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


  • 03/29/2021 8:00 AM | Anonymous
    Melissa has been a member of Women & Hi Tech for just over a decade and is now a board member emeritus of the organization. She became an active member of the organization around 2011 with the Rolls-Royce corporate membership. After transitioning to Roche Diagnostics at the end of 2014, she was presented with the opportunity to apply to the Women & Hi Tech Board of Directors. Her biggest hope is that more women will take advantage of the organization’s programming and networking opportunities.

    During her role as the K-12 Outreach Director, she spent numerous hours reaching external partners, growing their involvement, and getting Women & Hi Tech in front of the community at a variety of STEM events, such as the SEFI Celebrate Science exhibition. To support this increased community engagement, Lavella and her team were able to come up with a binary code activity to increase female representation in STEM. When asked about the details of the activity, Lavella said, “We created a sustainable STEM activity that involved making necklaces out of two different colored beads. The STEM element included using binary code to translate letters into various sequences of beads. It was a way to show our girls how computers translate letters into binary.”

    Lavella’s impact on Women & Hi Tech and the STEM community extends beyond her role as Outreach Director from 2015 to 2018. As an engineer, Lavella believes that engineering allows for different perspectives across several industries. When asked about the impact of her role in the engineering field, she said, “Engineering’s presence in STEM is about representation and the opportunity for new and innovative ideas. We can’t all be engineers. It takes a variety of experiences to solve the problems that exist in STEM.” She continued to stay connected to the organization through her company, Roche. She was able to leverage engagement opportunities such as the Leading Light Awards to help launch an annual corporate sponsorship. She is most proud of the additional development and networking opportunities that women at her company have been able to experience due to the partnership. Specifically, Lavella is proud that many of the women at Roche have experienced a heightened sense of visibility due to involvement in Women & Hi Tech, which has led to more women learning about the organization as well getting involved in its programming and initiatives.

    Of the questions that need answering in the STEM community, one that stands out the most to Lavella is How do we increase exposure for girls and families? “From the time I joined Women & Hi Tech board of directors in 2015 to now, a pivotal moment of change in the organization occurred when we updated our mission and vision statement” Lavella said “to be very clear about changing the landscape to make things more equitable in STEM. It’s not just enough to expose more women to STEM. It’s also about changing the rules of the game to create a more equitable scenario for all, especially those who are underrepresented.”

    Because groups like Women & Hi Tech are focused on diversifying STEM talent, Indianapolis has grown its reputation as a tech city. There are great universities that are intentional about keeping talent in the state, and because of the amount of effort put into this growing industry, more students and youth are getting involved in the field. “As an organization, we have become more intentional about getting women and women of color in the forefront of STEM. We built enough confidence to be more radical. We are not afraid to be bold in our pursuit of equity in the STEM community. Twenty years from now, I hope that keeping our small knit community feeling within Women & Hi Tech is our biggest challenge, because we have grown so much with additional members and supporters. I also hope that Central Indiana continues to grow with STEM opportunities that create significant movement for women and other marginalized groups.”

  • 03/26/2021 1:00 PM | Anonymous

    Women & Hi Tech is celebrating Women’s History Month 2021 by reflecting on our organization’s history. As the only Indiana-founded 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focused on women in STEM in existence for over 20 years, we have had significant impact to date. But when we reflect on the last 3-5 years in particular, we are ecstatic to see the tangible impact achieved by our intentional focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

    This March, we are celebrating the legacy of our past and the promise of our future with the release of a new Women & Hi Tech logo, in which we hope all women see themselves reflected. From age, race, gender expression, sexual orientation, and all facets of diversity in between, what unites our members is their passion for our mission - to make the landscape of women in STEM equally inclusive to all.

    Let’s explore how our focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion came to fruition, and the intentional and purposeful steps we have taken in recent years to amplify our mission of inclusion and belonging of all women in STEM in Indiana.

    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 mission has included networking and professional development 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.

    Current State of Women & Hi Tech

    Though 2020 was a year of turmoil, uncertainty, and unrest in our country, it was also a year of progress for Women & Hi Tech as we enabled real change toward inclusion in our organization. Last year, we had more diverse representation in our scholarship and award applicants, judges, and recipients than ever before in our organization’s history. In a national culture of inequity, disparity, and disadvantage for women, our organization continued to provide a safe haven for female professionals by elevating our diverse members, colleagues, and peers for recognition of their STEM excellence and community impact.

    Given the circumstances, our achievements in 2020 is rather impressive!

    • 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
    • Our first-ever virtual Executive Women’s Forum was held in April 2020 and focused on Leveraging the Gift of Feedback. This event had over 500 registered attendees from all over the world - record attendance.
    • 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 and 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.
    • Women & Hi Tech also 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 white females.
    • We introduced 2 new programs, our Click Side Chats & the Women & Hi Tech Quarterly Book Club. These virtual events enabled members to stay connected, engaged, and encouraged during stay at home orders and social distancing.
    • Women & Hi Tech created, held and/or participated in more community events than ever before, totaling 50 virtual events throughout the year.
      • Our signature annual OperationALLTM event was held in October and was designed especially for our male allies.
      • Our Virtual Holiday Networking Pajama Party raised $3,000, and 100% of the proceeds were donated to the DaySpring Center.
    • We celebrated the 20th Anniversary of our Leading Light Awards and Scholarship Gala by hosting our first-ever virtual gala in October. Over 500 global guests registered, as we awarded over $58,000 of scholarships and grants to 17 women and girls in Indiana and honored 13 outstanding Indiana STEM professionals with our Leading Light Awards.

    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.

    Our membership is almost 2000 strong; each member with a unique background, set of skills, and talents to help this organization of peers succeed. Our all-volunteer working Board of Directors is committed to advancing our mission and serving our Indiana STEM community. Though every STEM field is unique, the barriers women face go beyond the technical aspects of any STEM career to unite us in vision and the intention of creating a world where those obstacles no longer exist. As reflected by our new logo, our organization’s focus – today and since its inception – remains focused on the women in STEM, particularly those needing a resource of empowerment and encouragement. Every day we seek to identify and engage a growing number of women, a diverse group of STEM professionals, and leaders from across Indiana to help promote and support our cause.

    We are Women & Hi Tech, committed to changing the landscape of women represented in STEM to be equally inclusive to all for over two decades. Won’t you join us and participate in our historical legacy?

  • 03/24/2021 8:00 AM | Anonymous

    Founded in 1999 in Indianapolis by a female scientist from Eli Lilly & Co. and a female academician from Indiana University, Women & Hi Tech exists to change the landscape of women represented in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) to be equally inclusive to all. To achieve our goal, we work to mentor, advance, recognize, and connect female STEM students and professionals with each other and our community in Indiana. Our members and sponsors represent a wide array of STEM fields, including life sciences, accounting, engineering, psychology, statistics, and information technology.

    Women & Hi Tech is run by an all-volunteer, working Board of Directors and 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.

    The call for nominations closes April 25, 2021. Multiple nominations from a single candidate are permitted. All nominations will be reviewed by the Nomination Committee. Nominees must be Women & Hi Tech members in good standing at the time of initial voting and must remain in good standing throughout their tenure. New board members take office on July 1, 2021.

    To apply or nominate an individual, please review the job descriptions and policies linked below and complete the online form by April 25, 2021.

  • 02/28/2021 8:02 AM | Anonymous

    Dear Members, Sponsors, Volunteers, Supporters and Friends,

    February has been an exciting month for Women & Hi Tech, and we hope it has been for you too! Women & Hi Tech members have been meeting every other Wednesday during our ClickSide Chat meetings held for a small group of registered members. These interactive sessions provide a mid-week touch-point for Women & Hi Tech members to connect, engage, and encourage each other via a moderated discussion format related to a respective topic hosted by Women & Hi Tech Board Members Upcoming topics include a check-in on 2021 goals and resolutions, self-care best practices and a session focused on interviewing tips & best practices. We are also reading The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America's Enemies by Jason Fagone for our upcoming Virtual Book Club Meeting on March 9th from 6 pm to 7 pm. Spoiler alert: the woman who smashed codes is from Indiana! If you are not already registered for a ClickSide Chat or Book Club please visit our website womenandhitech.org/events.

    We were also delighted to host our kickoff “Special Edition” Executive Women’s Forum (EWF) of 2021 – A Casual and Crucial COVID Conversation with Indiana’s Health Commissioner- Dr Kristina Box, during Black History month and on International Day of Women and Girls in Science as declared by the United Nations General Assembly. The mission of this day is to “achieve full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls and to further achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.” We at Women & Hi Tech, would especially like to recognize and thank all of our Indiana female scientific leaders and healthcare heroes- for their many accomplishments especially accomplishments that have created solutions for problems caused by the global pandemic. Thank you!

    We honor and celebrate February as Black History month and Women & Hi Tech recognizes and celebrates African American History not just in February but year-round. This year we’d like to especially recognize all of the African American women in STEM, especially our Past President, Angela B. Freeman, and EWF Director, Linda Calvin, for making history today in our Indiana community and across the nation and the world. Thank you!

    To continue to honor and celebrate Black History month, I share with you four of innumerous African American women who have or are currently blazing trails in a STEM field.

    Yvonne Young Clark (1929-2019)

    According to BlackPast.org, Yvonne Young Clark was the first African American to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering at Howard University in 1951. She was the first woman to receive a Master’s degree in Engineering from Vanderbilt University in 1972; and, she was the first female faculty at the College of Engineering at Tennessee State University [TSU], endearing her with the title, “TSU’s First Lady of Engineering”.

    Yvonne Young Clark utilized summer breaks during her 55-year higher education career to undertake engineering jobs. She worked on recoilless weapons at Frankfort Arsenal; on Saturn 5 engines where she identified hot spots for the NASA division in Huntsville, Alabama; and receptacles for returning moon specimens to Earth at the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston. She also conducted extensive studies on refrigerants including serving as chief researcher on a project “Experimental Evaluation of the Performance of Alternative Refrigerants in Heat Pump Cycles. To learn more about Yvonne Young Clark please visit: https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/yvonne-young-clark-1929-2019/

    Dr. Jewel Plummer Cobb (1924-2017)

    As I learned on Your Dictonary.com, Dr. Jewel Plummer Cobb a cell biologist and cell physiologist is most known for her work with skin pigment, or melanin. She was an educator and researcher and contributed to the field of chemotherapy with her research on how drugs affected cancer cells. She was also a passionate advocator for women and ethnic minorities to enter into the field of science.

    In 1991, Cobb became principal investigator at Southern California Science and Engineering ACCESS Center and Network, which helps middle school and high school students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds pursue careers in engineering, mathematics, and the sciences. She continued to help in efforts to bring opportunities to minorities. In 2001, she was principal investigator for Science Technology Engineering Program (STEP) Up for Youth—ASCEND project at California State University, Los Angeles.

    For her work helping minorities discover the rewards of a career in science, Cobb received the 1993 Lifetime Achievement Award. This was given by the National Academy of Science for her contributions to the advancement of women and underrepresented minorities. Her photograph hangs in the academy's hall reserved for distinguished scientist. To learn more about Dr. Jewel Plummer Cobb please visit: https://biography.yourdictionary.com/jewel-plummer-cobb

    Angela Benton (1981-)

    Angela Benton is an American businesswoman. Benton founded NewME (acquired), the first startup accelerator for minorities globally in 2011. Through her leadership, NewME has accelerated hundreds of entrepreneurs helping the nascent companies to raise over $47 million in venture capital funding. Prior to that she launched BlackWeb 2.0 in 2007, a multimedia platform that filled a much-needed void by becoming a vital nexus for African-Americans interested in technology. She is a pioneer of diversity and one of the most important African-Americans in the technology industry.

    Today Angela Benton is currently the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Streamlytics, which uses first-party media consumption data to bring transparency to what people are streaming on today’s most popular streaming services while helping consumers own their data in the process. To learn more about Angela Benton please visit: https://www.angelabenton.co/about-angela-benton#about

    Dr. Sylvia T. Bozeman (1947-)

    Dr. Sylvia Bozeman’s professional career has primarily been spent as a member of the mathematics faculty at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. She began as an instructor in 1972, became assistant professor in 1980, an associate in 1984, and professor in 1991. Moreover, Sylvia served as Chair of Math at Spelman (1982-1993), as adjunct faculty in Math at Atlanta University (1983-85) teaching graduate mathematics/ supervising a master’s thesis, and became Director of the Center for the Scientific Applications of Mathematics (1993-present), a center she established at Spelman. In the late 1970's, Sylvia took a three-year leave of absence from Spelman to matriculate at Emory University in Atlanta where she earned a Ph.D. degree in mathematics in 1980 in Functional Analysis; her thesis title : "Representations of Generalized Inverses of Fredholm Operators." Her noted scholarly activities include several publications, funded research (by NASA, the US Office of Army Research and the Kellogg Foundation); and her recognitions, contributions, and services as a gifted teacher and presenter.

    Sylvia Bozeman also has a strong commitment to community service. The elementary students' Tutorial Program at Friendship Baptist Church is one of her favorites. Her awards, honors, and recognitions are many. They include: Distinguished Alumni of the Year Award - Al A&M Univ/NAFEO (1996); Pres. Fac. Award for Dist. Service - Spelman (1995); Dist. Teaching Award - Southeastern Section of the MAA(1995); White House Initiative Fac. Award for Excell. in Sc. & Tech. (1988); Tenneco UNCF Award for Excell in Teaching (1988) and election to Phi Beta Kappa and to Pi Mu Epsilon Honorary Math. Fraternity. In 1997 Sylvia Bozeman was selected to be the Project Shepherd of the most expensive construction project in the history of Spelman: the $25 million (+) Spelman College Science Center. Also in 1997, Sylvia Bozeman was elected Governor of the Southeastern Section of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA).

    She is the first African-American to be elected a Section Governor in MAA's eight-two year history. The MAA is the largest mathematics organization of college and university professors, and the Southeastern Section is one of the largest sections. Dr. Sylvia Bozeman's mentor is her friend of many years, Dr. Etta Falconer.

    In our 25th edition of "Grown from STEM". We are featuring Women & Hi Tech’s Collegiate Outreach Director, Merri Beth Lavagnino and dedicated member Kelley Skelton, both excelling in the field of Tech, Security, Data and Analytics. Both Lavagnino and Skelton are highly accomplished in their respective disciplines in technology and share how their unique paths and careers have led to their success and passion for tech. Lavagnino and Skelton are champions for diversity, equity, and inclusion, particularly for women in STEM, in their careers, volunteerism, and personal lives. Please read more about Lavagnino and Skelton 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 Mentor Me! award recipient, Heather Jones. Heather is an accomplished biochemical engineer in the field of fermentation and a selfless leader at Corteva Agriscience. Heather's impact in mentoring spans across ages from young children to college students to science professionals. Her approachable demeanor, articulate communication style and her own success as a scientist, engineer, and leader make her an effective mentor and inspirational role model for young women. Please watch this segment of the 2020 Virtual LLAs to learn more about what fuels Heather's passion and drive for equality for all in the STEM fields and beyond. Again, Congratulations Heather!

    Kind Regards,

    Rebecca Bormann
    President, Women & Hi Tech

  • 02/28/2021 8:01 AM | Anonymous

    Merri Beth, Collegiate Outreach Director, has been a member of Women & Hi Tech for quite a while and attributes her passion to be an active board member to a few things. When she saw that there was a call for board members, she submitted an application for the role of Collegiate Outreach Director. In her role as Collegiate Outreach Director, Lavagnino is able to network with colleges and universities within Central Indiana. This, in turn, creates the opportunity to do new things, specifically linking students, faculty, and staff to hi-tech events.

    When asked about further motivation to assume a more active role on the Women & Hi Tech board, Lavagnino said, “I am passionate about building relationships with collegiate sponsors to help determine what they need for STEM students as well as faculty and staff working at universities.” As a result, Lavagnino has held several panel sessions for college and university students to gauge interest in STEM careers. For Women & Hi Tech, the good news is that most of the members include women who are already STEM professionals and love to share their stories with students.

    Lavagnino believes that connecting professionals with students is the most valuable thing that colleges and universities want. Because of her discovery, she moderated the Lessons Learned from Women Professionals in STEM Panels which allows STEM professionals to tell their stories and best practices on what undergraduate and graduate students should do as they pursue careers in STEM. “When we have these panel discussions, men also attend, and we appreciate their presence because men can learn what is needed to support and encourage their female counterparts to be a part of the industry,” Lavagnino said in a recent interview.

    Lavagnino assisted with the scholarship awarding process for Women & Hi Tech’s 20th Anniversary in August of 2019, and then she was the scholarships chair for the organization’s Leading Light Awards in October of 2020. “I was responsible for the entire process and spent a lot of time working with a committee to make the application language more inclusive and encouraging, because our goal is to increase diversity,” she stated. While she spent time ensuring a more equitable and inclusive environment, Lavagnino also wants members of Women & Hi Tech to develop like no other.

    As the Collegiate Outreach Director for Women & Hi Tech, Lavagnino believes that members should come to events with a welcoming, growth-mindset to learn not only thoughts and ideas that apply to current STEM careers, but also to understand the careers of their peers who are working in other areas of STEM. Lavagnino goes on to say that, “When we learn more about our peer women, how we can support them, and what techniques they use that we can use to apply to our own lives, we further inspire young women who have a curiosity in STEM. Sometimes we just need to talk to someone outside of our current job, who can help us navigate those waters.”

    As the times and trends change in STEM, Lavagnino makes a priority to highlight a couple of them. “My area of STEM is information technology privacy and security compliance. The biggest barrier that I’ve noticed for women is the lack of detailed technical knowledge, as it pertains to technology,” she said in a recent interview, “prevents women from branching out and pursuing new career opportunities.” To Lavagnino, it seems that young men play with programming more as children and engage in more gaming as teenagers. “The games are written to appeal to young men,” Lavagnino asserted. She feels that women, too, can break through that barrier and get started in tech as early as young men do. If you know young women who have an inkling of interest, help them get started programming and playing with technology hardware and software earlier.

    “I think that throughout our STEM careers, all kinds of women, including diverse women, should have the same opportunities to pursue security, data, and analytics as it applies to their STEM area.” As the industry evolves, and more women pursue executive leadership positions in STEM, data analysis tools will be important to gain business insights. “Some of us work in a lab or teach a STEM discipline, but we aren’t experts in analyzing the data about our work. We’re in a time where we all have to become those experts,” Lavagnino said. “If you’re a woman or underrepresented minority pursuing a STEM career, you’ll set yourself apart with applicable coursework or even a minor or certificate in data analytics, when applying and interviewing for new opportunities.”

  • 02/28/2021 8:00 AM | Anonymous

    Kelley Skelton graduated from IU Kelley School of Business with degrees in Business Management and Human Resource Management. But by the time of graduation, she had also taught herself to code in HTML, CSS, C#, learned the Adobe Creative Design suite, and worked as a webmaster. “I like to stay busy and keep my mind sharp!” Skelton explained simply. “My now-husband was in IT, and I saw what he was doing, and knew I could do it too.” She described how the reactions of her clients and colleagues kept her motivated to continue learning. “I was able to help by doing what others called ‘magic’ but I knew was just tech. My skills allowed me to be efficient and help others achieve efficiency, too. This wasn’t something everyone knew how to do—so it was helping others that kept me motivated.”

    Today, Skelton leverages her skills in both business and IT in an IT Strategic Services role with the Business Solutions Team at Anthem, where she focuses on helping align Anthem’s strategic initiatives with Federal and State regulations. This is a role where her talent for process improvement and efficiency shines. She also serves as Chief of Staff for the Anthem ‘Women’s Inspired Network’. This is one of Anthem’s Associate Resource Groups which amplify and support diversity in the company’s culture. “I am so gratified to be able to leverage my broad experience and passion for analysis to continue to help, not only my colleagues, but the individuals Anthem serves,” Skelton said.

    Kelley was attracted to Women & Hi Tech because she saw so many of her values manifested and shared by the organization’s leadership. “I saw a volunteer opportunity on LinkedIn to help with an event at IUPUI. The president at that time was Angela Freeman and she spoke to the volunteers before the event. She has an incredible and inspiring presence and listening to her made me want to be part of any organization that lifts people up like she does.”

    Since joining Women & Hi Tech, Kelley has been gratified to continue volunteering and inspiring young women to pursue their STEM interests as careers. She shared, “I received a nearly full ride scholarship to the School of Science at Purdue University, and even though I had always loved science, I didn’t have anyone encouraging me to take that scholarship—so I didn’t”. Her own childhood experiences moving from the Dayton Metropolitan area to a rural town in Texas gives her perspective on how different the needs of young women in different areas can be. But what unites them all, she says, is the need for positive role models. “I would love to see bigger outreach, with mentoring programs, not just for school-age girls but even young professionals,” Kelley said. “Women & Hi Tech has an incredible partnership with Pass the Torch for Women that enables many mentoring opportunities. But I would like to see more structured, STEM-specific mentoring among the membership. Not just tools and resources but programming centered on connections with peers to give advice.”

    Kelley thinks this peer support is especially important when it comes to women being okay with failure. “I have been living the test-experiment-fail-try again mantra since before people were really aware of it, but even I am still learning and growing beyond a learned need for perfection,” she shared. “I think most, if not all, women grow up being taught they should be afraid of failing. But I have realized along the way that failure is a part of success. How can you get better if you don’t see failure and grow beyond it?”

    Kelley shared that she does believe these ingrained biases are decreasing with each generation. “I have a high schooler and a third grader, both daughters, and I encourage them every day to look around at possibilities. They can do anything they put their mind to—even if they can’t do it right away.”

    She went on to say, “Women & Hi Tech is a perfect vehicle for effecting positive change. I have been an active volunteer since the day I signed up and I have gotten to meet so many impressive people and do really great things. It’s critical for women in STEM to lift each other up through success as well as failure, and share tools for our next endeavors,” she concluded. “That is what Women & Hi Tech is all about.”

  • 02/16/2021 8:00 AM | Anonymous

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

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

    About Indiana Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box

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

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

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

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

    Facts About Indiana’s COVID-19 Numbers and Response

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

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

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

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

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

    Facts About COVID-19 Vaccines in Indiana

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Takeaways About the Future of the Pandemic in Indiana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 01/31/2021 8:02 AM | Anonymous

    Dear Members, Sponsors, Volunteers, Supporters and Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 01/31/2021 8:00 AM | Deleted user

    Women & Hi Tech exists to change the landscape of women represented in STEM to be equally inclusive to all. To achieve our goal, we work to connect female STEM professionals with each other and our community in Indiana. Our members and sponsors represent a wide array of STEM fields, including life sciences, accounting, engineering, psychology, statistics, and information technology. Today, we are proud to highlight one of our members, Nikki Manus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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