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


  • 02/16/2021 8:00 AM | Anonymous

    Women & Hi Tech was excited and honored to kick off our 2021 programming with a Special Edition Executive Women’s Forum (EWF) featuring Indiana Health Commissioner, Dr. Kristina Box. This EWF event was hosted by Women & Hi Tech’s Past President and EWF Director, Angela B. Freeman and Linda Calvin, respectively, on February 11 during Black History Month, and on the International Day of Women & Girls in Science as declared by the United Nations General Assembly. The event was also an incredible way to celebrate the excellence that manifests when all women and girls, including diverse women and girls, are allowed full and equal access to participation in science.

    Let’s recap what Dr. Box shared about her professional journey, her achievements as a medical health professional, and the state of Indiana’s nationally-leading efforts to conquer COVID-19.

    About Indiana Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box

    Before becoming Indiana’s Health Commissioner, Dr. Box worked as a gynecologist and obstetrician for 30 years in Indianapolis. She was responsible for building the first multidisciplinary Women’s Center at Community Health. She also spent the early half of her career focused on reducing infant mortality in minority populations, as well as leading efforts to ensure all women could access preventative health screenings in their community.

    “When I first got the call about stepping up as Indiana Health Commissioner, my thought was that I wasn’t qualified. I didn’t have my Master’s in Public Health,” she shared. “I assured Governor Holcomb I would continue to volunteer and help with my areas of passion, reducing infant mortality and helping with substance abuse outreach.” Dr. Box was proud to add that Indiana’s infant mortality is at its lowest rate since the 1800’s, and that mortality among Black infants has dropped by 30%. “However, it’s still 1.9x the White infant mortality rate,” she added. “So, though we are making inroads and programs are resonating, the situation is still unacceptable. There is still work to be done.”

    When the Governor’s office called her back the very next day to ask again that she meet, Dr. Box’s daughter, Lauren, encouraged her to go. Dr. Box ended up accepting the state’s Health Commissioner position in 2017. In the early days of her tenure, she helped Indiana cope with a Hepatitis A outbreak and launch a public education initiative about the dangers of vaping. “Many students and young adults had no idea they were even using nicotine and now a whole new generation is addicted. Plus, Indiana experienced some of the most deaths related to vaping nationwide.”

    But the COVID-19 pandemic has been a more overwhelming challenge than either of those crises. “I get daily emails from citizens demanding why a woman like me, a gynecologist, is leading Indiana at this time through this crisis,” Dr. Box shared. “The answer is-- leadership isn’t about being the expert in the area where you are trying to lead. Leadership is about who you surround yourself with, not your own area of specialty.”

    Facts About Indiana’s COVID-19 Numbers and Response

    Dr. Box started her summary about Indiana’s COVID response on a high note—the continuing decline in Indiana’s COVID positivity rate. “I keep kidding Fred Payne, our Commissioner of Workforce Development, that his unemployment rate is down to 4% and I want numbers like his,” she said.

    She also took the immediate opportunity to recognize the excellent women she has surrounded herself with to help Indiana conquer the pandemic. “Dr. Lindsey Weaver, our Chief Medical Officer, has helped coordinate our vaccine strategy. Dr. Jennifer Sullivan, with the FSSA, has been instrumental to our testing efforts.” She also acknowledged the contributions of Marion County Public Health RN, Teri Conard, in helping her with infant mortality initiatives.

    Dr. Box shared insight into community partnerships that made Indiana’s COVID-19 response possible. “We started making our own PPE in Indiana to outfit ourselves, since we couldn’t rely on the national stockpile. As it became challenging to keep up with new science and data, we partnered with WISE at the Indiana University Research Center, to answer all our questions or concerns immediately. They have been so helpful and we continue to work with them.” Another academic partner is the Fairbanks School of Public Health. “We saw through contact tracing in Indiana that asymptomatic people were transmitting the virus and took action to educate Hoosiers about that news before the CDC did. As we were doing early testing, 45% of those who were positive reported no symptoms at the time of testing.”

    Dr. Box then dove into Indiana’s COVID numbers. She shared that while only 23% of cases have been in individuals age 60+, 93% of statewide deaths have been in that population. One-third of cases have been in those under age 30 while 45% of cases have been in those age 30-60. Dr. Box said some of these cases have been because of ignoring mandates for self-isolation and masking, but many more have been because following those mandates wasn’t always possible.

    Emotionally, Dr. Box reflected on the impact of Hoosier frontline workers. “We asked many professionals to stay on the economic and healthcare front lines before we fully understood what the risks were. And they did it—they did it in overtime with no days off. It is so honorable and incredible. Not just our healthcare workers, police, and fire, but the individuals who stocked our grocery stores, kept our lights on. We weren’t clapping for them, saying ‘good job for heating my house.’ But a lot of people have stepped up from all walks of life, to give something to the community where they lived. That’s why Indiana is so great.”

    Facts About COVID-19 Vaccines in Indiana

    Dr. Box shared insights about the process and reasoning behind Indiana’s strategy to distribute COVID-19 vaccines. “We engaged a statewide external advisory with clergy, community leaders, diverse minority leaders, healthcare professionals, and more, to judge ‘is the vaccine appropriate?’ and ‘is our strategy to distribute it ethical?’”

    What many people might not know is, vaccines for coronavirus have been in development for a decade or more. There just wasn’t profit in companies marketing and producing them. “People heard ‘Operation Warp Speed’ and thought the full vaccine development process was accelerated. But really these vaccines were made by capitalizing on years of coronavirus research and were being manufactured for shipping alongside the Phase 3 trials—so that if the vaccines were approved, they could be shipped immediately.”

    Dr. Box also explained how the coronavirus vaccine works. “None of the vaccines will prevent you from getting COVID, or from carrying it,” she clarified. “What they will do, is make the illness less severe so that you are less likely to be hospitalized or die.” By causing your body to produce the spike protein, your body can develop an ability to fight the virus without any changes to your cells.” This also explains why new variants may prove to be more vaccine-resistant, and how COVID booster shots may be needed to help your body develop or maintain immunity in the future.

    After shedding some light on the science, Dr. Box went on to explain that Indiana is leading the nation in vaccine strategy and distribution, though faulty national data visualization is causing us to not get the credit. “We have 92 health departments across the state, as well as our nationally-ranked hospitals, and private pharmacies, all helping with the distribution effort—simply because we asked,” she said. “When I get on the national status calls, other states are stunned that we haven’t had to issue an executive order to get this done. Some even asked if we issued threats,” she said with a chuckle. “But they don’t understand this is just another example of how Hoosiers have stepped up to the plate, as usual.”

    One area where Dr. Box and her colleagues are still extremely focused is vaccine awareness in rural and minority communities. “There is a very real and justified fear in minority communities resulting from past injustices like the Tuskegee Experiments. We seek to address this by sharing information with community leaders who can spread the message. We are so appreciative of these partnerships and are continuing to identify such leaders in every single county. We want to educate anyone who wants to learn about the specific efficacy of the vaccine in their population.”

    Dr. Box shared that Indiana is receiving 100,000 vaccine doses a week. Over 250,000 people have been fully vaccinated and over 900,000 have had a first dose or have scheduled an appointment. “As we prioritize individuals whose age and pre-existing conditions make them a high-risk group, as well as those in frontline industries like healthcare, emergency response, and retail, I absolutely expect any Hoosier who wants a vaccine will be able to get one well before the end of 2021.”

    Takeaways About the Future of the Pandemic in Indiana

    Dr. Box echoed the predictions of other sources that by the end of the spring, the UK variant of COVID will be the dominant strain in the US. “This changes the spike protein and makes it more transmissible, though we aren’t sure if it makes the disease more severe. But, we do know an increase in numbers means more hospitalizations and deaths, even if the illness is not worse.” To help get a handle on these new strains, labs at facilities like Eli Lilly and Purdue are conducting genomic testing that is being shared with the CDC.

    “Masks will be continuing into the fall—or depending on the variants, maybe even longer,” Dr. Box forewarned. “Around 5% of people may not even respond to the vaccine. Traditionally, individuals like the elderly whose immune systems don’t work as well may not develop antibodies.”

    She said though we will need 70-80% population immunity before masks can be left behind, it’s also essential for the elderly to get back to safely spending time with their families. “My grandson can’t see me without a big hug and kiss. I include him in my bubble even though he goes to daycare, for my mental health. If I had underlying conditions, I might have needed to rethink that. Whatever it is you do as a family—do it. But maybe eat a meal in different rooms if you will have masks off. There is still a reason to be careful. But I also know we must balance mental health.”

    She also explained the changing recommendations around a safe post-COVID quarantine period. “Technically the safest is still 14 days. The chance of a post quarantine infection after this time is less than 0.1% percent. After 10 days, if you are going back to work, you need to be totally fastidious. If you get tested on day 5-7, you must be negative to go back to work,” she said. “Seven days has been offered to schools because we know it is so important. We are also providing rapid tests that can be done in school. This way kids who need testing, but whose parents can’t take them, have a place to get help too.” She emphasized that the numbers at ourshot.in.gov are updated every 24 hours, along with the provided answers to COVID FAQs, and encouraged attendees to seek that site for updated information.

    Dr. Box shared her final thoughts. “You never know what is planned for you,” she said. “Even the best-laid plans will require you to pivot. Never be afraid to disagree—after you have listened respectfully--or say, ‘I don’t know the answer and will get back with you.’” In conclusion, she called on us all to give grace to each other and ourselves. “We have all been through a lot and deserve patience and kindness,” she said.

    Women & Hi Tech is so immensely grateful to Dr. Box, and her team, for spending her incredibly valuable time to inform and inspire the attendees of this Special Edition EWF. From the practical scientific insights about the virus and vaccine, to the behind-the-scenes look at Indiana’s COVID strategy and national impact, to her inspiring personal story and advocacy on the behalf of women, we loved every minute of listening and learning. We also appreciate the empathy and emotion demonstrated by Dr. Box that captures the essence of why women are uniquely positioned to positively impact science and health outcomes in our communities.

    Women & Hi Tech also encourages all who missed it to view the recorded session of our Special Edition Executive Women’s Forum with Dr. Box and visit our website at womenandhitech.org/events to attend our next events! Thank you.

  • 01/31/2021 8:02 AM | Anonymous

    Dear Members, Sponsors, Volunteers, Supporters and Friends,

    We hope your year has gotten off to a good start!  Women & Hi Tech is looking forward to getting back to in-person programming later this year, and, in the meantime, we have great virtual programming scheduled.  Do not miss our Executive Women's Forum on February 11, 2021, featuring Dr. Kristina Box, our bi-weekly ClickSide Chat series, or the March Virtual Book Club.  We are continuing our "Grown from STEM" monthly newsletter this year, highlighting Women & Hi Tech Board members and members at large who are, in fact, changing the landscape in their profession in meaningful and positive ways.  This month's newsletter focuses on Project Management in the STEM fields. Project Management is an excellent career choice for women, given how skilled women are at multi-tasking.  Walt Disney is quoted as saying, “Of all the things I've done, the most vital is coordinating the talents of those who work for us and pointing them toward a certain goal.” Women do this intuitively, without giving it much thought.

    If you reflect on what you do on any given day at home, at work, or through volunteering, you are frequently managing little projects, accessing the skill set of those around you, and leveraging them in a way to achieve a goal.  Your project may be to get your children through a week of virtual and in-person school, installing a new software platform at work, building a new chemical plant, organizing an event for your church group, planning your mother's big birthday bash, or daughter's wedding (that is on my list this year!).  I am constantly multitasking, switching up my communication style and actions to adjust to my audience, and working to accomplish little milestones.  I do this so fluidly that I do not even think about the fact that I am applying project management skills.

    Data on the involvement of women in project management is difficult to find. One statistic available from the Project Management Institute (PMI) shows that women currently constitute an estimated 20 – 30 % of the project management staff worldwide. The numbers are increasing, but still, most women migrate to Project Management rather accidentally versus choosing it post-college graduation. The majority begin their career as a technical expert and over time progress into the role of a Project Manager.

    The fact that women do not gravitate to Project Management is odd against the back- drop that women are well suited for this type of role. What makes women well-positioned to be successful as project managers?  Several characteristics stand out: 

    • The ability to have impromptu effortless communication.
    • Innate drive to build relationships and take care of people.
    • Strong ability at interpreting problems, establishing order, and making the complex simple.
    • Multi-tasking abilities and less likely to be fazed by changes to priorities, requirements, budget or staffing levels.

    When a STEM degree is coupled with Project Management, it makes a powerful skill set. The Women & Hi Tech Executive Women's Forum on design and construction held last year shared how rewarding careers within this industry were for women.  Project Management opportunities is one skill set always in high demand in construction.  The same is true for manufacturing and information technology.

    Of course, there are good and bad female and male project managers and women do not have all the advantage when it comes to Project Management.  But never underestimate a women's natural skills and talents – they could be a major factor in the final outcome of a project. It is also well-known that diversity in Project Management and teams – gender, race, and cultural balance – produces better project results. Women make great project managers.  We should not just ooze into it; more women need to step into these roles intentionally because we are pretty darn good at it, and teams need us!  I am finding that I am an expert wedding planner, I don't need to hire this role out (although don't tell my husband I may overspend the budget)!

    This brings me to our 24th edition of "Grown from STEM".  We are featuring Women & Hi Tech Board Member and Secretary, Kelly Sandstrom and dedicated member Nikki Manus, both excelling in the field of Project Management.   In their profiles, Kelly and Nikki shared their journey into Project Management.  Both may have gotten there accidentally, but certainly prove my point that women should raise their hand more often.  Both Kelly and Nikki are stand out Project Management professionals.  Kelly is a certified PMP and PSM and recently elected as the Vice President of Communications for the Project Management Institute of Central Indiana.  Nikki is also a PMP and PSM, as well as having a master’s degree in Management.  Their project management expertise is not only leading to career success, but they are both leveraging that expertise helping Women & Hi Tech succeed in fulfilling its mission to change the landscape of women in STEM.  Please read more about Kelly and Nikki.

    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 inaugural recipient for the new OperationALL Males Allies Award, Lamont Hatcher.  Lamont is the CEO of AIS, where he has intentionally recruited a strong, diverse team of women and men.  He is an ally in every way capable. Outside his involvement with Women & Hi Tech, he serves on the board for both Greater Indy Habitat for Humanity and Morning Light, Inc. He also mentors young African American men through 100 Black Men as well as many women in the technology field. Lamont is passionately committed to being a friend, mentor, and servant to others. Please watch this segment of the 2020 Virtual LLAs to learn more about what fuels Lamont's passion and drive for equality for all in the STEM fields and beyond. Again, Congratulations Lamont!


    Linda M. Hicks
    President-Elect Women & Hi Tech
    Vice President Midwest Operation, ECC Horizons

  • 01/31/2021 8:01 AM | Anonymous
    Since we last profiled Kelly Sandstrom in 2019, she has gone through many changes, getting married and starting a new job at Lev, a premier Salesforce consultancy for marketers. But her passion and commitment as the Secretary of the Board of Women & Hi Tech has not waned into her third one-year term. “I am proud to serve as a Women & Hi Tech Board Member,” she said. “I build the agenda, and capture the minutes, and tasks during our monthly board meetings. But unlike the other board members, I don’t necessarily have a focus area I direct. I think that’s actually an asset, because I get to spend time participating in the committee areas and projects I want to be involved in.”

    Sandstrom shared the story of when her professional and volunteer lives intersected last year. “We obtained a nonprofit license of Salesforce and brought it to the Board to consider implementing, because we knew a tool like this was needed to make our relationship management easier through technology. I was able to bring my experience from Lev and lead the committee to get Salesforce in place for Women & Hi Tech.”

    Sandstrom made the career change to Lev in late 2019 to not only expand her capabilities as a Project Manager, but also to get more experience as a people manager. “I still get the opportunity to be front-facing with our clients and lead implementation projects, while also leading a team of Project Managers. They are working with other clients, and I am making sure they all have what they need to achieve their goals.” Sandstrom shared that 2020 changed the way work gets done in her profession. “Client service and consulting relies on relationship building, which is typically done in person. We used to travel to a client location, meet each other, and get set up for success at the start of a project. When COVID-19 hit all that went away—and not just for us.”

    She shared that Lev’s amazing work-from-home policy helped many members of the team weather the transition to remote work without too much struggle. But for her the experience was different. “I was very much someone who liked getting up, going to a workplace, and having separation between work and home. I really wondered how I would make this shift.” However, she has now made a 180-degree pivot and calls herself a work-from-home convert, because she has seen that virtual work can still generate authentic and meaningful connections.

    Part of her belief in this power has come from the adaptive response of Women & Hi Tech to the need for virtual events. “Women & Hi Tech recognized early on that virtual meeting fatigue is real, and impactful. As a result, the organization has looked outside the box for how to do a virtual meeting that is unique and doesn’t just feel like a continuation of the workday.” From early use of breakout rooms, to virtual escape rooms, dance parties, cooking classes, and beyond, Sandstrom described how Women & Hi Tech continues to push the envelope to ensure members are getting the content and networking experiences they need.

    “We have an Executive Women’s Forum coming up with Indiana Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box, about Indiana’s COVID-19 response,” Kelly shared. “We might not have provided that pre-COVID. But we know people need it right now, so we are adapting to bring members the content they need.”

    Sandstrom also shared how a personal passion project of hers has grown and blossomed during the pandemic—the Women & Hi Tech Virtual Book Club. “Last year, I made a proposal and received unanimous approval from the Board of Directors to begin a book club. I truly felt like Women & Hi Tech members would benefit from a formal book club, as it would be a new way for members to participate in and engage with our organization,” she explained. So far, the club has read three books, and have twice connected with the authors of those books. “In March we will be hosting our third meeting to discuss The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America's Enemies by Jason Fagone. Fagone will actually attend our meeting—he reached out to me after seeing a mention on Twitter,” Kelly shared proudly. Suggestions for the reading material are crowdsourced from members, and attendees vote on what will be read next. The books are focused on historical women in STEM or on leadership topics.

    “One of the biggest goals of the Board, that we continue to strive for even virtually, is to provide members and attendees with an experience they won’t get anywhere else,” she said. “We just want to creatively connect people in ways they don’t expect, because those unexpected connections are what lead to excitement, engagement, and growth for our members.”

  • 01/31/2021 8:00 AM | Deleted user

    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. Our members and sponsors represent a wide array of STEM fields, including life sciences, accounting, engineering, psychology, statistics, and information technology. Today, we are proud to highlight one of our members, Nikki Manus.

    Originally from Florence, Alabama, Nikki Manus currently serves as a Technical Project Manager at Sallie Mae. Following her undergraduate experience at Alabama State University, Manus moved to Indianapolis to work for Sallie Mae, where she served as a Data Analyst for six years. She eventually transitioned to Roche Diagnostics where she skillfully and diligently worked in the Near Patient Testing department as a Marketing & Sales Development Consultant. Knowing that she needed to stay ahead of the learning curve with Systems, Applications, & Products (SAP), Manus learned any and all terminologies needed in order to thoroughly understand her scope of work.

    During this time, Manus earned her Master’s in Management from Indiana Wesleyan University as well as her certification in Project Management from the Project Management Institute. She has since earned her certification as a SAFe Scrum Master, and Agilist.

    Shortly thereafter, Manus dove into private consulting at Briljent and worked with government contracts, learned Adobe Dreamweaver to create functional and efficient websites, implemented new applications, and maintained standards for quality, content, and training.

    While at Briljent, Manus later secured the lead role as Project Manager and then as Program Manager on contract with the state of Indiana, where she was the only African American to serve in a management capacity on contract for Indiana’s Medicaid system. During her time there, she led a team of testers, analysts, developers, trainers, and customer service specialists. Her strategic use of the waterfall methodology helped to develop improved software and its capabilities.

    It goes without saying that Manus is a highly-powered, prolific professional and conduit between business and IT. However, her journey to success was not without difficulty.

    While it comes as no surprise that most industries are governed by men, Manus believes in the importance of women's involvement and leadership in the tech industry. We asked Manus about the importance and benefits of being a woman of color in leadership. “It’s so important for women to be involved in the management process because of the overarching picture,” she stated, “and it is imperative that we clearly understand the perspectives of our IT partners and our business partners. In doing so, we will understand how to make both sides work together for a more efficient industry.”

    Manus also pointed out that, historically, women have had difficulties with acquiring the information needed to learn the industry. In such a male-driven industry, it is unfortunately common for women to be overlooked by male counterparts. “For women it is difficult to learn the industry because developers are usually men,” she affirmed, “and they sometimes don’t want to communicate the knowledge. Then, the acquisition of information becomes a tug-of-war which means that we [women] have to be intentional about taking the extra time to do our research to understand the uncommunicated pieces. It’s not enough for me to have a seat at the table. I want to sit at the table to be heard, acknowledged, and to make decisions. This is not because of my race and gender, but because I did the work to know and understand the vision, background, initiatives, and roadmaps required to achieve the expected outcome.”

    Now, in times of great and necessary transition into a society where more women of color are entering into management and executive leadership roles––even with the history-making inauguration of Vice President Kamala Harris––Manus sees the next 20 years of Women & Hi Tech as a pivotal era of growth and emergence for women. Within the tech industry, Manus stated, “Women will take over even more and will own more companies. We will make coding easier and will start simplifying a lot of things. Everything doesn’t have to be complicated.”

    As a member of Women & Hi Tech, Manus has seen the organization grow exponentially over the years in terms of volunteering, programming, and networking. “Women get to talk with each other to provide the connections and partnerships into the STEM community. Partnerships turn into ideas,” she stated, “and ideas turn into change.”

    Manus hopes that, in the coming years, Women & Hi Tech will proliferate more nationwide initiatives, efforts, and opportunities for expansion to empower more women to take a stand in leadership in STEM. “Over the years, women have decided to step outside of the box and have positioned ourselves accordingly because of our interests,” Manus said. “We have decided to be more than administrators or customer service specialists and, because of our growing interest––despite things being hidden from us before––now, we are coding and developing apps, consulting, starting our own businesses, and being innovative in an ever-changing world.”

  • 12/30/2020 11:02 AM | Anonymous

    Dear Members, Sponsors, Volunteers, Supporters and Friends,

    I hope you and your loved ones are having a safe, healthy, and happy holiday season. As for most of us, the holidays have been a bit different for me this year. At the same time, I've been enjoying a bit of downtime and connecting with family and friends, even though it's been through phone calls and virtual get-togethers – we've still had lots of laughs and created memories that will last a lifetime.

    As this unprecedented year comes to a close, Women & Hi Tech would like to express our sincerest gratitude for the continued support of our members, sponsors, partners, and friends and the Indiana STEM community. Despite the challenges we've faced as a global community this year, Women & Hi Tech has continued to blaze trails and support professional and collegiate women and male allies in STEM through our virtual programming. Events including Women & Hi Tech's Executive Women's Forum (EWF) – Leveraging the Gift of Feedback, our ClickSide Chat Series, Women & Hi Tech's #INThisTogether Virtual Spring Networking House Party, the new Women Hi Tech's Virtual Book Club, OperationALL: Advocates for Gender Equity, our Virtual Holiday Networking event and our final EWF for 2020 Flipping the Script on Racism and Women in STEM: The Journey to Equity have all provided opportunities for hundreds of STEM professionals to connect, engage, learn and grow this year. In October of this year, Women & Hi Tech and our over 400 guests were honored to celebrate thirteen esteemed Indiana STEM professionals during our first-ever Virtual Leading Light Awards and Scholarship Gala (LLAs), including the introduction of two new awards, the Equity and Inclusion Champion Leading Light Award and the OperationALL Male Allies Leading Light Award. We also helped pave the way for future generations of female STEM leaders by awarding over $50,000 in scholarships and grants during the virtual gala to young ladies and women pursuing higher education in a STEM field (high school seniors, undergraduate students, and graduate students) and to women seeking a professional STEM certification, as well as female entrepreneurs.

    This year we also continued to encourage and inspire K-12 girls to take an interest in STEM. To help with the disparity of home learning, Women & Hi Tech donated our remaining 2019-2020 K-12 funds to the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) Education Equity Fund to help purchase computers for students while school took place virtually. Also, we partnered with the Indianapolis Professional Association (IPA) to provide Women & Hi Tech Book Scholarships. The scholarships were awarded to three outstanding African American young women pursuing STEM degrees. We've also continued to work with our partners to honor and support twenty-five (25) Indiana High School students who received the Indiana Affiliate NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing. The awards, sponsored by the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), Women & Hi Tech, and the Society for Information Management (SIM-Indy) - Indianapolis Chapter, and Indiana University recognized high school girls for their computing-related achievements and interests as part of an effort to encourage more young ladies to choose careers in technology.

    I am so proud of all of the good works Women & Hi Tech has accomplished this year. It would not be possible without our members, sponsors, volunteers, supporters, and friends. On behalf of the Women & Hi Tech Board of Directors and Emeritus Members, thank you for your continued support, engagement, and partnership. Together we all continue to advance Women & Hi Tech's mission to change the landscape of women represented in STEM to be equally inclusive to all.

    We look forward to continuing to promote and advance equity and inclusion for all women in STEM in the coming year!

    In this 24th edition of "Grown from STEM," we are delighted for you to get to know more about our Director of Membership Administration, Carol Ganz, and introduce you to our dedicated member, Rabia Kahn. Both Ganz and Kahn 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. Ganz and Kahn are champions for diversity, equity, and inclusion, particularly for women in STEM, in their careers, volunteerism, and personal lives. Please read more about Ganz and Kahn 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 honorary recipient for the new OperationALL Males Allies Award, Gerry Dick, Host and Creator of Inside Indiana Business. Gerry attended our first Spotlight Awards in 2000 and has continuously promoted Women & Hi Tech and numerous other female STEM organizations and professionals. He is an avid supporter, champion, and ally for Women & Hi Tech and all women girls in STEM. Please watch this segment of the 2020 Virtual LLAs to learn more about what fuels Gerry's passion and drive for gender equality in the STEM fields and beyond. Again, Congratulations Gerry!

    I wish you all a peaceful, joyful, and prosperous New Year!

    Kind Regards,

    Rebecca Bormann
    President, Women & Hi Tech


    If you haven't already, don't miss this opportunity to sign up to join Women & Hi Tech's first Virtual Executive Women's Forum in 2021 on February 11, International Day of Women & Girls in Science, as declared by the United Nations General Assembly. We have a unique and exciting opportunity to learn from Indiana's top-ranking healthcare professional, Dr. Kristina Box. Register here to join Women & Hi Tech for our "Special Edition" Virtual Executive Women's Forum: A CASUAL, CRUCIAL COVID CONVERSATION WITH INDIANA'S HEALTH COMMISSIONER – DR. KRISTINA BOX.

  • 12/30/2020 11:01 AM | Anonymous

    Last year in our board profile of Women & Hi Tech Membership Administration Director Carol Ganz, we shared the story of Ganz’s non-traditional path to a job in tech, and how involvement with Women & Hi Tech helped her find her group of kindred spirits. This year, we spoke with her more about how continued volunteerism on the board is helping her directly contribute to advancing gender equality with regards to opportunities in tech.

    “Women & Hi Tech is the third nonprofit board I’ve been involved with. I wasn’t sure what value I could add at first, but in the three years I’ve been involved, it’s been exciting and meaningful to work with sponsors and their member-employees to make sure they are getting the most possible value out of their relationship with Women & Hi Tech.” Ganz went on to explain that she joined Women & Hi Tech to understand more about the diversity and inclusion challenges that women face in STEM work environments.

    “At Six Feet Up, the software company and digital consultancy where I transitioned to the tech industry, we are very intentional about maintaining gender diversity and other inclusion on our team. Of course, it helps to be a woman-owned business” Ganz explained. “I am lucky to work in a tech company where people are treated fairly, and I want all of my sisters in STEM to experience a similar caring and growth-promoting work environment.”

    Outside high-profile events like the Leading Light Awards and Scholarship Gala and OperationALL, Ganz says she always finds value and insight from the Executive Women’s Forums. “You might think you already know the topic under conversation, but the panelists always contain nuggets and new perspectives that make it worth your time.”

    Virtual events have become something of a passion project for Carol and her peers at Six Feet Up during the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, the company was tasked with moving a planned 200-person conference online in a matter of two weeks. “Every event we attended and every event platform we examined, we were just being talked at with no opportunity to network or engage in conversation with other attendees,” Ganz shared. “So we decided to develop our own platform, which is now finding its own life as a white-glove option for digital event planners.” The features and functionality of this platform are indicative of Six Feet Up’s understanding of the emotions driving digital transformation—the desire to deliver a smooth online experience and minimize frustration.

    “From coding languages to user expectations, the question of what’s changing in tech becomes a question of what isn’t changing,” Ganz said. “The answer is, inclusion—or at least it isn’t changing fast enough.” Ganz recalled a recent Executive Women’s Forum where one panelist shared research that reaching full equity in tech could take more than 100 more years. “I hope it doesn’t actually take that long, and luckily there are things we can do to make it happen faster.” Carol observed that having more women in STEM leadership roles will break down barriers and biases. “One huge barrier is stereotypical thinking that women can’t do X. Can’t drive a semi, can’t write complex code, can’t make hard decisions. The truth is we can—it’s just others often feel threatened that a woman can do the same things as them, because they were themselves given certain biases.”

    Ganz says this phenomenon of hidden biases is one reason the work of Women & Hi Tech is so important. “It feels like beating the same drum over and over, to keep talking about making STEM equally inclusive for all. But we have to realize that everyone absorbs a message at a different time in a different way. We have to continue to present the case for diversity, and the benefits of diversity. To invite male allies to learn more about how they can be truly inclusive and make sure they are treating everyone equitably.”

    Carol says she also sees hope in the generations that will soon be entering the workforce. “Every generation does better than the ones before them and brings something new with them to advance the cause of acceptance, because they don’t carry the same biases with them. Change is the only constant,” she concluded, “and when we can work together to view change and growth as fun, versus an inconvenience, the opportunities are endless.”

  • 12/30/2020 11:00 AM | Anonymous

    Rabia Khan is Women & Hi Tech’s 2021 Volunteer of the Year thanks to her involvement with the Communications Committee. By helping with event photography and website updates and maintenance, Khan helps Women & Hi Tech communicate its mission both creatively and practically. “I can go on and on about what I love about this organization,” she said. “First and foremost, the welcoming nature of the group. As a woman and a Muslim in tech, more often than not I have to make an effort to fit in and be welcomed. That has not been the case whatsoever at Women & Hi Tech. The members and the Board have embraced me for who I am, and that is such an awesome feeling.”

    In addition to the inclusive environment, Khan says Women & Hi Tech also stands out for the innumerable opportunities for members to get involved. (Such as volunteering at events, as mentors, committee members and Board members. You may recall from previous issues of “Grown from STEM”, Women & Hi Tech is operated by an all-volunteer working Board of Directors, Emeritus members and member volunteers). “I have volunteered with other organizations where I have tried to get more involved, and it wasn’t as encouraged. Women & Hi Tech is always encouraging members to get more involved and offers many opportunities.”

    Khan joined Women & Hi Tech in 2019, the same year she started her own business, Managed System Solutions. It is her vision to help small to midsize businesses and nonprofits manage their IT infrastructure in the most efficient and cost-effective manner. Her company offers network IT deployment, preventative maintenance, cloud services monitoring, and disaster recovery. In 2020, she expanded her services to include event registration and ticketing, among other services. “These are two very different fields in tech, but I am passionate about both and succeed in both areas.” Khan is originally from Karachi, Pakistan, and emigrated to the US in 1999. In 2000 she enrolled at IUPUI, the same year she had her first child, and by the time she graduated in 2007 with a Bachelor of Computer Engineering, she had three of her four children. “I had three boys and I thought I was done. In 2018, God blessed me with a beautiful daughter. A year later, I started my business,” Khan shared. “She is the force behind my persistence and hard work. I want to be a role model for her, not just a mother, but as a woman in technology and an entrepreneur.”

    Khan leveraged her degree and experience to attain career success in several positions at nonprofits, working as a Network Administrator and IT manager. On the advice of her mentor, Lamont Hatcher, Founder and CEO of AIS and Women & Hi Tech’s 2020 inaugural recipient of the OperationALL Male Allies Leading Light Award, she started attending Women & Hi Tech events around the same time she started her business. This led her to discover all she loves about the organization, including the incredible networking opportunities it provides. “There hasn’t been a single woman I’ve met who hasn’t referred me to ten other women. They make an effort to do that and to support each other. I really love that.”

    During her career to date in tech, Khan has been encouraged to see changes in the demographics of education and the workforce. “When I was going through school, there were some classes where I was the only woman in the room. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t welcome,” she clarified, “but at the same time it did stand out to me. Today, women are not only more visible in the classroom, but also in positions of leadership and influence in STEM fields.” Khan says this isn’t just a cultural factor, but also the product of intentional action by Central Indiana businesses to make gender equality a priority in their organizations.

    Khan also notes that the pandemic has brought to light some opportunities to level the playing field, both for businesses and for nonprofits like Women & Hi Tech. “Women have always been challenged to balance the needs of the home with their professional life. Now, in the pandemic, more people are working from home. While she recognizes for some the balance of these needs may still be squeezing women out of the workforce as childcare or helping older family members becomes more difficult.” For others, Khan notices that events like a child interrupting a Zoom meeting or a parent’s need for schedule flexibility have become more acceptable to businesses these days. What’s important, comments Khan, is that these allowances extend beyond the pandemic.

    When asked about the future of Women & Hi Tech, Khan stated, “what Women & Hi Tech can do is try to make businesses aware of these challenges and help with creative ways to problem-solve. The goal is to increase the number of women in leadership roles, particularly in STEM fields and also allow women to have work-life balance during and beyond the present moment of crisis.” Khan pointed out that events like Women & Hi Tech’s Executive Women’s Forums are great opportunities to bring these conversations to the table and make businesses aware of the diverse and changing needs of an increasingly diverse workforce.

    “Women & Hi Tech is doing so much within the organization and STEM community, to provide women in STEM with a supportive, welcoming, and inclusive environment,” Khan said. “Continuing to grow those values within the organization, and helping others grow that environment within their organizations, are initiatives that go hand-in-hand.”

  • 12/18/2020 1:00 PM | Anonymous

    This year marked the first time that the Women & Hi Tech Holiday Networking Event was open to the public. Not only did we sell all the tickets to this virtual soiree, we had to add capacity to meet demand! At the end of a stressful year, it was so incredible to welcome members and nonmembers together to celebrate the holiday, lift up the Dayspring Center through generous donations, and talk strategy for 2021.

    Recognizing Amazing STEM Females and Volunteers

    Women & Hi Tech President Rebecca Bormann welcomed attendees and gave a review of the work of Women & Hi Tech during 2020. This included the first-ever Virtual Leading Light Awards and Scholarship Gala, as well as successful Executive Women’s Forums, ClickSide Chats, and other events in the socially distanced world of COVID.

    After Rebecca helped us revisit the successes of the year, Volunteer Director Karen Harris presented the Volunteer of the Year Award to Rabia Khan. As a member of the Women & Hi Tech Communications Committee, Rabia helps as a photographer when Women & Hi Tech can host in-person events. She also helps with making posts to the organization’s website, as well as being a behind-the-scenes genius in all things tech.

    Supporting Dayspring Center

    Next, the Women & Hi Tech President-Elect Linda Hicks shared that $3,000 for Dayspring Center was collected through event ticket sales. Dayspring Center provides emergency shelter, clothing, and three meals a day for families with children who are experiencing homelessness in Central Indiana. In the past, items were donated in-person at the Holiday Event, or a ticket fee was charged to provide resources to the charity. This year, asking each attendant to make a minimum of a $10 tax-deductible donation at registration led to an amazing outcome.

    On December 10th, after the event, Women & Hi Tech Networking Director Dr. Maria Alvim Gaston and Treasurer Ben Phillips were honored to present the check to Dayspring Center. Donations can still be made directly to Dayspring Center Indy.

    Women in STEM Organization: Fun, Fellowship, and Our Holiday “Escape”

    After the attendees got the great news about the fundraising for Dayspring Center, it was time to celebrate! Dr. Maria Alvim Gaston took over as our official host and led over 100 women and men through introductions, sharing fabulous pajama styles and yummy recipes for hot toddy cocktails and mocktails.

    Next, it was time for a one-of-a-kind event experience—a virtual Escape Room! Led by a Women & Hi Tech “travel agent,” the attendees were broken out into groups of 8 or 9 to solve puzzles and try to make their escape.

    Everyone ultimately gathered back in the main room for a goodbye wave and to share best wishes for an incredible holiday season.  This Holiday Networking Event was a success in every sense of the holiday spirit. Not only did we get to celebrate the year that has passed, we got to amplify the spirit of giving and support the members of our community in need. And, everyone got to have a great time, getting to know each other and working together to solve problems—which every STEM professional loves! We call this a holiday home-run that created many amazing holiday memories we will hold dear for years to come.

  • 11/30/2020 8:02 AM | Anonymous

    Dear Members, Sponsors, Volunteers, Supporters and Friends,

    I hope everyone had a wonderful, relaxing, safe, and healthy holiday weekend!

    Like many, I work to be intentional to incorporate a gratitude practice into my daily life. The holiday season always bring gratitude to the forefront for me. I am sure that it does the same for most. As I often do for our "Grown from STEM" newsletters, I have been doing some research, this time around mindfulness and practicing gratitude – the multitude of research and resources available to begin and deepen our mindfulness and gratitude practices is innumerous. I found mindful.org to be particularly interesting because their recommendations and advice were backed up by data and science, which as a "STEMinist" I loved and thought you might too. Here's a couple of things I learned:

    "Researchers at the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley have commissioned a three-year project, Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude, to dig deeper into the health benefits behind the art of appreciation.

    What are the effects of practicing gratitude?

    It boosts your mental health. Those who write letters of gratitude reported significantly better mental health four weeks and 12 weeks after their writing exercise ended. While not conclusive, this finding suggests that practicing gratitude may help train the brain to be more sensitive to the experience of gratitude down the line, which could contribute to improved mental health over time.

    It helps you accept change. When we are comfortable with the way things already are, it can be difficult to accept when things change—let alone feel grateful for that difference. But when we make it a habit to notice the good change brings, we can become more flexible and accepting. Here are four ways to practice gratitude when change arises.

    It can relieve stress. The regions associated with gratitude are part of the neural networks that light up when we socialize and experience pleasure. These regions are also heavily connected to the parts of the brain that control basic emotion regulation, such as heart rate, and are associated with stress relief and thus pain reduction. Feeling grateful and recognizing help from others creates a more relaxed body state and allows the subsequent benefits of lowered stress to wash over us."

    In alignment with practicing gratitude, I have paused to think about why I am grateful for Women & Hi Tech's two events yet this year. Our Virtual Holiday Networking Event on December 2, 2020, and our fourth quarter Virtual Book Club on December 12, 2020. For me, an extrovert, this year of staying at home to help flatten the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic has at times been difficult mentally and emotionally. I miss people!

    As I reflect, I am incredibly grateful to have opportunities to connect, grow, learn, and have some fun with other STEM professionals at Women & Hi Tech's upcoming events. I am also grateful that our organization took a stance years ago for equity and inclusion. I'm thankful that Women & Hi Tech has created an environment and events where diversity and each individual's uniqueness are welcomed and appreciated. And I am beyond grateful that so many others, you, Women & Hi Tech's members, sponsors, partners, and friends, have joined us and support our mission to change the landscape of women represented in STEM to be equally inclusive to all. Thank you to each of you!

    To attend Women & Hi Tech's December virtual events, please go to our website's events page to register. I am so looking forward to connecting with old friends and making new friends. We'd love for you to join us!

    Also, a heads up that Women & Hi Tech will host our first Virtual Executive Women's Forum in 2021 on February 11, International Day of Women & Girls in Science, as declared by the United Nations General Assembly. Mark your calendars now to join us for -A CASUAL, CRUCIAL COVID CONVERSATION WITH INDIANA'S HEALTH COMMISSIONER – DR. KRISTINA BOX. Registration for this event will open in early December 2020.

    In this 23rd edition of "Grown from STEM," we are excited to introduce you to and invite you to learn more about our Networking Director, Dr. Maria Alvim Gaston, and our dedicated member, Arwa Ghalawan. Both women are incredibly accomplished in their respective STEM fields; Dr. Alvim Gaston, a chemist, and Ghalawan in the field of technology. Dr. Alvim Gaston and Ghalawan are champions for diversity, equity, and inclusion, particularly for women in STEM, in their careers, volunteerism, and personal lives. Please read more about Dr. Alvim Gaston and Arwa Ghalawan 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 Inaugural Equity & Inclusion Champion Award recipient, Erica Diebold, Senior Intellectual Property Manager (Patents) at Roche Diabetes Care, Inc. Erica was the first transgender employee at Roche in Indianapolis and faced significant internal backlash for her decision to manifest her true self. She met these reactions with courage, sharing her unique perspective on the challenges of womanhood, and resolving to do all she could to eliminate those challenges. She has built increased allyship for women and members of the LGBTQ+ community at Roche and in the local community, including developing allyship training. Please watch this segment of the 2020 Virtual LLAs to learn more about what fuels Erica's passion and drive for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the STEM fields and beyond. Again, Congratulations Erica!

    Kind Regards,

    Rebecca Bormann
    President, Women & Hi Tech

  • 11/30/2020 8:01 AM | Anonymous

    Last year we wrote about Dr. Maria Alvim Gaston’s journey from her girlhood in Brazil to earning three degrees, including her Ph.D. from the University of Mississippi, and launching her decades-long career at Eli Lilly. At that time, we saw that passion was one of her defining characteristics. Now, that same passion is strengthening the future talent pipeline in her role as Advisor for the Talent Development Academy in the Medicines Innovation Hub at Eli Lilly and her involvement in Women & Hi Tech.

    “Looking at my career at Eli Lilly, I could not be happier with all that I have accomplished. I’ve learned a lot on my journey, and I want to use my knowledge, gifts, and talents to be a part of creating a more equitable and inclusive world for STEM professionals and beyond.”

    Dr Alvim Gaston believes that true success is achieved by giving back to create a better tomorrow for others. “It’s up to us, to me, and to you, to take the first step, to offer support to others who are fighting to achieve their goals and dreams. Helping others to become their very best selves is what success looks like to me, with the ultimate goal of building a generation that chooses cooperation and helping one another over competing. This requires giving to be valued above receiving.”

    At Eli Lilly, Dr. Alvim Gaston has transitioned from a scientific role in the Open Innovation Drug Discovery Group to serve as an Advisor for the Talent Development Academy in the Medicines Innovations Hub (MIH). In this role, Dr. Alvim Gaston leads her team, along with volunteers from across Eli Lilly, to recruit and develop the next generation of talent for Eli Lilly R&D. “When I began my career as a computational chemist, I used to say I was hunting for new drugs. Now, I am hunting for top talent,” she said with a big smile. She feels thankful and proud to take the strong culture of diversity and inclusion that already exists at Eli Lilly and help identify young, talented individuals who are a great fit to lead and innovate in the future.

    “We are working intentionally to bring even more diversity into our workforce. We are purposefully going to places we can find top minority talent, like historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), as well as conferences specifically hosted for diverse STEM groups.” This strategy is executed in tandem with initiatives to recruit from local institutions like Purdue, Indiana University, and other Indiana colleges and universities to help retain talented young Indiana professionals and allow them to build a career in their home state.

    Dr. Alvim Gaston’s work isn’t just about recruiting young talent. It’s also about offering programs to help these hires develop in their careers as leaders and STEM professionals. “Our interns are recruited with the intent to hire. Eli Lilly MIH interns spend 12-16 weeks working in our labs. They learn about our organization and its culture. We also get the opportunity to know our interns, too, far beyond what an interview process would facilitate. I believe Eli Lilly is unique in that opportunity,” she continued. “Growth, professional development, and advancement aren’t just provided to long-term existing employees but are part of the culture for all of our employees from day one.”

    Maria has seen that at Eli Lilly, diversity and inclusion are company-wide goals. “I have seen these goals in different manifestations throughout my career. The employees and teams at Eli Lilly go above and beyond providing resources to make sure every employee feels safe and appreciated. As a Latina and scientist, I can personally testify to the diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture,” Dr. Alvim Gaston joyfully commented. “I so enjoy working at an organization where I can be me and where my unique perspective and skills are accepted and appreciated.”

    Her desire for every STEM professional to live the same reality she does at Eli Lilly is a big motivator toward Dr. Alvim Gaston’s continued involvement with Women & Hi Tech. Serving in her third year as the Women & Hi Tech Networking Director, Dr. Alvim Gaston revealed some of the practical value she aspires to see members take away from the organization. “I want our members to leave every event feeling like they got something out of it. For some, that’s the support or new connection they need to level up their career. For others, it’s the chance to serve as a mentor and help give someone else a leg up, and for yet others, it’s building new connections with peers. There are so many opportunities to be involved with Women & Hi Tech, and I want other STEM professionals to know that we are a resource for them.” Beyond working as the Networking Director, Maria serves Women & Hi Tech’s mission by mentoring, coaching, and volunteering, all of which help change the landscape of women represented in STEM to be equally inclusive.

    “Being a part of Women & Hi Tech is an opportunity to empower others, make a difference, and give a voice to all women in STEM. That is why I want to be part of it and to help Women & Hi Tech grow, so the organization can continue to expand its impact in our STEM community.”

    While the organization’s mission is specific to gender, Dr. Alvim Gaston is happy to see a growing number of male allies among the membership, benefitting from the same strong network as female members. She also acknowledges that it will take us all, all gender identities, to create authentic and lasting gender equity in the STEM fields and beyond.

    When asked why she is so passionate about Women & Hi Tech, Maria shared several reasons, including, “We all need a safe place to grow, and it’s part of our mission to provide that. That is why our members join us – they are people who share our value of creating an equitable and inclusive environment for all. Men in our membership can see their value in a whole new way and help advance our mission. So, one day, when we’ve reached equity and inclusion for all, we will be People & Hi Tech.” As women and diverse groups continue to be better represented in the STEM fields, Dr. Alvim Gaston knows that future professionals will encounter different challenges and will need to work together to overcome those challenges.

    “Now more than ever, we must model unity and compassion for younger generations to move forward to a better place and a better world,” Dr. Alvim Gaston concluded. “Women & Hi Tech continues to help lead the way for equity and inclusion for all women in STEM, and that inspires me.”

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