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


  • 05/29/2021 4:01 PM | Anonymous

    Since we last profiled her in 2019, Darcy Lee has made a career transition into IT executive leadership. As the COO of AIS, Lee is responsible for corporate process oversight and development and implementation of strategic goals. “Although I still support sales, my main focus is on performance, process, and making sure we are all working toward a common goal,” she explained. “We know where we want to go, but we also need to measure where we are and how we get there.” Part of this depends on making sure each member of the team is provided an opportunity to use their unique gifts and talents. “At our core we believe in people,” Lee said. “We talk about AIS as standing for ‘all in to serve.’” That mantra applies to internal culture as well as the company’s approach to client service.

    “We have to consistently see beyond where our clients see and help them excel,” Lee explained. AIS is an IT Managed Services Provider (MSP) that is passionate about optimizing business process, productivity, culture, and customer and employee experiences through the strategic adoption of digital technologies. “We don’t just look at organizations as clients or potential clients in a closed system, but also seek to understand how these companies are connected to their employees, clients and communities.”

    The company’s perspective on IT as a service requires a commitment to diversity that is built in from the top down. “Our company is built, by design, to include diverse perspectives,” Darcy said. That commitment starts with race and ethnicity, but is extended to employees’ backgrounds, perspectives, and life experiences. As the only woman on the company’s executive team, Lee has felt the power of full inclusion on a daily basis. “Our CEO, Lamont Hatcher, very much understands the importance of women in executive positions, both from a financial/profitability perspective and from a diversity perspective. He values and appreciates my input and leadership. Even when our opinions differ, I know I’m heard and seen.”

    Lee shared that AIS became especially essential during the pandemic as many organizations realized the value and necessity of information technology. “Suddenly many departments at almost every company were asking for IT solutions, instead of perhaps looking at IT as a burden to be dealt with. COVID had a profound impact because it made the services we offer more desirable and more visible. In Indianapolis especially, when you hear tech, you might think of software as a service (SaaS). We sit on the infrastructure side, which is the essential backbone to making those products function.” She cited automation, cloud migration and optimization, and data security as three areas where support has been in high demand. “When companies need multiple systems or applications to talk to one another to move their business forward, that functionality needs to be designed and implemented, supported by strong infrastructure, and secure.”

    In addition to helping AIS achieve internal and external goals through strategic process alignment, Darcy has been using similar strengths to support the Women & Hi Tech board as an Active Emeritus. “As a former President and someone who’s passionate about our mission, it’s admittedly hard to let go and take a step back. We have come so far but there is still so much to be done. Over time, my goal is to focus my efforts on supporting others in their roles and working on long-term initiatives that can expand and strengthen our impact,” she explained. Since Women & Hi Tech has an all-volunteer Board of Directors, there is always an area of focus that can be supported. “Large initiatives like expanding our footprint to support more women in STEM and attract more girls to STEM fields across the state take time. We also need to ensure we are listening to our members to understand their needs. Our active Board members already dedicate so much time to the organization in their specific roles and there isn’t always enough time to do the “more” we want to do, so this is where I feel I can be the greatest benefit to the organization.”

    Lee considers this focus on growth in alignment with the desires of members an essential part of Women & Hi Tech’s mission. “I want members to feel supported, inspired, and encouraged. Above all else I see Women & Hi Tech as a support network.” She also wants each member to become better-connected to their own individual ability to effect change. This applies to both men and women. “I would love to see more men as members,” she shared. “We can’t just talk to ourselves (women) and expect the necessary change to happen. We have to include men in the conversation.” Additionally, she added, “For women to truly be supported to be successful, we have to pivot our understanding of what success looks like, and I think the pandemic has made that possible. Women carry a lot of responsibility outside of work and as they come up in their careers need more flexibility. As a society we now recognize that the day-to-day demands on our time are different for every person, and that success can still be achieved without a rigid adherence to a 9-5.” She concluded by observing that an essential part of diversity, equity, and inclusion is recognizing people for who they are—including their unique needs. “People don’t fit into boxes. And so when you allow that, and have less rigidity around the concept of what success has to look like, people can be happier and more productive. We can model what success looks like differently for the next generation.”

  • 05/29/2021 4:00 PM | Anonymous

    Since our last profile of Rajinder Heir, she has taken on the position of Chief Technology Officer at the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. While this isn’t her first role in the C-suite, it is the first time she’s had to get acquainted with her new team while working remotely. “Since our platforms are accessed remotely to begin with, the needs of our users didn’t shift with the pandemic. But it was a new experience to get to know my team and stakeholders while we were all adjusting to those changes.”

    The technology provided by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education (“Commission”) serves various stakeholders including students, parents, schools and higher education institutions. One key platform takes students through the process of applying for and maintaining state financial aid while another maintains a repository of academic programs and much more. “We are working on a modernization initiative I am eager to see come to fruition. The finish line is in sight!” Heir explained.

    She is also gratified that her keen interest in cybersecurity is an asset in her new role. Rajinder serves on two committees on the Indiana Executive Council on Cybersecurity and has written a diverse range of cybersecurity policies in the last couple of years. These include encryption key management, server hardening, wireless security management, and data classification, among others. “In college classes I enjoyed technical writing so I thoroughly enjoyed working on those policies. It was a good interplay of my natural ability and professional interest,” she said with enthusiasm.

    In her role as CTO, Heir applies her existing skills while continuing to grow and learn new strategies. She shared that the Commission has been a longtime proponent of increasing STEM degree completions in Indiana and has also focused on educational equity for many years; there is a natural crossover of both priorities broadening the diversity of the workforce at the Commission. “My experience tells me it is important for any organization that its products and services be designed with an empathy-first approach. To do so, talented design teams deliver best when they reflect the customer base.”

    As an emeritus board member of Women & Hi Tech, Rajinder is encouraged by the potential of the organization to inspire women through shared stories. “I want people to attend our events and walk away with actionable a-ha moments. Our Executive Women’s Forums provide exactly that. I also want people to come into Women & Hi Tech at the start of their career and find a soft place to land, to meet accomplished women in sectors such as IT, energy, life sciences, and engineering.” She added that in her view attracting male participation is an essential part of amplifying the organization’s message. “While we may reach male allies in high profile executive roles, it is pivotal to gain buy-in from aspiring leaders to cultivate talent pools. I’ve interviewed and worked with my share of network engineers,” she continued. “Almost none of them women. We are inching closer to the days of wider qualified candidate pools. My hat goes off to those men who attend our events and embrace our mission. Bring a co-worker!”

    Asked what advice she would offer to young women who aspire to be executives in STEM, Rajinder spoke to gaining a variety of experiences as a foundation. “For me that came in various forms: high tech startup, public sector, insurance, telecoms, nonprofit and consulting.  All of which enriched my IT career and led me to C-suite opportunities. For those starting a career in IT, I advocate for a stint in the public sector or the nonprofit world. I continue to be supportive of Women & Hi Tech, because it’s the best venue to see a snapshot of such journeys.”

  • 05/17/2021 10:44 AM | Deleted user

    Women & Hi Tech is thrilled to share that June 9, 2021 marks our slow return to hosting in-person events for Indiana’s STEM community. Our inaugural Multicultural Celebration will be held at the Indiana State Museum from 6-10 pm (EST). What should be expected from this event, and why do we intend to host it biennially or every other year? Let’s explore more of the story.

    Why a Multicultural Celebration?

    The idea for this event was conceived before the pandemic, when the leadership of Women & Hi Tech was gathered to debrief after the board completed the Interrupting Racism for Our Child training by Child Advocates of Indiana. We discussed the amazing-yet-uncelebrated diversity in the collective body of women in STEM in this state and specifically, Indianapolis, including Women & Hi Tech’s own membership. We conceived of an event that would elevate and celebrate the uniqueness, authenticity, and individuality that each of us brings to the table.

    Then, the pandemic hit.  Facing uncertainty, the Women & Hi Tech committee kept planning, knowing that one day this event would be realized. The incidents of 2020 only served to illuminate and make more painfully clear the inequity and divisiveness that manifests due to a lack of appreciation for diversity and multicultural people and perspectives in America. So, we announced and organized this event knowing that it is likely needed now more than ever.  

    “The beauty of diversity and multiculturalism is allowing differences to enhance our life,” said Women & Hi Tech President and planning committee member, Rebecca Bormann. “It’s crazy to me that we let all the cool things about who we are separate us, when they are what should bring us together to learn and grow. We should celebrate each other and if no one else is going to, Women & Hi Tech is.” Bormann concluded by acknowledging that it is not by accident that this event will reflect the beauty of diversity in the art, music, and food provided or that it was planned as the inaugural return to in-person gatherings for the organization post-pandemic.  “We felt like our community needs this at this time.”

    Women & Hi Tech 2021 Multicultural Celebration

    Women & Hi Tech’s inaugural Multicultural Celebration will take place on the evening of June 9, 2021 from 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm (EST) at the Indiana State Museum Great Hall in downtown Indianapolis (650 W. Washington St. Indianapolis, IN 46204).

    The Great Hall at the Indiana State Museum is an indoor space that connects to an amazing outdoor space on the White River Canal. Inside the Great Hall, our celebration will feature culturally-diverse hors d'oeuvres and dinner, networking with other STEM professionals, and honoring the Health and Science Innovations High School STEM Summer Camp award recipients. We will also dance and enjoy festive tunes from the live band, Chamber Music.

    Women & Hi Tech is also pleased to announce that a new cultural exhibit – “Response: Images and Sounds of a Movement” - will be showing in the Legacy Theatre of the Great Hall during our event.  Thanks to the Indiana State Museum and the creatives whose works are featured for our appreciation.  We are ecstatic to have these visual expressions from local artists infused into the ambiance and celebratory nature of the Multicultural Celebration at no additional charge.  To learn more, see https://www.indianamuseum.org/experiences/response-images-and-sounds-of-a-movement/

    Registration for the event is $50 for members and $75 for non-members, which includes food, art, and music entertainment.  Your registration also includes two beverage tickets, including Women & Hi Tech’s signature celebration cocktail - The Juneteenth Jubilee. A cash bar will be available.

    Visit our events page for more information about parking, our COVID guidelines, and how to purchase your tickets today! We can’t wait to see you there and celebrate the amazing person you are.

  • 04/30/2021 8:02 PM | Anonymous

    Dear Members, Sponsors, Volunteers, Supporters and Friends,

    Time is flying by this spring; I can hardly believe we are at the end of April already! This was a busy month for Women & Hi Tech as we hosted our second Executive Women’s Forum (EWF) of 2021, titled, S.T.E.M. – The “E” is for Entrepreneurship! During this inspiring, informative and authentic discussion our EWF Director, Linda Calvin moderated for our esteemed panel of entrepreneurs and executives turned entrepreneurs. Our panelists, Kristen Cooper, Irma Mesa, Joy E. Mason and Daryle Johnson shared with us their journeys to entrepreneurship and many of the lessons they’ve learned along the way. Don’t worry if you missed this virtual event or want to review the lessons shared from our entrepreneurs we’ll have a recording of the event available soon on our YouTube channel.

    Women & Hi Tech was also delighted to participate in a community virtual event titled, All IT Community Meeting, in collaboration with the Indy CIO Network, IT Leaders Indianapolis and the Society for Information Management (SIM) Indy. During this meeting, our moderator, Stefanie Krievins, lead a discussion on the topic of resiliency with an exceptional panel of Indiana IT leaders including, You can watch the recording of the event online.  

    Women & Hi Tech has also been busy planning our first in person event since the onset of the pandemic, the Women & Hi Tech Multicultural Celebration. We created this inaugural, signature event to celebrate and appreciate the unity, authenticity, and cultural diversity imbued by the collective body of women in STEM that enhances, enriches, and empowers our local community and statewide STEM landscape to grow a pipeline of female talent driving innovation in Indiana. We invite you to join us on the evening of June 9, 2021 from 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm (EST) at the Indiana State Museum Great Hall in downtown Indianapolis. This evening will celebrate the array of cultures represented in the Indiana STEM community and showcase the diverse connections represented within Women & Hi Tech. Our celebration will feature culturally diverse hors d'oeuvres and dinner, networking with other STEM professionals, and honoring the Health and Science Innovations High School STEM Summer Camp award recipients. We will also dance and enjoy festive tunes from the live band, Chamber Music. Purchase your tickets now.

    Also, if you haven’t heard Women & Hi Tech’s Virtual Book Club chose, Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi for our quarter two book. It’s not to late to grab a copy of the book and register for this virtual book club to be held on Monday, June 21, 2021

    And, we recently extended the application deadline to apply for a position on our Board of Directors until May 12, 2021. We are looking for candidates who are actively engaged with the organization, and will bring wisdom, experience, effectiveness, candor, and creative thinking. We are passionate about our organization and the meaningful work we do and are looking for like-minded individuals. We do not take the term “working board” lightly. At any given time, a Director is leading her/his own area of responsibility while also contributing to other areas of the organization, including serving on committees, participating in Women & Hi Tech events, and representing Women & Hi Tech in the community.  Click here to learn more and apply online.

    In our 27th edition of "Grown from STEM" we are excited to be featuring Women & Hi Tech Treasurer, Ben Phillips and our dedicated member and male ally, Cody Rivers. Both Phillips and Rivers are highly accomplished in their respective disciplines and share how their unique paths and careers have led to their success and passion for tech and allyship for women in STEM. Phillips and Rivers are champions for diversity, equity, and inclusion, particularly for women in STEM, in their careers, volunteerism, and personal lives. Please read more about Philips and Rivers 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 Risk Taker Award recipient, Teresa Plummer. Teresa has been integral to the success of the Sallie Mae technology department for over fourteen years. She has worked her way from Program Manager to Director of IT Governance and Delivery Services. Leading the company’s Agile transformation, she purposefully did not implement hard and fast rules but designed a process that, given a chance, would evolve over time; trusting people to do what is right. Please watch this segment of the 2020 Virtual LLAs to learn more about what fuels Teresa's passion and drive for equality for all in the STEM fields and beyond. Again, Congratulations Teresa!

    Best Regards,

    Rebecca Bormann
    Women & Hi Tech President

  • 04/30/2021 8:01 PM | Anonymous

    In our last profile of Women & Hi Tech Treasurer Ben Phillips, we introduced you to his professional background, his role as a Director in the Audit & Assurance Practice at Katz, Sapper & Miller (KSM) specializing in audits related to IT Security and Internal Controls, and his perspective on the importance of male allyship. This year, we were excited to catch up with him about how his continuing experiences with Women & Hi Tech have benefitted him, especially in the context of major events that have transpired in between these conversations.

    “In this world where most continue to work remotely or in a hybrid-environment for the time being, it is more important than ever to take steps and intentionally connect with coworkers outside of just talking about work,” Phillips observed. “Those connections used to manifest normally. You might end up in the break room getting coffee at the same time as someone from a different department and find a chance to check in and catch up. Now, work is more like getting on a Zoom for 30 minutes with the same groups of people.”

    He described one innovation taking place at KSM, a practice called Coffee Chats where random groups of four are periodically organized into virtual breakout meetings to meet, share what’s going on in life, and talk about whatever comes up. “It’s a way we can still celebrate everything from someone getting a new puppy, to someone achieving a career or life milestone we might otherwise have never learned about since we’re all working at a distance.”

    Ben shared that he has been happy to see the same intentionality in the events hosted by Women & Hi Tech. “From one-on-one meetings to big Executive Women’s Forums that are great for learning and networking, one of our focus areas right now is to be a place where members can find human connection on any given day.” One new event he especially celebrated is the organization’s innovation of Clickside Chats. “These more relaxed events are great because they don’t have to be explicitly focused on our mission of changing the landscape of women represented in STEM,” he said. “They are free to be conversations about topics like job interviews, professional development, or self-care, that are hosted and attended by people who are representative of and in support of our mission.”

    “I remain committed to volunteering with Women & Hi Tech because the organization takes steps like these to live its truth as an advocate, rather than just hold itself up as an example without doing the real work,” Phillips shared.

    He says the same principle is true of the organization’s commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, now fully-established in its mission statement and permanently integrated in the infrastructure with the addition of the Engagement, Diversity, and Inclusion Director board position. “It’s like finance—unless you have a treasurer and finance committee, who is holding the organization accountable to the targets? The Engagement, Diversity, and Inclusion mindset used to be embedded across a few roles on the Board and it will remain a focus for the entire Board. Now we will have one committed Director keeping us accountable and tracking our growth with even more tangible metrics.”

    Overall, Ben observed that the pandemic and resulting cultural changes served to escalate intentionality across many sectors, including male allyship and allyship to diverse people. “To have any sort of intentional ally relationship, you have to have a willing recipient on the other side, and that takes a lot of trust, humility, and vulnerability, first and foremost from the person in the position of privilege. You can’t just sit someone down in a Zoom meeting, or even an in-person meeting, and say, ‘I want to be your ally,’” he said with a candid laugh. “All you can do is show up as a steward and advocate as a matter of habit, and express that you are trying to live and behave with more intentional inclusion. Then, you have to hope that intention resonates, and it may resonate differently with each individual. Becoming a person’s ally is as simple, and as complex, as becoming a friend.” He added that being an ally for just one female, or one diverse person, doesn’t make you an ally to all. “Wherever we each are in the world, city, or state, our experiences are our own and we may or may not choose to share them depending on each relationship we develop.”

    Ben says one key for every member of Women & Hi Tech to meet and forge relationships with the right allies and peers to support their growth is for sponsors and even non-members to continue maximizing the value of the organization. “Every sponsorship comes with a certain number of memberships that are available to all employees of those companies, and the more robust your sponsorship, the better value you are getting on each individual membership from a cost perspective.” He encourages every sponsor to communicate and check in with Women & Hi Tech about how their employees are finding value in the organization. But at the same time, he acknowledges that employees are just as busy now as they ever were.

    “That’s one reason that right now, so many of our events are free to the public. Even if someone never intends to become a member, individually or through a corporate sponsorship, we still want to be available to them as a resource they can use to learn, grow, and connect with others.” To Phillips, this is just about paying the value forward. “My involvement with this organization means I am learning quicker than I usually would in my own silo. And that is our goal for every person who is interested in the programming we deliver and the mission we are advancing to make STEM equally inclusive to all.”

  • 04/30/2021 8:00 PM | Anonymous

    Cody Rivers grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. “My father was an entrepreneur, and my mother, so it was kind of in my blood.” After graduating from Purdue with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering, Rivers gained experience doing IT consulting for enterprise-level clients. But when he was invited to join AIS a year after its founding, he saw the opportunity to both join an entrepreneurial culture and support other entrepreneurs. “AIS is committed to supporting small and mid-sized businesses with the same quality infrastructure design, security, and management that benefits large businesses,” Rivers explained. “We bring IT structure, organization, and foresight that enables SMBs to grow and compete.” As the Chief Technology Officer of AIS, Rivers’ role focuses on the strategies to deliver secure cloud solutions and other IT services to AIS’ clients as well as internally.

    The AIS team, including Rivers, was introduced to Women & Hi Tech through tech sector peer and current Women & Hi Tech President, Rebecca Bormann. “After hearing so many great things, leadership including myself took steps to get involved as male allies.” That commitment started with sponsorship and has since expanded to include event attendance, volunteering, and committee membership. AIS also met its Chief Operations Officer, Darcy Lee, through Women & Hi Tech. “Darcy has been paramount to my deeper involvement and helping me transition what I’ve learned to our workplace,” Cody said.

    As part of his increasing engagement with Women & Hi Tech, Rivers is a member of the OperationAll event committee. “OperationAll is a very open conversation forum for Indiana’s male allies in STEM,” he described. “We have a speaker as well as breakout groups that dial down into real-life work situations and management discussions.” He shared that topics ranging from how to run inclusive meetings to organizational strategies that integrate women’s’ perspectives are all on the agenda.

    “As compassionate men we may act with our hearts in the right place but still not be well-received by women. I think in part this is because we act in the language we want to receive. This event is an opportunity to get input, not about how we expect to be heard, but how others receive things. Listening is how we can liberate others to be their best self.”

    Rivers went on to share how other experiences with Women & Hi Tech have led him to become a better executive. “Coming from a diverse background, I knew I had a diverse perspective, but that wasn’t as well-rounded when it came to gender,” he said. “Through my learning with Women & Hi Tech, I have become a better listener and become more aware of communication, management, and leadership styles.”

    He elaborated that this is important for pragmatic as well as ethical reasons. “When diverse populations see that STEM careers and employers mirror their values, it will make it easier to attract more talent to STEM. But we don’t just want to speak to values that will attract talent—we want to live those values with a genuine commitment. At AIS that includes our commitment to inclusion and equity. Our work is done best when there are a wide variety of perspectives in the room to challenge assumptions and innovate solutions.”

    Rivers observed that Women & HI Tech embodies the principle of expanding the seats at the table, not eliminating some in favor of others. “The goal of increased diversity, equity, and inclusion is to move the needle to the middle, not swing in the opposite direction,” he said. “I think it’s so cool that Women & Hi Tech reached out to me to become involved as a male ally because they value my advice and perspective. Getting more women represented at all levels of STEM companies is an incredible goal, but it can’t be a one-way conversation. Women & Hi Tech knows that. They are wise enough to recognize that inclusion is the best way to build momentum and achieve lasting change that truly makes STEM better for all.”

    When asked what he would say to skeptics of the need for male allies in STEM, Rivers responded with an invitation. “We can’t grow by all thinking alike. But at the same time, no one is above hearing more information. Whatever the subject, hearing stories and new perspectives is what keeps your beliefs in alignment with reality.” He added that one of the things he loves most about Women & Hi Tech is the constant programming and invitation to keep refreshing and expanding learning. “Everyone wants to discuss diversity but then after the discussion you leave and the learning fades out. I love that Women & Hi Tech engages members year-round and meets everyone at their level. They are active on every channel, for every STEM field and career level, and provide events that are comfortable for both introverts and extroverts.”

    He hopes the organization continues to expand this reach in coming years. “The curriculum and programming they offer is so interactive. It’s not just listening to numbers and percentages and putting it on the audience to act on what we’ve learned. These events let attendees try on different experiences in a safe environment to ask questions, or even fail--and in STEM that’s very important.”

  • 04/17/2021 8:00 AM | Anonymous

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

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

    Why Engagement, Diversity, and Inclusion?

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

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

    What are the Goals and Duties of the EDI Director?

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

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

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

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

    Women & Hi Tech’s 20+ Year History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 04/15/2021 8:00 AM | Anonymous

    Women & Hi Tech Book Club Expands Perspectives

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

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

    Women & Hi Tech Book Club Details and Meeting Information

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Why a Women & Hi Tech Book Club?

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

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

    Experiencing Diverse Perspectives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 03/29/2021 8:02 AM | Anonymous

    Dear Members, Sponsors, Volunteers, Supporters and Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 03/29/2021 8:01 AM | Anonymous

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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