing to see more women succeed in STEM while making strides towards more diversity within the Indianapolis community. “The goal of our organization is to empower women to reach the highest positions within the STEM field. We are, through our work at Women & Hi Tech, changing the landscape of Indiana one woman at a time.”

    LinkedIn Profile

  • 08/31/2019 10:00 AM | Lori Boyer (Administrator)

    Joyce Gustafson has a lot of experience being a woman in a STEM field. In her current role for the Jackson Laboratory as the Director of Process Development and Improvement on the East Coast, Gustafson helps ensure that laboratories around the world get the testing components they need so that they can fight diseases. To achieve this role, she originally trained as a cellular biologist and then moved into recruiting with a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt at Eli Lilly.

    Throughout her career there has been one organization that has really helped her grow as a professional woman working in the sciences. “Being involved in this organization helped me feel confident in my leadership abilities so that I could create, grow, and lead an organization that would be successful. It gave me the confidence to pursue those types of leadership opportunities in my professional career and hopefully it’s done the same for others.”

    The organization that she is talking about is Women & Hi Tech, and she knows a lot about the impact it has made on not only herself but the Indianapolis community at large, because she is one of two co-founders of the organization.

    The foundation of Women & Hi Tech was laid when Gustafson struck up a conversation with Georgia Miller in 1994, while Gustafson worked for Eli Lilly. “Georgia and I met at a local conference in Indianapolis about Business Development. We were trying to develop more of a culture for tech companies to come to Indianapolis.” They knew that if Indianapolis wanted to become a tech hub, that the companies that already existed needed to think a lot about diversity. “There's this huge room with lots of people and only a handful of women and very little representation outside of middle-aged white guys.”

    Miller and Gustafson bonded over their shared experiences of what it’s been like to be a woman working in STEM. However, this conversation never stopped but grew into what we know as Women & Hi Tech today. But it didn’t happen all in one day. In fact, the organization sprang from humble beginnings. “I knew quite a few women who felt the same way, so we just started to bring women together to say, ‘Hey is there room for an organization for professional women in the Sciences and Technology?’” The answer to that question was a resounding yes.

    As they started this endeavor, they found that there was a welcome place for it within the Indianapolis community. Gustafson elaborated, “Not only were we accepted, we had a lot of interest from the start. I think that the time was right for quite a few companies who came on board fairly early. They saw the importance and the need to get more women involved and interested in STEM careers as we started out.”

    As they dove in, they discovered that the lack of involvement of women in STEM was no coincidence. It was actually deeply rooted in the culture and affected girls at a very young age. “We realized that our recruiting process shouldn’t stop at women who are currently in the field. We needed to go back as far as we could by getting young girls interested in math and science.”

    Gustafson saw a way to not only get these young girls interested in STEM but inspire them as well. “One of the studies show that one of the main reasons that girls weren’t getting into STEM was that they didn't have role models. They didn't see women in anything except for traditional careers. If you looked at the media and even in the schools, there wasn’t a lot of exposure to women who were in science or technology.” This was why it was important for Gustafson to start recruiting the people who would be the mentors for the next generation. But, this proved to be a bit more difficult than she thought.

    “Recruitment was kind of difficult because women weren't staying around in careers where they felt like they had very limited opportunities for advancement. Our goal was also to make companies aware that they were missing out on talented employees by excluding 50% of the population.” She has seen more women take on leadership roles at many major companies in the area. A lot of these same women take time out of their day to help at Women & Hi Tech.

    Gustafson has been thrilled to see the number of talented women who have stepped up to fill key roles within Women & Hi Tech, “One of the things that gives me the greatest degree of satisfaction about what we’ve done is that it's 20 years later and the organization is still there and to realize how many incredibly talented women have stepped up taking a role.” Gustafson knows that each one of these women are making a big impact, which comes with the sacrifice of their own precious time and energy which is, as she puts it, “amazing.”

    When asked what she wanted to see happen with the organization in the next 20 years Gustafson hopes that true equality can be achieved and that there won’t be the need for organizations like Women & Hi Tech at all. However, Gustafson recognizes that this is still something we need to fight for. In the meantime, “I would just like to see the organization grow and continue to support women at every stage of their STEM journey–whether they're in grade school, graduate school, entering their first job, moving to their first leadership position, or running their own company.” Thanks to the efforts of Joyce and her fellow co-founder, charter members, and founding members, girls and women have the opportunity to start on all those paths when they get involved with Women & Hi Tech.

    LinkedIn Profile

  • 08/18/2019 10:00 AM | Lori Boyer (Administrator)

    The Women & Hi Tech 20th Anniversary Celebration was held on August 16, 2019 at The Willows on Westfield. The organization celebrated its 20th year of successfully effecting change to advance women in STEM in Indiana, with the theme of "Celebrating Our Past and Investing in Our Future."

    Darlene Quashie Henry, Associate General Counsel and Head of Securities and Corporate Transactions, Legal at Elanco Animal Health opened the evening by welcoming all to celebrate the history and legacy of Women & Hi Tech.

    Next, Angela B. Freeman, President of Women & Hi Tech, also welcomed the sold-out crowd to the celebration. "Tonight, is a very special evening where we are 'Celebrating our Past and Investing in our Future'," stated Angela. "We will be recognizing our founders, charter members, and founding members who planted a seed in Indianapolis two decades ago to elevate women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math or STEM fields. That seed has continued to be cultivated by our Women & Hi Tech Boards of Directors, sponsors, and members over the past 20 years. This nurturing has 'grown from STEM' one of the most influential non-profit organizations in Indiana for uplifting and advancing professional women and encouraging young girls to pursue their passions and opportunities in STEM."

    The evening featured a video vignette showcasing the 20-year history of the organization, including a look at technology from 1999; Women & Hi Tech's Spotlight awards, which has evolved into the highly prestigious Leading Light Awards; and the organizations extremely popular Passport to Hi-Tech and Ignite Your Superpower (IYS) STEM days.

    ProcolomationWomen & Hi Tech was presented with several honors during the celebration to commemorate it's 20 years of helping women in Indiana claim their share of STEM opportunities.

    *August 16, 2019 was declared "Women & Hi Tech Day" as presented by Angela Smith Jones, J.D., Deputy Mayor of Economic Development for the City of Indianapolis on behalf of Mayor Joe Hogsett, 
    *August 16, 2019 was declared "Women in STEM Day" as presented by Tracy Barnes, Chief of Staff for the Office of Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch on behalf of Governor Eric Holcomb,
    *An entry was made into the U.S. House of Representatives Congressional Record by Congresswoman Susan Brooks of Indiana's 5th District.

    To honor the past 20 years and the receipt of the amazing honors from our city, state, and federal government, Dr. Allison Barber, President and COO of the Indiana Fever, then led the crowd in a two-part champagne toast acknowledging standard gifts to celebrate a 20th Anniversary, such as platinum, representing strength and endurance, and emerald, representing vitality of spirit. “Cheers to Women & Hi Tech, an organization that is strong and enduring and has vitality of spirit,” exclaimed Dr. Barber.

    In "Celebrating our Past," Women & Hi Tech presented Founders awards to Georgia Miller and Joyce Gustafson for having the wherewithal to establish a network of like-minded and similarly positioned women. That network has ‘grown from STEM’ over the last 20 years to what Women & Hi Tech is today, an organization comprising of almost 2000 members, 50 sponsors, and multiple partners. Georgia was present to accept the award, while Women & Hi Tech President, Angela B. Freeman, accepted the award on Joyce Gustafson's behalf. Jo Basey was also recognized as the organization’s first treasurer and most senior emeritus board member. Notably, Jo is the only founding member that has remained involved with the organization over its full 20 year history.

    "Investing in our Future" is a Women & Hi Tech tradition. The organization exceeded its goal of awarding $20,000 in scholarships and grants, and with the help of key partners (i.e., SIM Indy, Barnes & Thornburg LLP, Pondurance, CDM Smith, and Startup Ladies), awarded over $30,000 to women and girls pursuing STEM fields in Indiana to 17 recipients as follows.

    Women & Hi Tech Scholarship & Grant Recipients

    (1) $2,000 Women & Hi Tech Undergraduate Scholarship

    *Renee Forfa, Purdue University, Cybersecurity

    (1) $2,000 Women & Hi Tech Graduate Scholarship

    *Katherine Ramos, The University of Notre Dame, Mechanical Engineering

    (1) $2,000 Women & Hi Tech Undergraduate Scholarship

    *Tapiwa Mzumara, Ivy Tech Community College, Biology

    (2) $2,000 Women & Hi Tech Professional Development Grants

    *Poonam Gill, Nonprofit Executive Leadership
    *Claudia Gibson, Certified Flight Instructor

    (1) $2,500 Women & Hi Tech Graduate Scholarship

    *Maribel Hernàndez, IUPUI, Addiction Neuroscience

    (1) $2,500 Women & Hi Tech Undergraduate Scholarship

    *Mckenna Hillsdon-Smith, Purdue University, Biomedical Engineering

    (1) $5,000 Women & Hi Tech Graduate or Undergraduate Scholarship - Dual winners awarded $2,500 each

    *Amanda Goodridge, Indiana University, Computer Science
    *Daphne Fauber, Purdue University, Engineering Technology

    Women & Hi Tech Partner Scholarship & Grant Recipients

    (1) $2500 SIM Indy/Women & Hi Tech Undergraduate Scholarship

    *Madelyn Sturgeon, University of Southern Indiana, Civil Engineering

    (1) $2500 SIM Indy/Women & Hi Tech Graduate Scholarship

    *Rrezarta Krasniqi, The University of Notre Dame, Software Engineering

    (1) $2500 SIM Indy/Women & Hi Tech Undergraduate Scholarship

    *Megan Singer, Purdue University, Electrical Engineering

    (1) $2000 Barnes & Thornburg/Women & Hi Tech Patent or Corporate Law Scholarship

    *Jennie Christensen, Notre Dame Law School, IP/Technology Law

    (1) $1000 Pondurance/Women & Hi Tech Cybersecurity Scholarship

    *Kelsey Billups, Purdue University, Cybersecurity

    (1) $1000 CDM Smith/Women & Hi Tech Civil Engineering Scholarship

    *Sidra St. Rain, Purdue University, Civil Engineering

    (2) Startup Ladies Memberships for Entrepreneurship (valued at $600 each)

    *Julia Miller, Purdue University, Mechanical Engineering/Entrepreneurship

    *Thien Vo, Eli Lilly & Co, Medicine Development Analyst/Entrepreneurship

    Event attendees also enjoyed custom 20th Anniversary and STEM icon cupcakes and live 20th Anniversary “Grown from STEM” plant party favors before, live band, Liquid Groove, kicked off the dancing and “Celebration” with the same titled song by Kool & The Gang, which set the tone to end the evening’s celebratory fun. It was truly a historic and celebratory occasion.

    Photographs from the celebration are now online. Peruse over 400 professional photos that were taken by Faith Blackwell of Faith Blackwell Photography during this exciting and sold-out event.  It was truly one for the history books!

    NOTE: Photos copyright owned by Faith Blackwell Photography. Please cite accordingly.

    About Women & Hi Tech

    Women & Hi Tech exists to change the landscape of women represented in STEM to be equally inclusive to all. To achieve our goal, we work to advance, promote, support, recognize, and connect female STEM professionals in our community in Indiana. 

    Women & Hi Tech
    133 West Market Street, #220
    Indianapolis, IN 46204-2801

  • 07/30/2019 8:01 AM | Lori Boyer (Administrator)

    Angela B. FreemanDear Women & Hi Tech Members, Sponsors, Partners, and Friends:

    Welcome to a new year of Women & Hi Tech, as we continue our mission of promoting, supporting, and recognizing women in STEM in Indiana! As many of you know, 2019 represents Women & Hi Tech’s 20th year as a non-profit organization successfully effecting change to advance women in STEM in Indiana. Founded in 1999, Women & Hi Tech exists to change the landscape of women represented in STEM to be equally inclusive to all.

    In honor of our 20th Anniversary, our signature programs and events throughout this year have focused on our theme of "Celebrating our Past and Investing in our Future.” In fact, this very newsletter was launched earlier this year to “celebrate our past,” and recognize so many of the talented female leaders that drive Women & Hi Tech as the all-volunteer working Board of Directors and Emeritus members. We have also strived to highlight a broad spectrum of leadership opportunities, careers, and industries within which women with STEM expertise in Indiana may excel.

    In further recognition of our 20th Anniversary, Women & Hi Tech pledged to “invest in our future” STEM leaders by providing $20,000 of scholarships and grants to women and girls pursuing STEM in Indiana (#WHT20for20). We exceeded that goal and will be awarding over $30,000 of scholarships and grants to women in Indiana who plan to remain in Indiana! We are simply thrilled and excited to provide this level of impact to our statewide STEM community, and thank you all for supporting our efforts. These scholarships and grants will be presented to the outstanding award recipients at The Women & Hi Tech 20th Anniversary Celebration Event, Friday, August 16, 2019 from 6-11pm at The Willows on Westfield (6729 Westfield Blvd, Indianapolis, IN 46220). Ticket Information Here.

    In recognizing past and future female STEM leadership in Indiana, we would be remiss to not highlight present leaders that champion networking and mentorship for the advancement of women in STEM. Notably, the Harvard Business Review recently released an article titled “Women Need a Different Kind of Network Than Men Do.” The article was based on “Research: Men and Women Need Different Kinds of Networks to Succeed ” (Uzzi, Harvard Business Review, 2019) and “A Network’s Gender Composition and Communication Pattern Predict Women’s Leadership Success” (Yang et al., PNAS, 2019). The article states that “[w]omen in the top quartile of centrality who had a female-dominated inner circle found jobs that were 2.5 times as high in authority and pay as those found by peers who lacked that combination…” Id. The article further emphasizes the importance of professional organizations, such as Women & Hi Tech, to help women develop quality networks with limited interconnectivity as necessary to identify and successfully pursue career leadership opportunities.

    In this seventh edition of “Grown from STEM,” Women & Hi Tech recognizes two female STEM experts in senior leadership roles at prominent local corporations. Gail Farnsley is a Board Emeritus and Past President of Women & Hi Tech, and is the Vice President and Executive Partner at Gartner. Karen Harris is the Volunteers Director of Women & Hi Tech, as well as the Vice President and Information Officer of Manufacturing and Quality at Eli Lilly & Company. Please read more about Gail and Karen and how their technical expertise, business acumen, and leadership skills focused on mentoring, networking, and inclusion have contributed to successful business outcomes and thriving corporate cultures.


    Angela B. Freeman
    Women & Hi Tech President

  • 07/30/2019 8:00 AM | Lori Boyer (Administrator)

    Gail FarnsleyFor Gail Farnsley, few things in her journey through the STEM landscape have proven as important as mentorship. Throughout her career, Farnsley has not only benefitted from the presence of mentors, but committed herself to guiding young women looking to make their way in fields related to science and technology. During her time as VP of Gartner, President of Women & Hi Tech, and then later as Outreach Chair, Farnsley has stayed heavily involved in initiatives, planning, and – most importantly – working one-on-one to provide inspiration and mentorship.

    “I am a huge proponent of everyone looking for their own mentors and then, in turn, taking the next step and returning the favor with someone new. I think it’s invaluable. I think having that go-to resource helps you get perspective from someone further along in their career. They can really help you sort through the tough questions.” Farnsley elaborated, saying that the role of an advisor is both challenging and rewarding, requiring a light touch and a commitment to helping at every turn. “I reconnect with people I’ve mentored through the years when they have to make a decision. From watching the people I looked up to, I learned that it’s not about giving someone an answer, it’s about helping them think about what questions they should be asking, and what’s important to them.”

    Farnsley’s own foray into the world of technology began in high school. Though her parents supported her academic achievements, the idea of college – let alone a career in business technology – was not something that they pushed for.

    “I didn’t know anyone who had gone to college. My mom was a waitress, and my dad was a carpenter. I grew up knowing bricklayers, electricians, and plumbers; all of them certainly hardworking, but none of the adults I knew went to college.”

    Thankfully, Farnsley was able to turn to an important mentor. She specifically credits her math teacher, who was the first adult she felt really encouraged her to pursue STEM interests. While assisting him for work study, he suggested she try out his new computer science class. Farnsley recalls painstakingly marking computer cards with Number 2 pencils to complete Basic programming assignments and realizing this was something she was good at.

    “He was the very first – and maybe only one – who said ‘You can go to college.’ I told him, I can’t afford that, and that my parents couldn’t provide financial support. But he persisted and convinced me that we would figure it out.”

    Farnsley enrolled at Bowling Green State University, where she did indeed earn her BS in Computer Science. After graduating, she took her first job as a programmer at Public Service Indiana, later working for Emery Air Freight and Georgia Pacific. It was at this time that she began moving toward the business and management side of computing and technology. Once again, she was able to glean insight from one-on-one advising.

    “I was a good programmer, and people suggested I should try to move up the ladder. I came in to IT at a time when there was a pretty clear path. You went from programmer, to analyst, to project leader, to manager. But as someone who didn’t grow up with the adults around me going to an office every day, I didn’t really understand how the business world worked. I was lucky, though, because I had some great professional mentors along the way who helped me. They saw things in me that I didn’t even see in myself.”

    But, while Farnsley was quickly making a name for herself in the tech business world, she noticed something off about her work environments. Namely, the demographics that dominated the workforce.

    “I looked around and wondered, ‘where have all the women gone’? When I was in college, 40% of the people in my classes were women. Unfortunately, though, it’s gone down every year since. In my first job I had plenty of women colleagues, but as I moved up through leadership the number got fewer and fewer. When I became a senior systems analyst, I got really used to being the only woman in the room. It was rare to have other women to look up to for leadership roles.”

    Farnsley began making it a priority to champion inclusivity in the workplace, especially as it pertains to gender equality. During her tenure as CIO and VP at Cummins, she led the Women’s Affinity Group, which supported the recruiting, retention and promotion of women at Cummins. Though things have gotten better over time, Farnsley is quick to point out that it hasn’t been easy.

    “I think people are much more aware of the value of diversity. The business case for diversity has been made. The body of research out there is clear. Most people recognize that diverse teams are better teams. You’d have to be willfully in denial to disagree. Diverse teams outperform homogenous teams by every objective metric. But how do you do something about it? That’s a different question.”

    Farnsley decided to take matters into her own hands and jumped at the chance to affect change at a higher level by joining the National Center for Women & IT in 2011. There, she led the launch of an alliance of women’s networks across the globe that could help to unite all the resources available to women who wanted more out of the STEM community. Unsurprisingly, one of the founding networks was Women & Hi Tech.

    “We talk about these alliances as lifeboat strategies. You’ve got a lot of programs and initiatives to help universities recruit women, or to help companies recruit, retain, and promote women. But still, you have to keep them from leaving. The reality is that women leave their technical jobs at twice the rate of men in midcareer. We had to do something to stop the bleeding. That’s where an organization like Women & Hi Tech comes in, to give you a support group and to be around other likeminded women.”

    Farnsley’s tenure at Women & Hi Tech has largely been spent around that idea of lifeboat strategies. She has made concerted efforts to increase partnerships, both at the university and corporate levels, that can help to support women growing in these scientific and technological fields. But still, Farnsley knows that Women & Hi Tech plays many roles.

    “I think the organization has kind of a dual purpose. I want to make sure Women & Hi Tech maintains a strong foothold in being that lifeboat, that place that encourages women working in technology. That place where you can go that’s a no-sale zone, where I can just meet with other women and develop both professional and social networks. The other side, the outreach piece, is taking our resources and targeting them where we can make an impact.”

    When Farnsley reflects on her time spent with Women & Hi Tech, she speaks warmly and with optimism. Her story of success is one that is drawn from the presence of mentors and the commitment to paying it forward to young women around her. When asked what she hopes for the future, she knows the right questions to ask.

    “How do we find partners? Who are the ones who offer great programs who we can collaborate with? How can we support a woman throughout her career, no matter where she’s at. We need to keep leveraging our resources, because there are so many people doing good work for women in STEM, and specifically tech, and we just want to keep connecting, promoting, and encouraging them here in Indiana”.

    LinkedIn Profile

  • 07/30/2019 8:00 AM | Lori Boyer (Administrator)

    Karen HarrisAbove all else, Karen Harris believes in lifelong learning and developing others. As Vice President and Information Officer of Manufacturing and Quality at Eli Lilly and Company, and as the Women & Hi Tech board member in charge of Volunteering, she has spent her career growing and developing her own technical and leadership skills, as well as mentoring and fostering others to do the same. Whether in school, on the job, or out forging professional relationships with promising young women, Karen’s story is a testament to the kind of perseverance and persistence found at Women & Hi Tech.

    Karen’s journey into STEM began at a young age, thanks to an important role model in her life: her father. “I was already very strong in math and science, but I had a father who encouraged me that the sky was the limit. That motivated me to see what I could do in the field once I got to college.” When deciding what to study at Purdue University, Karen found that she could blend her love of math and science with what she called her “passion for understanding how business works” by pursuing Industrial Management through the Krannert School of Business. After graduating, Karen chose to go into consulting for ERP systems in manufacturing. She soon realized that she would need to pick up new talents and skills along the way to grow her career.

    “I like to say my ‘IT degree’ came on the job. Implementing these large software packages required me to learn a lot along the way. I taught myself coding to implement changes in software that the clients requested. I started learning about reporting, databases, hardware, etc. I learned how to write SQL scripts to run data conversions and many other skills added to my technical toolkit along the way. That’s where I built up my strong IT skills and got a chance to combine it with my supply chain background.”

    After eight years in the world of consulting, Karen found a home at Lilly in IT for manufacturing and quality. There she held multiple leadership roles spanning across levels of manager, director, senior director, and eventually executive. But while she was learning technical skills in the world of IT, she was also able to pursue another one of her passions: diversity and inclusion. Throughout her career, Karen has been a champion for inclusion and diversity. With Lilly, she chairs the IT Diversity and Inclusion Group, as well as their own Women in IT group. According to Karen, businesses just work better when all are encouraged to be a part of the team.

    “At the end of the day a diverse, engaged, and inclusive workforce produces better results. Our patients are very diverse around the world, so I want our team to reflect that.”

    After becoming involved in Women & Hi Tech, Karen realized she could leverage her business and recruiting connections to help improve the lives of women not only inside her own company, but across all STEM fields. During her tenure with the organization, she has played a key role in overseeing the volunteer efforts for keystone events such as Passport to Hi-Tech and Ignite Your Superpower! Not only does she get to further the efforts of Women & Hi Tech, but also engage on a personal level with many promising young women in their pursuits of STEM careers. At these events, she said she can usually be found bouncing between the Lilly booth and out on the floor where she can connect with talented young up-and-comers.

    “To get these young ladies into majors in a STEM field, you really need to be talking to them in their middle school years. That’s extremely important to drive them toward those science, technology, engineering and math fields.” Motivating young women to go after these areas of studies and careers can be difficult – but to no fault of their own. Often times, Karen explains, it’s a product of the environment.

    “Sometimes they already have an interest and you just need to cultivate that to show them what they can do with a STEM degree, which is great. But in many other cases some of these young women may lack role models in their lives. They end up gravitating toward fields that aren’t STEM related because they’re told they can’t or shouldn’t do it. It’s all they’ve been taught throughout their lives. It’s important to open their eyes to what they CAN do.”

    But while early intervention and guidance is essential, Karen feels that the efforts of Women & Hi Tech go far beyond convincing women to pursue STEM degrees. “After we’ve encouraged them, it’s then about assisting them through their transition from university to careers. At Women & Hi Tech, they get advice from professional women in how to handle very difficult situations they’ll face. For me, it’s the whole continuum. You have to make sure they have the right support structures as they transition at every step of the way.”

    The efforts of Karen and the rest of her passionate peers at Women & Hi Tech have opened doors to the possibility of STEM careers for many young women. Karen says she loves watching the “light bulb flick on” when getting a chance to interact and dialogue with them. But, across the nation, Harris is still disheartened by the lack of progress on a national level when it comes to inclusivity in STEM industries.

    “At a very high level, the statistics don’t show that there’s been a huge change. If you were to look at who’s getting computer science degrees in the United States for example, the female percentage is still extremely low, under 25%. It’s been that way for quite some time, so we obviously have some work to do.” But, as Karen points out, Indiana – the headquarters and home of Women & Hi Tech – has been a place of resurgence, renaissance, and change.”

    “If we bring it into the microcosm of Central Indiana, I’m extremely excited about all of the strong STEM companies and universities that exist here, and all the different STEM companies and organizations that are coming to Indiana that haven’t been here before. In Indianapolis, in particular, we really are starting to see a movement in organizations like Women & Hi Tech, especially in the way of women – especially young women – are feeling more confident and comfortable pursuing their careers.”

    When asked how she feels about the future, Karen’s voice becomes animated and excited. The scholarship funds provided by Women & Hi Tech through their corporate sponsorships and partnerships continually improve the opportunities for young women to pursue STEM degrees and enter into lucrative careers. The growth of the organization is evident by the many events that Harris organizes volunteers, which continue to increase and fill in attendance. That, says Karen, is what Women & Hi Tech is all about.

    “I think that the organization is about fostering connections across the different organizations and companies, when you start talking about talent and recruiting talent. You can not underestimate the importance of encouraging that.”

    “My hope that all of our events are fully booked out and that we continue to spread the word. If we can provide scholarships for people to help them obtain a STEM related degree, build a professional network, develop their careers, and show them what they can do, we can really catapult ourselves into this tech-driven world.”

    As her father did for her, Karen has encouraged her sons to pursue their dreams through STEM related degrees. Her oldest son is in the IT Co-op program at University of Cincinnati and her youngest son will be entering the Engineering program at Purdue this fall.

    LinkedIn Profile

  • 07/01/2019 8:15 AM | Lori Boyer (Administrator)

    Women & Hi Tech is pleased to announce the Board of Directors for the term that commenced July 1, 2019.

    Elected Officers of the Women & Hi Tech Board of Directors:

    • President: Angela B. Freeman, Intellectual Property/Patent Attorney, Barnes & Thornburg LLP
    • President-Elect: Rebecca Bormann, Managing Director of Sales and Services, Bell Techlogix, Inc.
    • Treasurer: Bobbie LaFollette, Senior Business Analyst, Baker Hill
    • Secretary: Kelly Ragle, Product Manager, Pondurance

    Elected Directors of the Women & Hi Tech Board of Directors:

    • Collegiate Outreach Director: Merri Beth Lavagnino, Director, Strategic Planning & Enterprise Risk, Indiana University
    • Communications Director: Lori Boyer, Software Engineer, Barnes & Thornburg LLP
    • Community Outreach Director: Allison Lipps, Research Operations Coordinator, Indiana Hemophilia & Thrombosis Center, Inc.
    • Corporate Engagement Director: Joy Neely, Central Area, Regional Business Manager, Roche Diagnostic Information Solutions
    • Executive Women's Forum Director: Linda Hicks, Vice President of Midwest Operations for ECC Horizon
    • K-12 Outreach Director: Amanda McCammon, President, Ingenuity, LLC
    • Leading Light Awards Director: Lauryn Andrews, Project Coordinator Consultant, netlogx
    • Membership Administrator: Carol Ganz, Director of Client Experiences, Six Feet Up, Inc.
    • Networking Events Director: Maria Alvim-Gaston, Principal Research Scientist, Eli Lilly and Company
    • Past President: Darcy Lee, Director of Accounts & Business Development, Metonymy Media
    • Volunteer Director: Karen Harris, Vice President & Information Officer Manufacturing and Quality, Eli Lilly and Company

    Elected Active Emeritus of the Women & Hi Tech Board of Directors:

    • Angie Engel, Sales Executive, Perficient
    • Gail Farnsley, VP, Executive Partner, Gartner
    • Tonya Hanshew, Proposal Management Team Lead - OLS, Veeva Systems
    • Rajinder Heir, Enterprise Security Program Consultant, Information Services Agency, City of Indianapolis | Marion County
    • Wendy Maple, Outreach Consultant, netlogx
    • Susan Vaughn, CEO, The Project Authority
    • Tiffany White, Head of Engineering Operations, Defense Sector, Rolls-Royce

    Elected Emeritus of the Women & Hi Tech Board of Directors:

    • Jo Basey, Retired, Kelley School of Business, Indiana University
    • Deb Hallberg, CEO, Pass the Torch for Women Foundation
    • Ali Hromis, Release Manager, Salesforce
    • Melissa Lavella, Quality Supervisor, Roche Diagnostics
    • Patsy Lentz, Retired Business Development Professional
    • Jane Richardson, Executive Director, IT Strategy and Optimization Leader, Cummins Inc.
    • Audrey Taylor, Founder and CEO, netlogx
    • Tiffany Trusty, President, Trusty Applications and Manager, Mobile Medial Apps, Eli Lilly and Company

    Angela B. Freeman"As Women & Hi Tech continues to recognize our 20th Anniversary as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded here in Indiana, we are excited to welcome four new members to the Women & Hi Tech Board of Directors, including Lauryn Andrews, Allison Lipps, Amanda McCammon, and Joy Neely, and to announce Rebecca Bormann as President-Elect," said Angela B. Freeman, President of Women & Hi Tech.

    Angela further commented, "as an all-volunteer working Board, our Directors, Emeritus, along with our members, work diligently to promote our mission in order to help recruit, retain, and advance the best and brightest female STEM talent in Indiana. This challenge is no less important in 2019 as it was in 1999, particularly in light of the evolving demographics of our STEM community. As the first African-American President of Women & Hi Tech, under my leadership, our Board will continue to position this organization to have impact and drive change over the next two decades by ensuring that our membership, board leadership, and sponsorships reflect the diversity and inclusivity of the Indiana STEM community that we serve. This is a very exciting time to be involved with Women & Hi Tech as we 'Celebrate our Past and Invest in our Future,' which simply would not be possible without the time, talents, and treasures of all of these women, and so many more who came before us."

    To view the biographies of Women & Hi Tech's board members, visit the website at womenandhitech.org/board.

    About Women & Hi Tech:
    Women & Hi Tech exists to change the landscape of women represented in STEM to be equally inclusive to all. To achieve our goal, we work to connect female STEM professionals with each other and our community in Indiana. 

    To learn more about Women & Hi Tech, please contact
    Women & Hi Tech
    133 West Market Street, #220
    Indianapolis, IN 46204-2801

  • 06/20/2019 8:02 AM | Lori Boyer (Administrator)

    Dear Women & Hi Tech Members, Sponsors, Partners, and Friends:

    Two and a half years ago, while serving as Treasurer, I was asked by the Board to serve as the next President of Women & Hi Tech. It was a surreal moment. I actually looked behind me to see who they were talking to, and said, “You mean me?” Then, filled with emotions ranging from excitement to fear, I cried and said, “Yes!”

    Have you had a moment like this in your career or professional life – a moment when someone extended a hand to you and lifted you up? A moment when someone saw something in you that you didn’t see in yourself? A moment when you were scared, but took the leap anyway? A moment when someone shone their light on you? I hope if you haven’t, you will experience this at some point in your life or that you will be the light for someone else.

    I’ve learned so much in the past few years. I’ve learned that sometimes the people you think are your friends see you as a mentor, and that mentoring others is an amazingly rewarding experience. I’ve learned that taking the time to understand your own personality and communication styles can make you a better leader. I’ve learned that executing a great vision requires years of planting seeds and nurturing ideas – patience, passion and persistence. I’ve learned that many other women struggle with the challenges of being working mothers, and that although we sometimes think the best path forward is to put down our heads and power through, we’re better off picking up our heads and carving out time to connect with others. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, but I think you get the point.

    As I wrap up my term as President, I look forward to continued learning in my role as Past President under our next President, the inimitable Angela B. Freeman, and to celebrating Women & Hi Tech’s 20th Anniversary in August. Thank you to our members, volunteers, committee members, sponsors, community partners, male allies, and to my fellow board members for working together to change the landscape of women represented in STEM to be equally inclusive to all. Together, we are making a significant impact on the future of women in STEM.

    In this edition of Grown from STEM, we recognize a math lover who has used her talents to help grow Women & Hi Tech’s impact in the community. Bobbie LaFollette is the Treasurer for Women & Hi Tech and a Senior Business Analyst with Baker Hill Solutions. Her passion for technology and finance has made her an invaluable asset to Women & Hi Tech. Finally, although you may know many people with careers in science, technology and engineering, it seems much rarer to find someone with a career in math. So, in this edition, we explore careers for math lovers. If you’re a parent of a young girl who loves math, you may find this article especially interesting!


    Darcy Lee
    Women & Hi Tech President

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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

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