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


  • 01/29/2020 8:32 AM | Anonymous
    Dear Women & Hi Tech Members, Sponsors, Partners, and Friends:

    As we are nearing the end of the first month of this new year, Women & Hi Tech, like so many of us, has intentionally and thoughtfully reflected on the many accomplishments of our organization and has established goals for 2020 to support our mission and increase our impact to change the landscape of women represented in STEM to be equally inclusive to all.

    This year, Women & Hi Tech resolves to continue to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM and ensure it is an integral part of Women & Hi Tech’s future fabric.  Programming like our "Special Edition" Executive Women's Forum Part II - A Double Whammy or Triple Threat: The Disparity of Diversity Amongst Women in STEM taking place on February 5, 2020, a 2-day diversity training for our full Board of Directors, and the introduction of two new Leading Light Awards honoring our male allies and our diversity and equity champions are real actions to support Women & Hi Tech’s dedication to an inclusive Indiana STEM community.  We will also find new opportunities and improve prior strategies to expand our reach to serve more diverse professional women in STEM, to support more diverse collegiate and high school girls pursuing STEM in Indiana, and to inspire and expose more diverse young girls to the world of STEM and all it has to offer, through partnerships, collaborations, and inclusive Women & Hi Tech programming and events.

    In reaching these goals, Women and Hi Tech will continue to grow and thrive, as it has over the last 20 years, because of the passion, dedication, and enthusiasm of our members. Our members are STEM professionals that commit their time, talents and expertise to improve the organization.  In doing so, Women & Hi Tech continues to increase its impact and capacity to promote, advance, inspire, and champion more women and girls interested in STEM in Indiana each year. As a small token of our appreciation of our members, and new this year, Women & Hi Tech is delighted to introduce a member profile in each monthly edition of “Grown in STEM.”

    As in previous editions of “Grown from STEM” that highlighted the Women & Hi Tech Board of Directors and Emeritus, profiles in ongoing editions will also highlight the STEM journey of many of our members and what fuels their engagement with Women & Hi Tech.  There are innumerous choices and opportunities in the fields of STEM, and our Women & Hi Tech members have chosen careers in a wide array of STEM disciplines that will continue to offer us all amazing learning opportunities.  Great benefit may be derived in learning about the often unconventional paths our members have taken to or through their careers in STEM, the challenges they have overcome, and the victories and accomplishments they have achieved.  We are blessed beyond measure to have the invaluable resource of so many amazing women STEM professionals and leaders to support and mentor one another. 

    In this 13th edition of “Grown from STEM,” Women & Hi Tech would like to introduce you to our board member, Lauryn Andrews, and our member, Yolanda Ward-Jones, both of whom are in the field of technology although they have had very different paths. Lauryn is Women & Hi Tech’s Leading Light Awards and Scholarship Gala (LLAs) Director who began her career in academia, but recently, took on a role in tech.  Yolanda Ward-Jones is Women & Hi Tech’s 2019 volunteer of the year.  We invite you to learn more about Lauryn’s new career and Yolanda’s tenured career in technology, and how both have found Women & Hi Tech as a home to fuel their passions and enthusiasm to help more women ascend to STEM leadership roles here in Indiana.

    Cheers to an amazing 2020!

    Kind Regards,

    Rebecca Bormann
    Women & Hi Tech President-Elect

  • 01/29/2020 8:31 AM | Anonymous

    After developing as an event planner through jobs during her study at IUPUI, Lauryn Andrews achieved the full-time role of IU School of Liberal Arts’ Special Event Coordinator. Between her busy days of work coordinating travel, managing vendors, marketing, checking invoices, and more, she looked around and decided she wanted a new challenge. Not just the same challenge at a new company, either. Though her degree and two certifications were all in Event Management, she decided to blaze a trail, and she did. Her search for a new role led to netlogx, a technology consulting firm, where she works today as a Project/Program Management consultant.

    “It was a lot to take in at first,” Andrews said of the transition. “But I also thought my transferrable skills and background meant project/program management consulting would be a good fit. I already knew I could manage multiple projects, balancing timelines and priorities.”

    As she brought that energy with her and jumped head-first into STEM, she also found Women & Hi Tech thanks to netlogx support for the organization as a Star Sponsor. “I knew right away that Women & Hi Tech was a place I belonged,” she said, “not just for exposure to the amazing community but also to new learning experiences.” It turns out that the great first impression was mutual. By June 2019, Andrews was named as the Board's Leading Light Awards and Scholarship Gala (LLAs) Director. The LLAs Director is responsible for chairing the LLAs committee, comprised of several sub-committees and dozens of volunteers, managing the timeline, coordinating with vendors and overall oversight of the organization’s signature, biennial event, which wil take place at the Indiana Roof Ballroom on October 1, 2020.

    An event like the Leading Light Awards and Scholarship Gala may seem like a large task for a newer member. But for Andrews, it’s an opportunity to bring her past skills into her present industry and community, while she also learns new skills and strengths from her peers on the Board. “I am so grateful and humbled for the way this organization has taken me underwing. Serving on the Board was a goal and dream of mine from the moment I joined, and it’s already a dream I get to live.”

    Her move to the consulting role at netlogx has also proved itself a great decision. “I love that I am now part of a woman-owned business,” she shared. “I’ve had the chance to work with many female leaders throughout my career, across multiple industries. I believe it’s always a positive to have inclusivity and diverse perspectives in leadership roles, and I love that netlogx holds that as a high value as well. Beyond that, I love where I work so much because I get to apply all my skills on projects. I’ve even gotten to plan an event as part of a project/program management consulting project”!

    The first project Andrews consulted on was about certification processes, mapping how the process should align with technology. “I had no idea what any of the terminology or acronyms meant. But I learned to speak up and ask questions, and my colleagues helped me out with study tools for the industry terms and acronyms.”

    Lauryn clearly has a spirit for adventure that she brings to every endeavor, and her commitment to the 2020 Leading Light Awards and Scholarship Gala is no different. “I want to grow this event to be the biggest and best it’s ever been, and also create momentum, so growth happens organically for our events and organization .” This year the theme of the event is Equity and Inclusion. Andrews says this is reflected in new award categories, including honoring male allies and diversity, equity, and inclusion champions . This year marks the 20th Anniversary of the first Women & Hi Tech Leading Light Awards celebration - orginally the Spotlight Awards - in 2000. In honor, Women & Hi Tech has pledged to award at least $20,000 in scholarships and professional development grants to Hoosier women in STEM through its #LLA20for20 Campaign.

    “I am so blessed to be able to live this dream, be trusted with this event, and help our community grow,” Lauryn concluded.

  • 01/29/2020 8:31 AM | Anonymous

    Yolanda Ward-Jones was recently recognized as the Women & Hi Tech Volunteer of the Year at the 2019 Holiday Networking Event held at The Montage. Since she discovered the organization at its 20th Anniversary Celebration, Ward-Jones has provided programming volunteerism for several Women & Hi Tech events, including Ignite Your Superpower (IYS), the OperationALL male allies training event, among others.

    “I was invited in April to attend the Women & Hi Tech 20th Anniversary Celebration event. The timing was so great because I knew last year I wanted to get more involved with some organization. I knew I could do more,” Ward-Jones said. “The 20th Anniversary Celebration program was so organized and so impressive that evening. I knew Women & Hi Tech was what I wanted to pursue and where I wanted to engage to give my time. Since then, every chance I had, I attended and showed up where I could.”

    Ward-Jones has worked at Sallie Mae for 30 years and has been part of Information Technology most of that time. Today she is a Scrum Master leading two teams through the development and deployment of key features and improvements in Application Development software. And at the end of each sprint we host team iteration reviews/demos, where each developer shares the work they completed during the specified sprint. “I keep the work moving forward, but also help us look back,” she said. “I come up with interesting retrospective exercises for the team as we reach landmarks, commitments, and business objectives.

    Ward-Jones went through training and became fully certified as an Advanced Scrum Master when the waterfall environment changed to agile. “Today, we are turning over code so quickly every ten days I need to find a new path to a new set of goals. Or rather, make sure my team is not encountering blockers on their path. When something comes up that is a barrier, there already wasn’t time for it to be there. We work together to focus, meet goals, and have fun.”

    She pointed to the recent college students that were part of the Sallie Mae summer internship program as examples of the kind of potential that can be nurtured with the right opportunities. “Internships and job shadowing allow students to see what it’s like to work in a STEM environment. The students learn about the kind of challenges and collaboration that make the work rewarding,” she said. She believes creating more of these opportunities is one important step that companies can take to accelerate STEM innovation and cultivate diverse talent. In addition to her volunteer work with Women & Hi Tech, Yolanda has also gotten involved in Women of Agile Indy. There she has become a mentor to a young woman who has just become a Scrum Master.

    One of the reasons Yolanda wanted to step up and get more engaged in the STEM community is the feeling that change is underway and that it’s gaining momentum in Indianapolis. “I have recently met many women in technology, which is very encouraging that more women will have the opportunity to advance into IT leadership positions. I hope awards, like this honor from Women & Hi Tech, and just showing up and being engaged exemplifies why more women should be in STEM leadership,” she shared.

    “I also started thinking about opportunities to help kids in the K-12 school systems learn about the basics of coding and what it looks like when it’s applied,” she said. That curiosity drove her investment in a product called Smart Gurlz, as seen on Shark Tank. These dolls appeal to both genders as an opportunity to achieve missions by completing coding tasks. “I love talking on an individual level and taking action as a volunteer, but I also loved the idea of an opportunity to leverage my financial power to bring a product to the market that could help kids appreciate the basics of robotics and software without me even needing to be involved at all.”

    All of this engagement points back to the reason Yolanda has thrown herself gung-ho into the Women & Hi Tech organization and won the award for 2019 Volunteer of the Year. “When I look at Women & Hi Tech, I wish I had encountered an organization like this many years ago in my STEM journey. I now realize that I did not get full exposure to the STEM opportunities available to me. As a blue-collar person or young woman or both, you need someone to want to get that message to you. You need someone to see your potential and encourage you in math, science, engineering, technology, or whatever industry of the future you haven’t been exposed to yet,” Yolanda said. “The community service opportunities and professional development opportunities that Women & Hi Tech provide to support women STEM professionals and to expose young girls to STEM represent the full spectrum of what someone could want from a professional nonprofit organization.”

    Yolanda, Women & Hi Tech deeply appreciates your energy and the commitment you bring to our organization. Thank you for all you do to elevate and promote our mission, and congratulations again for being named the 2019 Women & Hi Tech Volunteer of the Year.

  • 12/31/2019 8:30 AM | Anonymous

    2020 Leading Light AwardsWomen & Hi Tech is pleased to announce Andrea Morehead, the seven-time Emmy Award-winning anchor for WTHR Channel 13 Eyewitness News, will be emceeing the Leading Light Awards and Scholarship Gala (LLAs) on October 1, 2020 at the Indiana Roof Ballroom. This signature, biennial event by Women & Hi Tech focuses on celebrating Indiana women in STEM - women who are risk-takers, leaders, educators, mentors, and those who are changing our local STEM landscape. During this 20th Anniversary of the first Leading Light Awards – originally the Spotlight Awards - and the incorporation of the organization, Women & Hi Tech will also award at least $20,000 of scholarships and grants to women in Indiana pursuing STEM fields through its #LLA20for20 campaign. In addition, and new this year at the 2020 LLAs, Women & Hi Tech will honor our male allies, as well as our diversity, equity, and inclusion champions.

    Prior to the 2020 Women & Hi Tech Leading Light Awards and Scholarship Gala, Ms. Morehead has field-anchored major events, including the 2009 Inauguration of President Barack Obama, the 2002 Final Four in Atlanta, the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, the 2000 NBA Championships in Los Angeles, and the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Throughout her esteemed career, Ms. Morehead has also worked as a production intern, reporter, assistant producer, and assignment editor for television stations all across the country. Ms. Morehead earned her B.A. in Communications/Journalism graduating summa cum laude from Howard University and a Doctorate of Jurisprudence from Indiana University Maurer School of Law in Bloomington, IN.

    Women & Hi Tech is thrilled to have Ms. Morehead’s engagement and support of the 2020 Leading Light Awards and Scholarship Gala as we celebrate female STEM leaders, and the benefits and advantages of “equity and inclusion” on the robust pipeline of talent in the Indiana STEM community. The mission of Women & Hi Tech is to change the landscape of women represented in STEM to be equally inclusive to all.  

    About Andrea Morehead:
    Ms. Morehead came to WTHR from WOOD TV-8 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she anchored the evening and weekend newscasts. Prior to her stint at WOOD, Andrea worked for WXIN in Indianapolis. Ms. Morehead began her television career as a Production Intern at Koppel Communications in Washington DC where she researched topics and aided producers in developing "The Koppel Report" for Capital Cities/ABC. Later, Ms. Morehead switched gears and worked as a Management Council Law Clerk for the National Football League in New York. Ms. Morehead was also a reporter/anchor for the weekday evening newscast with WGMC TV in Worchester, Massachusetts.

    A Hoosier native from Anderson, Indiana, Ms. Morehead knows the Central Indiana community well, and is also actively involved in numerous philanthropic organizations, including The R.E.D. (Reaching to End Disparities) Alliance, the Community Health Foundation’s Giving Gig, Cancer Support Community’s Laughing Matters, and the Susan G. Komen Central Indiana Race for the Cure. Notably, publicly, and proudly, Ms. Morehead fought and won her triple negative breast cancer battle, “ringing the bell” on December 13, 2018. Ms. Morehead is also married to Archibald Allen, and they have a teenage son, Ean.

    About Women & Hi Tech:
    Women & Hi Tech is a 501(c)3 charitable organization founded in Indianapolis in 1999 by Eli Lilly scientist, Joyce Gustafson, and Indiana University academic, Georgia Miller. Over the last two decades, Women & Hi Tech has blazed a trail for supporting, recognizing, and advancing outstanding women and girls pursuing STEM fields in Indiana. In that time, Women & Hi Tech has become a pillar of the local STEM community through its educational, professional development, recognition, mentoring, and networking programs, which provide valuable resources to champion collegiate and career women, along with STEM exposure opportunities for K-12 girls. A membership of almost 2000 professionals and students operated by an all-volunteer working Board of Directors and Emeritus, Women & Hi Tech is the only non-profit organization founded and focused in Indiana that is dedicated to changing the landscape of women represented in STEM to be equally inclusive to all.

    Sponsorships of Women & Hi Tech and/or the 2020 LLAs:
    Women & Hi Tech has several sponsorship opportunities, including becoming a corporate, collegiate, or non-profit sponsor of the organization. Alternatively or additionally, there are multiple opportunities to support a portion of the 2020 Leading Light Awards and Scholarship Gala event, as a Signature, Table, Candy, Bar, or Scholarship sponsor. With an expected attendance of over 700 guests, the 2020 LLAs is an outstanding opportunity for your organization to gain, maintain, and/or enhance brand recognition as an Indiana STEM trailblazer, to meet and/or connect with Indiana’s other leading STEM companies, organizations, and professionals, and to celebrate and inspire your employees, clients, or customers. Click HERE to review the 2020 Leading Light Awards sponsorship opportunities and/or email Women & Hi Tech Corporate Engagement Director, Joy Neely, at corpsponsor@womenandhitech.org for more information about sponsorship.

  • 12/28/2019 11:02 AM | Anonymous

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

    As 2019 comes to a close, it provides us an opportunity to reflect on the accomplishments and achievements of this illustrious organization, Women & Hi Tech. 2019 began with Women & Hi Tech declaring a year-long tribute to our 20-year history with a theme of “Celebrating our Past and Investing in our Future.” From launching this monthly “Grown from STEM” newsletter featuring Board profiles, Passport To Hi-Tech at Connor Prairie, our Spring Networking Event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and multiple Executive Women’s Forums ending with Jessica Gendron discussing “Putting your Self-Confidence into Action” to Ignite Your Superpower at IUPUI, the Fall Retreat at French Lick, OperationALL for our male allies, and our Holiday Networking Event at the Montage, we have spent this year celebrating the history and legacy of this fine organization.

    To invest in our future, Women & Hi Tech exceeded our goal of raising $20,000 and awarded over $30,000 of scholarships and professional development grants to future female STEM leaders during our 20th Anniversary Celebration in August. This level of annual financial impact was a first for Women & Hi Tech, along with my election as the first Woman of Color and/or African-American to serve as President. Women & Hi Tech has also made significant strides in expanding its collaborative impact in this state by forming and/or capitalizing on significant partnerships with like-minded local organizations including The Girl Scouts of Central Indiana, Pass the Torch for Women, Girls, Inc. of Greater Indianapolis, IvyWorks, and Every Girl Can STEM. We look forward to identifying opportunities to continue to grow supportive partnerships as Women & Hi Tech continues to change the landscape of women represented in STEM to be equally inclusive to all.

    And 2020 is going to be another strong year for Women & Hi Tech, as we continue to focus on increasing and/or improving diversity, equity, and inclusion of women in STEM in Indiana. Notably, Women & Hi Tech will kick off our 2020 programming with our first “Special Edition” Executive Women’s Forum entitled “A Double Whammy or Triple Threat” focused on the Disparity of Diversity Amongst Women in STEM on Feb 5th, where we will address topics, such as privilege and empathy. Women & Hi Tech’s Leading Light Awards on October 1, 2020 will be bigger and better than ever as we also recognize our male allies and our equity and inclusion champions. But for now, on behalf of our all-volunteer working Board of Directors, I would like to send heartfelt appreciation out to all of you for your dedicated support of Women & Hi Tech’s mission over the last 20 years, now, into this new decade, and the distant future.

    In this 12th edition of “Grown from STEM,” Women & Hi Tech would like to introduce you to our board members who have specialized in education at the collegiate and university levels. We invite you to meet Georgia Miller, a visionary whose ideas and action culminated into this very organization as a co-founder and Past President of Women & Hi Tech. Before retirement and beyond establishing this auspicious organization, Georgia was a recognized and esteemed leader building collaborative and productive relationships between Indiana businesses and higher education institutions. Women & Hi Tech’s Collegiate Outreach Director, Merri Beth Lavagnino, also had an extensive career in information security and privacy in academia before recently transitioning to an executive corporate role. Both ladies have been key in connecting Indiana academic and business institutions. Please read more about Georgia and Merri Beth and how their backgrounds and passions for connecting business and academia to support women in STEM fuels their support and involvement in Women & Hi Tech.

    Happy Holidays and Happy New Year Everyone!

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

  • 12/28/2019 11:01 AM | Anonymous

    In 1999 when Georgia Miller invited a group of women to meet in the IUPUI library, none of them knew they were part of what would one day be called STEM. They were all women working in business IT or information systems roles; one or two women per company among many male employees. But the gender gap wasn’t the only potential Miller saw to draw the women in the room together.

    “My focus in education has been connecting business and academia,” Miller explained. “When I saw the room full of people and later heard from other women who couldn’t make it but wanted to meet again, I knew we had something of value. Business people don’t tend to stay engaged with academics. That combination is what really gave us the strength.”

    After a few meetings, the group decided to officially organize as Women & Hi Tech, with Miller and fellow founding member, Joyce Boadt, serving as co-Presidents. “That’s not a great idea as a matter of practice, but we both had a technical side and a people side so it worked well for us. She was finding the biology and science pieces of the foundation. Because I was on the business side, I knew lots of people in business, education, and information systems.”

    Miller skipped programming and went straight to the systems part of early information technology. “Systems thinking or systems perspective is the most useful tool I could give anyone,” she says. “You can’t make decisions in isolation without looking at the environment and the intended and unintended consequences of your decisions.” She believes the work of Women & Hi Tech today is directly related to the potential for better systems thinking. “STEM is how you expand the environment,” she said. “You can add data and science to every other industry in life. Informatics is how it came into shape at IU—this idea that information and use of analytics around data is part of every profession.”

    Miller was hired in a tenure track position at IU Bloomington Kelley School of Business in 1976. At that time, she and two other women hired the same year were the first women to ever be hired to tenure track positions in the School. After the first years, she integrated Business School administration with faculty roles, and in 1993 she made a transition to the administrative side of academia. Georgia became the Executive Director of Integrated Technologies at IUPUI and transitioned through four other roles before transferring to IUPUC in Columbus. In 2010, she was awarded Outstanding Woman Full-Time Faculty Leader at IUPUI, and on her retirement from IU in 2016 the Business Advisory Committee created a scholarship in her name for students who exemplify systems thinking skills.

    When asked to reflect on the lessons of her over 40-year STEM career in Central Indiana, Georgia says “The thing that has been most important to me is mentoring. Encouraging young women to find a home that works in their world.” She has been amazed and proud to see the strides in outreach that Women & Hi Tech has made to mentor women & young girls and believes that the organization will continue to facilitate opportunity for all backgrounds.

    “As our group has grown right along with the importance of STEM, our recognition of all the categories that includes has been impressive. I know we will continue to intentionally seek opportunities to recognize and encourage those from business and academic backgrounds, to promote members of all genders, creeds, and walks of life,” Georgia said. “The organization is doing an amazing job of this already and is only headed to greater heights. We all want the same thing in our hearts and now have to model the behavior of integration so it’s no longer women vs men, us vs them, but a community where we all work together.”

    LinkedIn Profile

  • 12/28/2019 11:00 AM | Anonymous

    Merri Beth Lavagnino caught her STEM bug where many passions for knowledge are inspired—in a library. In her case this was the library of Temple University, where in the early 1980’s Lavagnino was tasked with helping digitize the library’s punch card system. “Since I was in a library, I was surrounded by women doing tech. For the first half of my career, most of the people I knew doing information technology were women. It never occurred to me there were reasons women like me in other places might need to be encouraged.”

    As a child, Lavagnino got the same impression that women had a rightful place in STEM from her mother, who enrolled at Indiana University in 1949 and graduated with a degree in chemistry. She got a job at Eli Lilly, where she met Lavagnino’s father. “When she got pregnant later in the 1950s, they forced her to quit,” Merri Beth shared. “She told us that story a lot. Even after us kids were in school and she went and got her master’s and got re-hired by Lilly, she never forgot. Interestingly, she never talked about men not recognizing her contributions,” Lavagnino added, “but that’s what you hear women struggle with today in lots of STEM roles. We are not fighting for rights like that ability to work at all or to get paid maternity leave. I hear more talk of unspoken and under the radar barriers today.”

    As she chose to focus her expertise in information security and privacy at the university level, Lavagnino left the library to take a role at Indiana University. Up the ladder, she found herself surrounded by male peers. That is when she started to relate more to the stories of other women in tech and their struggles even on an administrative level. “In 2005 when the Office of Women’s Affairs reached out to me and asked for ideas about how to help women in these roles, I jumped at the opportunity to sign up.” Through her network she found Women & Hi Tech in 2009. She got engaged as a volunteer and supported the organization’s efforts. In 2018, she joined the corporate engagement committee. “We conducted a survey of our corporate sponsors to learn what they want and need from their sponsorship, and how we can work together to take Women & Hi Tech to the next level,” Lavagnino said. “One thing we learned is that many sponsors are willing to host Women & Hi Tech events at their workplaces. We’re excited to roll out a pilot event in 2020 and provide members more exposure to the diverse, world-class STEM companies in the Indianapolis area.”

    While the committee work was wrapping up, Lavagnino saw an open board position for collegiate outreach director. She didn’t even know the position existed before, but applied, and was elected to take the reins of Women & Hi Tech’s work with Indiana colleges and universities. “Darcy Lee was president when I was nominated, and she charged me to take our reach beyond Indianapolis to all corners of Indiana. I have now connected with every college in the state. I have also set up panels featuring Women & Hi Tech members from industries like engineering, IT, and science for many colleges and universities within the state. Our member-panelists share experiences as professionals, and when possible speak alongside alumni from the host university.” It’s a great opportunity for Indiana collegiate women in STEM to be exposed to Women & Hi Tech members who are leading female STEM practitioners in this state, and to learn from them tools and tips to successfully navigate corporate and academic STEM cultures and environments after graduation

    Lavagnino was also excited to see the results of her collegiate outreach manifest in the Women & Hi Tech 20th Anniversary scholarship applications. “I shared our 20th Anniversary scholarship opportunity with every college in the state, and we awarded over $25,000 of scholarships to students from Notre Dame to IU Southeast--the very top to the very bottom of our state. That doesn’t just mean our reach has extended, but also sends back the signal that there are incredible women rising in STEM careers and education across Indiana.” Women & Hi Tech is excited to invest in developing a robust pipeline of female STEM talent throughout Indiana.

    Merri Beth thinks Women & Hi Tech has an important role to play in continuing that momentum. “The events we host like Ignite Your Superpower and Passport to Hi-Tech don’t just expose girls to STEM opportunities, they connect those opportunities to college campuses in our community. That young person carries the memory of their experience every time they pass that landmark.” She went on to acknowledge this is also a deep responsibility. “Current members should feel fortunate to have connected with this organization that is built on 20 years of extracurricular volunteer work by professional women and men dedicated to our mission. Even after a long time as a volunteer, it did not occur to me that Women & Hi Tech does not have a single staff person until I joined the board.” One of Lavagnino’s hopes for the organization 20 years from now is to have transitioned to a more formal infrastructure with staff members, an office, and an executive director. “That would enable Women & Hi Tech to respond to some needs faster, set more goals, and expand our programming to reach more women, girls, and members of the STEM community.”

    For now, as the organization continues to be operated by an all-volunteer working Board of Directors, Lavagnino is confident the organization will continue to exceed its mission in the years ahead. “Our events allow people to share experiences and explore perspectives,” she said. “That value is why our group has lasted 20 years and continues to grow today.”

    LinkedIn Profile

  • 11/30/2019 10:02 PM | Anonymous

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

    I hope this message finds you all doing well and spending some quality time with loved ones. This is the time of year to step back and reflect on the many blessings, people, and great things happening around you.

    As I think about Women & Hi Tech’s 20th Anniversary year, I am proud and grateful of all the accomplishments of our organization. This has been a BIG year for Women & Hi Tech, from our Executive Women’s Forums to the Spring Networking Event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Passport to Hi Tech, Ignite Your Superpower, our fabulous 20th Anniversary Event, Celebrating Our Past and Investing in Our Future, while giving over $30,000 in scholarships and grants to extremely deserving young ladies and women pursuing STEM degrees in Indiana. These events were followed by the Fall Retreat in French Lick, our 2nd Annual male allies event, OperationALLTM – Lead Like an Ally, as well as countless other womens’, girls’, and equity and diversity events our Board of Directors and members support regularly by attending, volunteering, presenting, and speaking on panels. The accomplishments of Women & Hi Tech in advancing our mission of changing the landscape of women represented in STEM to be equally inclusive to all is nothing short of amazing!

    All of this is only possible because of the hundreds of passionate and enthusiastic women and men that volunteer their time and talents at our events and programs each year. In addition, we are so thankful for our dedicated annual corporate, event, and scholarship/grant sponsors who support Women & Hi Tech and our mission. To our members, volunteers, sponsors, and my fellow Board Members, THANK YOU for all you do and for continuing to support and believe in Women & Hi Tech’s mission. Because of all of you, Women & Hi Tech is an organization that continues to thrive and make a positive impact on equity and inclusion in the STEM fields here in Indiana.

    In this eleventh edition of “Grown from STEM,” Women & Hi Tech would like to introduce you to Carol Ganz, the Board of Directors’ Membership Administrator and Active Emeritus Member, Rajinder Heir. Carol and Rajinder are both in the technology field, but took very different paths to get there. Both of these women have made major career successes, including significant philanthropic contributions at Women & Hi Tech, to advance equity and inclusion of women in the technology field. Please read more about Carol and Rajinder and how their backgrounds, technical aptitude, and passion for equity and inclusion inspires those around them and fuels their support and involvement in Women & Hi Tech.

    With Gratitude,

    Rebecca Bormann
    Women & Hi Tech Board of Directors

  • 11/30/2019 10:01 PM | Anonymous

    For many Women & Hi Tech members, they pursued a STEM field from a young age. However, for unique individuals like Carol Ganz, the journey to the STEM industry has been a lifelong and interesting one.

    “I actually graduated college with a degree in agricultural marketing,” said Ganz. “I had original goals of joining the Chicago Board of Trade. I also eventually became a professional chef and worked 12 years for a heating and cooling company. Eventually a friend of mine said ‘Come work for my tech company.’ I said, ‘Doing what?’ and she said, ‘Don’t worry, we will figure it out.’”

    That leap of faith into the unknown world of software sales and development has proven to be a good one for Ganz. Since joining Indianapolis-based Six Feet Up in 2006, Ganz has served in a variety of roles. However, the majority of her tenure has been spent as Director of Client Experiences.

    “I started as a project manager,” said Ganz. “I was handling some of the office management, such as in the construction and renovation of our new offices. But because of my people skills, I ended up coming into sales. Now I’m focused on client experiences and client relationships. I want to make sure everyone gets that white glove experience, from the smallest to the largest client. In the end, I’m all about being an advocate.”

    It’s that same commitment to advocacy that drove Ganz to join up with Women & Hi Tech roughly six years ago. She spoke about her love for helping and interacting with those around her, particularly when mentorship is involved.

    “I wanted to be somewhere you could really make a difference. That’s one of the same qualities that drew me to the organization, getting to go and talk to people, help people, and mentor them. In fact, it’s great even if it’s accidental mentoring. You could just be having a meeting with someone, and suddenly something you’ve said ends up moving the needle for them in a positive direction.”

    In her second year on the Board of Women & Hi Tech, Ganz has truly utilized and enhanced her people and organizational skills as the Membership Administration Director. Retrospectively, Ganz’s board tenure began as a voluntarily assumed non-voting board role to assist the Board of Directors to operate the group’s member management system ensuring that sponsors and members alike got the most out of their membership experience. Ganz showed such expertise, leadership, and value in this voluntary role with her management and interpersonal skills that the Board created a new voting position that Ganz currently holds. In this board role, Ganz leads and supports the operational infrastructure by which Women & Hi Tech interacts with corporate and individual members in the community. All along the way, Ganz has found the community to be one of the most important aspects of Women & Hi Tech.

    “I knew that I needed to find my tribe. I needed people who spoke my same language, people who knew how to help me get my feet under me as far as the sales side of things go,” said Ganz. “Women & Hi Tech lets you meet people in your community, and often times those folks are on your same level.”

    That sense of camaraderie and working with your peers has blended effortlessly with the organization’s dedication to helping members find their voice and their position. This understanding of independence, agency, and personal choice is what Ganz thinks sets Women & Hi Tech apart from other organizations.

    Women & Hi Tech realizes that “[y]ou don’t always have to work upwards to increase your span or impact. Horizontal movement and lateral connection can be and often are just as important or effective. Not everyone wants to move up a corporate ladder. They just want to do something that they have passion for and be an agent of change and improvement in their environments or communities,” said Ganz. “Every little thing you do can affect someone, even if it feels like nothing to you.” Ganz points to Women & Hi Tech’s passion for helping others and growing inclusivity as cornerstones of the organization’s mission and future.

    “Everyone has become more aware that what they’re doing affects others and folks are more and more understanding of the importance of being inclusive. We discuss these needs all the time. For example, Women & Hi Tech’s OperationALL is a program to invite male leaders to hear what others experience in the STEM workplace and how to be a champion of increased inclusivity. Even our Executive Women’s Forum is based around networking with peers from other organizations. There’s always that importance of reaching out to those around you to help people grow. That’s my passion, and I get to explore it in this organization.”

    Over the last several years, Women & Hi Tech focused its mission on diversity, equity, and inclusion of all women in STEM, including at all ranks and reach of any organization, including our own. For example, Women & Hi Tech currently has its first woman of color as President, a clear demonstration of the organization’s dedication to diversity at all ranks of our own organization. And, while we are nowhere close to where we’d like to be, Women & Hi Tech continues to make purposeful advances to ensure that our organization continues to include, expose, inspire, support, and promote all women in STEM.

    When asked about the next 20 years of Women & Hi Tech, Ganz wants Women & Hi Tech to continue the journey for inclusivity, regardless of where on the gender spectrum folks may fall. “I want to see gender and sexual orientation not be a discussion, but an accepted inclusion metric across the board. Whether you identify as bi, queer, pan, or gender fluid, I want it to be a non-discussion and for everyone to be honored for who they are. If we can make Women & Hi Tech a safe space for all, including gender fluid and non-cis people, I’ll be happy,” said Ganz. “We need inclusive to include everybody.”

    LinkedIn Profile

  • 11/30/2019 10:00 PM | Anonymous

    Variety is the spice of life for Rajinder Heir. The Women & Hi Tech Active Emeritus Board member and former Director of Corporate Sponsorships has led a life in STEM that weaves its way through a plethora of sectors and life experiences. Though Heir first joined the board of Women & Hi Tech in 2013, the Indianapolis-based C-suite tech executive has been familiar with the organization since its inception.

    “I was on the membership roster several years before joining the Board,” said Heir. “I was struck by the professional breadth of members, as well as the opportunities for networking.”

    Once Heir joined the board, she quickly found a home and purpose working to strengthen and grow the partnerships that help drive Women & Hi Tech. While the organization always knew the importance of the sponsorship process, Heir saw a chance to make a difference by revamping the materials used to cultivate sponsor relationships. “I saw a need for promotional materials that would put the organization’s best foot forward,” she said. “The foundation built by others was a good jumping off point. I set out to create a new stakeholder experience to communicate the value of engagement with Women & Hi Tech.”

    When asked about her inspiration, Heir said one word comes to mind, “Empathy, “recalling how she felt for a governmental agency relying on IT services she was managing as COO during a data center shutdown. Similarly, “I immediately put myself in the shoes of these businesses and organizations, some of whom may not have heard of us. It was my responsibility to be a brand ambassador for Women & Hi Tech in the Corporate Sponsorships role.” In doing so, Heir utilized her leadership skills and professional relationships to help grow awareness and exposure of the organization resulting in increased corporate sponsorships for the organization.

    Though Heir didn’t have specific STEM role models growing up, she found encouragement from her father who shared his early experiences as a new immigrant from India to the United Kingdom. “My dad arrived in the UK with no English language skills and endeavored to advance his family in challenging times. Myself, I didn’t learn English until I was 5, but it quickly became my favorite school subject, even in college. By happenstance, I met with an education and career advisor, who referred me to a technology program that I was accepted into.”

    Heir said it didn’t take long for her interest in the tech industry at-large to grow. “I became consumed by writing code. The structure and logic of it resonated with me.” With a Bachelor’s in Computer Technology with Honors, Heir’s career to date has spanned a variety of fields, which include telecoms, insurance, a high tech software start-up, non-profit, consulting, and the government sector. In particular, after a professional stint in government as Chief Operations Officer of a large IT environment with over 7000 users, Heir has found her most recent position at ESI Technology Advisors, a local long-standing veteran-owned leader in IT solutions and consulting.

    Heir’s professional leadership experiences also fueled her engagement in the Indianapolis community. Her insights about the local community were particularly enhanced by her experience in the competitive Stanley K. Lacy (SKL) Executive Leadership Series and the FBI Citizens Academy program. “I hold these two paradigm shifting community leadership programs in high regard. Each had an impact on my outlook, especially as it pertains to the local community.” In addition to her commitment to Women & Hi Tech, Heir has served on the board of Girls Inc., as Chair of the Technology Task Force and on the Technology Committee for Park Tudor School.

    As a regular mentor to students pursuing STEM, Heir recently had a chance meeting with a young mentee that reinforced the current positioning of Women & Hi Tech. “I was mentoring a male IU student who was close to graduation. I thought about his desired career in tech, and realized that we need to meet men where they are, especially those aspiring middle managers.” “In more than one hiring capacity, I’ve seen first-hand the challenges of gaining a diverse applicant pool for roles, like Network Engineer, for example.”

    Women & Hi Tech continues to recognize the critical importance of male allies in the leadership journey for women in STEM. Heir also recognizes and appreciates Women & Hi Tech’s current focus on increasing engagement of male allies in middle and executive management of women in STEM through its OperationALL program. In this regard, the organization has also created an OperationALL Male Allies Award that will have an inaugural presentation at the Leading Light Awards on October 1, 2020.

    When asked about her hopes for the future of Women & Hi Tech, Heir said she wants to see men take advantage of the broad array of opportunities to get involved with this organization through volunteer, board, and/or committee positions. “We have an opportunity to shine a spotlight on men who endorse the mission of Women & Hi Tech; those that walk the talk and practice what they preach.” While larger corporations often have internal programs to support such diversity and inclusion efforts, we also need community organizations like Women & Hi Tech to engage and recognize our male allies in small businesses, startups, academic, governmental, and non-profit STEM sectors. Diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts are important for the benefit of all individuals and businesses in the Indiana STEM community.

    LinkedIn Profile

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