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


  • 11/30/2020 8:00 AM | Anonymous

    For Arwa Ghalawan, her first experiences with the STEM field can be traced back to her most formative years, thanks to a little help from her dad and brother.

    “My brother and I talk about this a lot, how our dad was the first one in our family to get whatever the new technology product was,” she said. “ For us it was the computer. We were so little when my dad got it, and it was so expensive. But, I remember my brother and I sitting on the computer. First, we were just gazing at it, or at the most we were just looking around to see what was on it. But soon it became about discovering things. It was always the thing that I spent hours on, and from there, I knew I was hooked on STEM.”

    Throughout her journey through STEM, Ghalawan has time and time again listened to her instincts, allowing her intellectual curiosity to steer her to fabulous and fascinating opportunities. Hailing from Syria, Ghalawan first came over with family, moving to West Lafayette and then later Fishers. When Ghalawan decided to stay in the area, she says she needed to take some time to decide on what road of study and work to take.

    “Initially, I was encouraged to study nursing,” she said. “While I enjoy helping people a lot, I realized I needed to study something that was related to computers. I knew that if I followed that path, I could still help people while staying close to something I was passionate about. It comes from curiosity I think.”

    This has been the case whether as a student, a professional, or a volunteer organizer; in fact, Ghalawan first became a part of Women & Hi Tech thanks to her passion for learning as well as socializing. While studying at Ivy Tech for her associate degree in software development, she wondered if she could still be doing more.

    “I’m a very social person,” she said. “I asked my program chair, ‘How can I get connected more? Is there a women’s organization that could plug me into a larger community of folks?’ I wanted to help more people around me and to give back to the community. Eventually I wound up attending several workshops and presentations from Women & Hi Tech and I just fell in love immediately.”

    Ghalawan made sure to add, “Their mission for women and supporting women, has always been a passion of mine.”

    After finishing her degree at Ivy Tech in Lafayette, Ghalawan eventually transitioned into her role with Infoysys, where she serves as an operations executive. While she was still thinking of where her career could take her and how she could continue to volunteer for Women & Hi Tech, she said she received some divine intervention.

    “It’s funny,” she said. “We as people try to plan everything, and to set our lives on the track we assume is there. However, suddenly God walks you to a different spot, which you never imagined. “I was finishing up my training atInfosys. At that time, I would finish work, and then go straight to events, and organizing activities. This practice has always stuck with me, the love of meeting new people and sharing new ideas.

    “Anyway, I was waiting for a project when our Vice President approached me about the activity on my LinkedIn page. He saw that I was constantly attending seminars, meetings, callouts, you name it. He said, ‘I know how social you are, how can we get that side of you involved here?’ That’s when he asked if I would like to be a diversity and inclusion representative.”

    For nearly two years now, Ghalawan has continued to serve this role, all while studying informatics at IUPUI. Still, she hasn’t missed an opportunity to encourage her team to work with Women & Hi Tech. When asked why, Ghalawan said she wants to participate in the groundswell tradition that organizations like these provide.

    For some women, they have trouble with confidence, so they may not ask about the different fields in tech. It’s really fantastic to be able to tell them, ‘Wait! There is an organization who can help you, who can support you, and who can inspire you.’ It’s really person-to-person and this is the kind of cause I really enjoy contributing to.”

    When asked what she’d like to see out of the next 20 years of Women & Hi Tech, Ghalawan said, “I’d like to see more women in the STEM fields, but even beyond that, I’d like to provide guidance for younger women just starting out. Too often we see young women get involved in STEM in college, only to change majors because they don’t have that support system. I hope I can provide that to them in the years to come.”

  • 11/19/2020 11:00 AM | Anonymous

    As part of its mission to change the landscape of women represented in STEM to be equally inclusive to all, Women & Hi Tech is constantly focused on enhancing and empowering females in the STEM talent pipeline. This starts in the classroom, keeping girls and young women interested in STEM and helping them overcome systemic and cultural barriers to their interest and future careers.

    This year, Women & Hi Tech President Rebecca Bormann and the rest of the Board of Directors were eager to, again, seize the opportunity to partner with the Society for Information Management, Indianapolis (SIM Indy) to sponsor scholarships for the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) Award for Aspirations in Computing. Through a cash honorarium and complimentary one-year student membership, Women & Hi Tech is providing tangible support for young Hoosier women who want to develop careers in computing and other STEM fields.

    What is the NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing?

    The National Center for Women & Information Technology is a non-profit organization chartered by the National Science Foundation in 2004. This women in STEM organization seeks to increase the influential and meaningful participation of girls and women in the field of computing, particularly in areas of development and innovation.

    As part of achieving this mission, the NCWIT created the Aspirations in Computing Program, a program dedicated to fostering a sense of community to conquer isolation and build long-term motivation for female STEM students. The program was awarded a 2018 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring.

    Part of the Aspirations in Computing Program is the Award for Aspirations in Computing (AiC). This award recognizes outstanding aptitude and interest in information technology and computing, solid leadership ability, good academic history, and plans for post-secondary education. 90% of past AiC award winners have gone on to major in STEM fields during post-secondary education.

    Indiana NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing

    In the spring of 2020, 25 female high school students from across the state of Indiana were recognized by the Indiana Affiliate of the NCWIT, along with another 25 honorable mentions. Women & Hi Tech in partnership with SIM Indy recognized each award winner with a $250 honorarium thanks to the support of our generous sponsors. Winners were also provided a complimentary one-year student membership to Women & Hi Tech. This provides access to the organization’s network of over 2000 Hoosier STEM professionals, as well as regular programming, networking and education events as well as opportunities for mentorship. The Indiana NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing was also sponsored by affiliates OneAmerica and Indiana University.

    STEM females face barriers of inclusion and representation that can only be overcome through efforts like the Aspirations in Computing Program, and the work of Women & Hi Tech. While women were among the first computer programmers and represented the majority of human computers, today only 20% of computing jobs are held by women, and less in some sectors of the industry. With computing jobs among the highest-paying and fastest-growing, leaving women and girls behind in this economic sector is not acceptable. That is why Women & Hi Tech is so honored to recognize these young award recipients, and will continue pursuing its mission until STEM fields are equally inclusive to all.

  • 11/18/2020 5:00 PM | Anonymous

    On November 5, 2020, Women & Hi Tech hosted its 3rd Annual OperationALLTM, an event uniquely tailored for men and focused on improving and increasing diversity and gender inclusion in the STEM community. Facilitated by author and TEDx speaker Julie Kratz, this virtual workshop included a robust discussion with actionable tools and strategies for giving and receiving candid feedback, the importance of challenging people equally, and how to coach women and those who are different from yourself.

    In a recent Executive Women’s Forum, we covered leveraging the gift of feedback, how to validate and ensure advice and feedback is consistent and on point with opportunities to improve, and how to convert feedback into a game plan for personal growth. But as Julie points out, women are less likely to receive candid feedback and are more likely than men to experience micro-aggressions, negatively affecting how and what feedback is provided (e.g., Potential vs. Performance gender bias). The workshop highlighted fears that can often be the root of providing candid feedback and challenged participants to evaluate how candid they are in giving feedback to women.

    Breakout sessions throughout the workshop provided a safe space for men to discuss providing candid feedback to women and to practice various frameworks and models to build their skills. What became apparent by the end of the workshop is that leaders with good coaching skills applied equally to everyone net the most positive results for their organizations. Coaching focuses forward with the goal of changing future actions and behaviors based on the goals we want to achieve. Using coaching models like the GROW model (Goal, Reality, Options, Will) not only provide a strong framework for providing feedback, they also provide the opportunity for men to learn new perspectives from women and to embrace and encourage free thinking within their organization.

    The roots of gender bias are buried deeply within our culture and work environments. In many cases, men (and women) are unaware of micro-aggressions and how unequally challenging women prevents women from excelling and negatively impacts their self-esteem and career potential. We host this event annually to continue to inform, support and engage our male allies in our mission to change the landscape of women represented in STEM to be equally inclusive to all.

    We are grateful to our male allies who attended this year’s event, whether for the first time or in addition to past OperationALL events. We encourage all gender identities to become members of Women & Hi Tech, and to attend our events and engage with the other professionals and students committed to gender equality in STEM fields.

    We also recognize the importance of the women who attend these events to help better understand how to engage our male allies – thank you! As Julie Kratz states in the introduction of her book One: How Male Allies Support Women for Gender Equality, “This is not a tug of war; it’s not a zero sum game. We all stand to benefit when we welcome men into the conversation. Women are not going to solve this problem alone. We need the support of men to win together.”

  • 10/30/2020 8:02 AM | Anonymous

    Dear Members, Sponsors, Volunteers, Supports and Friends,

    October has been an exciting month for Women & Hi Tech! We kicked the month off with our signature biennial celebration, the Leading Light Awards and Scholarship Gala (LLAs), held on October 1st, 2020. This first-ever Virtual LLAs was the 20th anniversary of the first gala, originally called the Spotlight Awards, and it was a night to remember. "Equity & Inclusion" was the theme of the evening. Women & Hi Tech was honored, alongside almost 400 virtual guests, to celebrate and recognize 13 esteemed Indiana STEM professionals with Leading Light Awards. Honorees included the inaugural and honorary recipients of our two new awards, the Equity and Inclusion Champion and the OperationALL™ Male Allies Leading Light Awards. We were also beyond delighted to help pave the way for future generations of female STEM leaders by awarding over $50,000 in scholarship and grants to young ladies and women in Indiana pursuing a STEM degree or certification. To see a full list of all award, scholarship, and grant recipients and to watch a recording of the 2020 Virtual LLAs, please visit: 2020 Leading Light Awards Recap and Legacy, https://womenandhitech.org/Blog/9320657.

    After the Leading Light Awards and Scholarship Gala, we were excited to participate in the Third All-IT Leadership Community Webinar with IT Leaders Indianapolis and the Indy CIO Network. The virtual panel of IT leaders examined the challenges and solutions for the accelerated rate of change in our organizations and the unique opportunities we now have. We were also delighted to be included in Code Café's virtual event, See Yourself in Tech: Get Involved – Tech Equity, Opportunity, and Access. The virtual panel focused on helping us find our place in the local tech ecosystem, the actionable steps each of us can take to get involved, ways to support equitable access, and advice for taking your first or next step in the tech workforce.

    As we close out October, Women & Hi Tech hosted our final Executive Women's Forum for 2020 – Flipping the Script of Racism and Women in STEM: The Journey to Equity. Our phenomenal moderator and panelists armed us with data and statistics regarding women's disparity, especially diverse women in the STEM fields. They also authentically shared their journeys of being African American women in STEM and how being both a woman and an African American presents unique challenges. For example, the panelists discussed the Black Wealth Gap, which demonstrates the wage gap between Caucasian women and African American women and other diverse women. It also brings to light that even collegiate education does not create equity or provide the same advantageous outcomes for all. Learning that the "median white adult who dropped out of high school has 70% more wealth than the median Black adult with some college education" highlights the disparate outcomes that result when institutions and systems are inequitable. We must do better.

    While we began October recognizing and celebrating advancements and positive impacts towards equity and inclusion – we know that much work lies ahead for real equity and inclusion for all. I couldn't be more pleased that Women & Hi Tech ended October providing a forum for discussion and actionable steps each of us can take to do our part to continue to break down systemic and systematic racism and create equity and inclusion for all in the STEM fields and beyond. In case you missed it you can view the full recording of Flipping the Script on Racism and Women in STEM: A Journey to Equity as well as download a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion resource guide

    For your consideration, I will also offer that in honor of National Women's Small Business month, an action we can each take to advance equity and inclusion for all is to find a way to support local diverse, women-owned small businesses. National Women's Small Business Month takes place each year during October. This is an opportune time to recognize the myriad of achievements of our country's female entrepreneurs and the positive impact they are making on jobs and the economy.

    You can visit Indy.gov Office of Minority & Women-Owned Business Development to find almost 800 Minority, Women, Veteran, or Disability-owned businesses certified by the City of Indianapolis-Marion County. Also, Visit Indy has compiled a list of some of the fantastic African American owned restaurants in Indianapolis and the surrounding areas (Paleo Soul and Chef Oya's The TRAP are two of my favorites). Visit Indy African American-Owned Eateries.

    In this 22nd edition of "Grown from STEM," we are excited to invite you to learn more about our Communications Director, Lori Boyer, and our dedicated member, Kat Howenstein. While they have very different roles, both are incredibly successful in the STEM field of application development. Both Lori and Kat are champions for diversity, equity and inclusion and share with us the importance of volunteerism and finding and building a community of acceptance, inclusion, and support – especially being a woman in a male-dominated field. We are thrilled each of them has found just that in Women & Hi Tech! Please read more about Lori and Kat.

    New this month, and in the future, we will also feature one of our 2020 Virtual Leading Light Award recipients in our monthly "Grown from STEM" newsletter. This month we continue to celebrate and recognize Women & Hi Tech's Honorary Equity and Inclusion Champion Award recipient, Angela B. Freeman, M.S., J.D., Senior Associate Intellectual Property (IP)/Patent Attorney, Barnes & Thornburg LLP. Angela embodies all of the award qualities day in and day out and is a dedicated advocate for equity and inclusion for all. She has spearheaded many of the significant advancements for equity and inclusion for diverse women within our organization, as well as throughout her career and personal life. Please watch this segment of the 2020 Virtual LLAs to learn more about what fuels Angela's passion and drive for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the STEM fields and beyond. Again, Congratulations Angela!

    Best Regards,

    Rebecca Bormann
    President, Women & Hi Tech

  • 10/30/2020 8:01 AM | Anonymous

    When her third term as Women & Hi Tech Communications Director ends in June 2021, Lori Boyer will leave the board with a mix of nostalgia and gratitude. “I started out a little shy on the board, but by now it has become ingrained in my life,” she says. “I tell people I have two jobs: my first job at Barnes & Thornburg as a Software Engineer on the Innovations Team, and my second job at Women & Hi Tech.”

    Though the Women & Hi Tech board is all-volunteer, meaning Boyer doesn’t get financially compensated for her time, she says the pleasure of sharing and amplifying Women & Hi Tech’s message has been enough. “After every event we host, there’s an influx of women who have become aware of their need for our resources,” Boyer says. “Women are still only 14% of the workforce in software engineering, and that’s just one of the many STEM fields we represent. So it’s great to know our work is driving change in that regard.”

    Though Women & Hi Tech has successfully transitioned a majority of its events to virtual and adapted to the pandemic, Boyer says she has missed some of the community connection. “I missed having Passport to Hi-Tech and some of the other events where we show women & young girls the hands-on experience of being a coder. Seeing and self-visualizing a life in a STEM career is one of the biggest barriers for women entering STEM fields. There’s still a big misconception that you have to have a four-year degree in science, technology, engineering, or math to break into these professions, and it’s just not the case.” As we described in her board profile last year, Lori is a self-taught software engineer who studied business at Indiana University. Today, she is an award-winning software engineer recognized at the Leading Light Awards and by TechPoint, among other accolades.

    “Software engineers have a skill of just tinkering around due to a love of learning and experimenting. You can’t be afraid to fail because that’s just a chance to figure out a better way of solving a problem.” Lori says that COVID-19 pandemic has given her an accelerated education in data analytics, which she continues to study today. “It was a chance to learn even more by doing—because it had to be done asap! As fast as everything was happening, tools to track, trace, and visualize data had to be created. Every organization needs easily-accessible data insights now more than ever during this time.”

    Though her tenure as Communications Director will come to a close next summer, Lori still looks forward to being an active emeritus member of the board and maintaining a very active membership in Women & Hi Tech. “With Women & Hi Tech you get the chance to create your own community, and even an introvert like me finds that making connections and having meaningful conversations is easy,” she says. “I have met people who encourage me to grow my career, and friends who are willing to just pick up the phone and listen or text late into the night.” The one point she emphasizes is that it falls to each individual member to create their own experience. “Every member of Women & Hi Tech is willing to help you, but only if you reach out and connect,” Boyer shared. Women & Hi Tech has almost 2,000 members today.

    This energy will only continue as the board and the organization evolves. “As we expand the communications committee to help sustain and grow Women & Hi Tech, we have some committee positions in mind we know need to be filled, and other opportunities where we want members to come to us with ideas. We want members to help us define the exciting opportunities we could be providing in line with their strengths, in communications and other areas.”

    Lori believes this communication power is needed because even after more than 20 years, people in central Indiana are still just meeting Women & Hi Tech. “The pivot required by the pandemic has meant a lot of virtual reach and maybe that means more people can join our virtual events from across the state or even other states,” Lori said. She added that encouraging growth in the organization’s reach is already starting to manifest but needs communications to back it up. “This year we had Leading Light Award and Scholarship and Grant applicants from every corner of Indiana. But there is still more we can do to get the message out. If people don’t know the chance is there, they can’t take it.” Boyer feels especially that this applies to diverse women. “If only 14% of software engineers are women in general, then we have to assume that women of color and LGBTQ+ women are even more underrepresented in the field. An organization that actively works to correct this problem is an amazing organization to be involved with,” she concluded. “I was welcomed with open arms years ago, and since then it’s only gotten better.”

  • 10/30/2020 8:00 AM | Anonymous

    When you ask most folks how they got started in their career, the story usually spans a few years, if not a few decades, but ask Kat Howenstein when and how she knew STEM was her true calling, and she can provide a much more specific answer.

    “Third grade,” Howenstein said emphatically. “At that time, we spent a lot of time on drill work for multiplication tables. My teacher, Mrs. Collins, stood out from the rest of the teachers in her bright power skirt suits and pumps. She dressed smart and she was smart - leaving no doubt she took pride in her work. You didn’t want to disappoint her because she was also the first to reward students who met her high expectations. One of these rewards was being the first to finish the minute drill practice with a perfect score, you would get the job of checking the other students’ work as they finished. That gave me not only the satisfaction of being fast and accurate, it gave me a chance to play teacher myself - rewarding my classmates when they also had perfect scores or helping them to make corrections. I don't know if I realized it at the time, but looking back I can see, ‘Oh, I was clearly meant to teach.’”

    Kat has been a part of Women & Hi Tech since 2017, she enjoys volunteering for committees who need extra hands on deck for the Leading Light Awards and representing Women & Hi Tech at sponsored events. It was clear to Women & Hi Tech leadership her deep-rooted personal drive, combined with that undeniable passion for teaching and connecting with others, would make her a perfect fit to grow the organization’s membership through the Community Outreach Committee.

    Following Mrs. Collins was a succession of passionate math teachers who continued to develop Howenstein’s love for the subject and set her on a career path to secondary math education. Though she has gone on to serve companies like DeveloperTown, and now Codelicious in different capacities, Howenstein credits her professional life to a passion for getting people plugged into STEM careers like her teachers did for her.

    Attending a small college like University of Evansville meant class sizes were compact and it was easy to get to know classmates and professors. Through undergraduate internships and student teaching, Howenstein benefited from a supporting cast of strong female teachers. This sense of camaraderie and support continued after she achieved her bachelor’s in secondary math education and eventually found her way to Pike High School and later led the high school math team at Indiana Connections Academy.

    “Because I was teaching foundations and often had students who had previously failed, I wanted to make the lessons and practice as engaging as possible,” she said. “I didn’t have to spend 15 minutes working through a single problem, so I could take the time to make activities relevant and fun. I wanted my class to feel like a celebration of math.”

    After almost ten years teaching, Howenstein took on a new challenge joining DeveloperTown as an engagement manager. Her husband had been working with startups for several years and suggested she talk to their leadership about what skills might be transferable to software. Howenstein admits she had very limited knowledge of software development, but took a leap of faith to challenge herself. Once again, her passion for mastering fundamental concepts paid off in the form of nurturing and long-lasting professional relationships.

    “Coming into tech from teaching, I expected to be more annoying than helpful for many years.” she said. “But from the very beginning, people I worked with encouraged me to jump in and help them tackle hard problems using skills I brought from a career in teaching. Developers are typically a quiet bunch; so as I was starting out, I didn’t expect their verbose enthusiasm for helping me understand basic concepts. The most generous of my team often were the most senior in experience, genuinely interested in explaining specialties they’d spent decades mastering. When I needed more context, they'd enthusiastically offer it from a new perspective or map the details on a diagram.”

    As Howenstein began her role as engagement manager, she earned her Agile coaching certificate and took on the role of scrum master for the marketing team as well as several development and internal projects. She credits her continued growth to DeveloperTown’s COO, Julie DeSutter, who “As a lifelong learner herself, wasn’t afraid to take a chance on someone outside of tech. She’s always encouraged me to explore where my skills brought value in tech and how I could add to them.” With Julie’s encouragement Howenstein joined the business development team where she leveraged her knowledge of design and development processes to make new connections with industries investing in digital innovation. Again, it was Howenstein’s sense of passion creating positive growth towards new horizons.

    Although she noticed there were many fewer women in software compared to education, there was no lack of hospitality from the rest of the staff. “I don't know if developers had been told- ‘Guys, there's no women here, so if any of them show up, be super nice’.” she said with a laugh. “It didn’t feel like a forced effort to make the team more diverse by including me, but that they recognized the imbalance and were waiting to make room for me.”

    It was also during this time Howenstein’s tenure at Women & Hi Tech began. Like many of our members, her journey began with a little push from a friend with some inside information. “I was introduced to them through a friend of mine, Sena Hineline,” she said. “As I was moving from my project management role into sales, I was looking for ways to network and learn about my new community outside of teaching. Having spent her career in tech marketing, Sena knew how valuable connecting with other women in this space would be. After attending a few Executive Women’s Forums and meeting so many wonderful people, I knew I wanted to help with Women & Hi Tech’s growth.”

    Having spent 10 years teaching and over 4 in software, Howenstein is now joining Codelicious as an Account Executive where she’ll be combining all of her career experience. She’s quick to acknowledge her career path - from teaching, to project management, to sales - seems unusual, although she never felt alone along the way, thanks in no small part to the growing coalition of women in her industry.

    “What’s really great about being a woman in STEM is having the chance to welcome others and give them a place to share their passion. As someone with a variety of career experience, I’m able to help other women discover how they fit, why they fit, and what we can do to make these fields accessible for the next generation. Even as someone new to tech, I can still be a positive influence to get others interested and involved.”

    Reflecting back to her times spent with Women & High Tech, Howenstein has no uncertainty the work of the organization is transforming Indianapolis. When asked what the next 20 years may hold, Howenstein is excited about the chance to yet again utilize her passion and commitment to bring about forward progress.

    “Bringing focus on diversity and inclusion is the topic on everyone’s mind. We've started to get a foothold as women, but we need to hear more about the experience women of color have in the tech industry and what we can do to promote their efforts. The buzz phrase about having different voices at the table doesn’t stop with gender, it will be a continued effort to bring diverse perspectives through race, life experience, and socio-economic backgrounds. If I can take the time to listen and learn as an individual from others, I hope that affects the people around me and our tech community at large.”

  • 10/24/2020 8:00 AM | Anonymous

    When Women & Hi Tech was founded over 20 years ago, one of the organization’s primary missions was to recognize and elevate outstanding STEM females. It hosted its first award ceremony, then called the Spotlight Awards, in 2000. Members in attendance at that beautiful event, hosted at the Indianapolis Zoo Dolphin Pavilion, could never have imagined how the 20th Anniversary of the Leading Light Awards would take shape.

    Coronavirus pandemic. Working in pajamas for months. And a national crusade for gender and racial equality that feels almost identical to the landscape of decades past. Did any of us see 2020 coming?

    But the leadership and members of Women & Hi Tech were not thwarted by these challenges. Instead Women & Hi Tech’s members, sponsors, Leading Light Awards Committee, and Board of Directors rolled up their sleeves to pull off the changes and efforts necessary to still have a memorable and noteworthy event. The result was a stunning virtual event that continues to recognize and support female STEM excellence and new this year Indiana diversity, equity and inclusion champions and male allies.

    Indiana Women In STEM Organization

    This year, there were over 150 nominees for the awards, grants, and scholarships that define the Leading Light Awards and Scholarship Gala as a premier event celebrating Indiana’s STEM community. All these nominees represent the amazing STEM innovation that has helped Indiana endure and thrive during the pandemic and other challenges of the year.

    “I think most of us would agree so many things about this year have been unexpected,” said Lauryn Andrews, Leading Light Awards Director. “And yet when I think about 2020, the words that come to mind are hope, inspiration, and change. Though we can’t be together in person, it’s never been more apparent that we are in this together.”

    Women & Hi Tech recognized outstanding STEM professionals with its esteemed Leading Light Awards and was able to award over $50,000 in grants and scholarships to develop the female STEM talent of the future.

    New 2020 Women & Hi Tech Indiana STEM Scholarships

    Women & Hi Tech is continually gratified to have the amazing support of so many community and scholarship sponsors across Indiana’s STEM community. “Your continued generosity and support make a difference for female STEM professionals, K-12 students, and collegiate young ladies,” Board President Rebecca Bormann reminded these sponsors and members during the Leading Light Awards. “Thank you for allowing us to advance our mission.”

    In addition to the fifteen scholarships that were awarded this year, 2020 marked the inaugural awarding of the Rare Nickel Scholarship. This $5000 scholarship celebrates the first five women who received Spotlight Awards in 2000: Laura Larimer, Dr. Catherine Olmer, Dr. Elcira Villarreal, Carol Curran, and Amy Conrad Warner. Each year it is awarded, this scholarship will continue their legacy of paving the way for future generations of female STEM leaders in Indiana. The first recipient of this new Rare Nickle Scholarship was Marielle Berin, BS Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University.

    Women & Hi Tech also introduced the #INThisTogether Scholarship, its first member-funded scholarship. Over $3000 was awarded to LaJoi Robinson, MS Information and Communication Science, Ball State University.

    Girls STEM Education Scholarships in Indiana

    In addition to these new STEM scholarships for women and girls, Women & Hi Tech also awarded tens of thousands of dollars through established Women & Hi Tech scholarships and sponsor generosity:

    $5,000 Top Graduate Student Scholarship:

    Taymee Brandon, PhD Environmental Engineering, Purdue University

    $5,000 Top Undergraduate Student Scholarship:

    My “Alice” Dang, BS Mechanical Engineering, Anderson University

    $5,000 Top High School Senior Scholarship:

    Doonyah Alucozai, BS Computer Information Technology, Purdue University

    $5,000 Professional Development Grant:

    Soma Mukhopadhyay, Biotechnology Quality & Regulatory Compliance Graduate Certificate, Purdue University

    $10,000 WGU Indiana Scholarship:

    Tosin Ajayi, BS Cybersecurity and Information Assurance

    $2,500 SIM Indy Technology Graduate Student Scholarship:

    Jennifer Fleming, MS Informatics, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

    $2,500 SIM Indy Technology Undergraduate Student Scholarship:

    Jordyn Blakey, BS Computer Science, DePauw University

    $2,500 Ivy Tech Scholarship:

    Fatimah Omotoso, AS Biology, Ivy Tech Indianapolis

    $2,500 Ivy Tech Scholarship:

    Eunice Macharia, AS Database Development and Administration, Ivy Tech Fort Wayne

    $2,500 Bell Techlogix High School Senior Scholarship:

    Yukthika Sajja, BS Cybersecurity, Purdue University

    $2,500 Sallie Mae High School Senior Scholarship:

    Kehinde “Bomi” Anifowose, BS Biology, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

    $2,000 Barnes & Thornburg LLP Patent/Corporate Law Scholarship:

    Richa Patel, JD Patent Law, Indiana University Maurer School of Law

    $2,000 Verizon Technology Scholarship:

    Amanda Goodridge, MS Cybersecurity Risk Management, Indiana University Bloomington

    Startup Ladies Membership Grant (valued at $600):

    Andre'a Crowder

    Startup Ladies Membership Grant (valued at $600):

    Anelis Susana Chiluisa Calvache

    It was deeply important to Women & Hi Tech’s Board of Directors, members, and awards judges that the nominees and winners represent the diversity in Indiana’s STEM community, and that these awards extend outside Central Indiana to advance STEM in all corners of our state.

    Leading Light Awards for STEM Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Promote Minorities in STEM

    The theme of the 2020 Leading Light Awards was Equity and Inclusion. This theme was recognized with the establishment of two new awards that elevate and encourage organizations to make STEM more inclusive to all. “We need the diversity in STEM roles to reflect the diversity in our community,” said emcee Sara Jones of WTHR Channel 13News.

    • One new Leading Light Award established this year was the Women & Hi Tech Equity and Inclusion Champion Leading Light Award. The organization named both an honorary and inaugural winner of this award. Honorary winner was Angela B. Freeman, M.S., J.D., Intellectual Property/Patent Attorney at Barnes & Thornburg LLP. This honor was bestowed for her many contributions to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion, including spearheading many of the major advancements for diverse women within Women & Hi Tech, as well as throughout her career and personal life.
    • The inaugural winner of the Equity and Inclusion Champion Leading Light Award was Erica Diebold, Senior Intellectual Property Manager at Roche Diabetes Care, Inc. She received this award after building increased allyship for women and members of the LGBTQ+ community at Roche and in the local community, including developing allyship training.

    A second new Leading Light Award was the OperationALL™ Male Allies Leading Light Award, again with both honorary and inaugural winners.

    • The honorary winner of this award was Gerry Dick, Founder and CEO of Inside INdiana Business. This honor was bestowed for his lifelong commitment and allyship to Women & Hi Tech and promoting women and girls in STEM in Indiana.
    • The inaugural winner of OperationALL™ Male Allies Leading Light Award was Lamont Hatcher, the CEO of AIS. 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 women in technology and young African American men through 100 Black Men.

    As some awards were created, another sponsored award came to an end. Toni Hickey, J.D., Deputy General Counsel and Chief IP Counsel of Cummins, Inc., was awarded the final Barnes & Thornburg LLP Hi Tech Woman of the Year Leading Light Award for her exemplary leadership and her commitment to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion for all in the STEM and legal communities.

    Watch The Full Leading Light Awards and Celebrate STEM Females in Indiana

    Witness and honor the excellence of Indiana’s STEM community for yourself by watching the full Leading Light Awards 2020 event on YouTube.

    To all the sponsors and virtual attendees, Women & Hi Tech offers their sincerest thanks and appreciation. Changing the landscape of women represented in STEM to be equally inclusive to all is a mission that takes time and concrete effort that would not be possible without each of your support. They would especially like to thank Fuel V+M and The Momentum GROUP, the marketing and videography firms that helped create the first-ever virtual LLAs.

    And to the award, grant, and scholarship winners, Women & Hi Tech also says thank you, for the work and dedication you put forward every day to make the Indiana STEM community such an incredible place to learn, grow, and belong. We are truly in this together, and it’s a great place to be.

    2020 Leading Light Award Winners

    Honorary Equity and Inclusion Champion Award

    Angela B. Freeman, M.S., J.D., Senior Associate Intellectual Property (IP)/Patent Attorney, Barnes & Thornburg LLP

    Inaugural Equity and Inclusion Champion Award

    Erica Diebold, Senior Intellectual Property Manager | Diabetes Care Patents, Roche Diabetes Care, Inc.

    Honorary OperationALL™ Male Allies Champion Award

    Gerry Dick, Host and Creator of Inside INdiana Business

    Inaugural OperationALL™ Male Allies Champion Award

    Lamont Hatcher, Founder and CEO of AIS

    Mentor Me! Award

    Heather Jones, Group Leader - Fermentation Development and Media Preparation Labs, Corteva Agriscience

    Leadership Award

    Christine McDonnell, Co-Founder & CEO, Codelicious

    Risk Taker Award

    Teresa Plummer, Director, IT Governance and Delivery Services, Sallie Mae

    Rising Star Award

    Shilpi Bhargav, Global Head of Requirements Modeling Group, Roche Diabetes Care, Inc

    You Inspire Us! Award

    Rupal Thanawala, Tech Editor, Indianapolis Recorder

    Outstanding Educator in STEM Award

    Keeanna Warren, Principal, Purdue Polytechnic High School North

    Outstanding Achievement in STEM Award

    Mary Lee Gambone, Head of Materials Engineering, Rolls-Royce North America

    Change the Landscape Award

    Audrey Taylor, CEO, netlogx

    Barnes & Thornburg Hi Tech Woman of the Year Award

    Toni Hickey, J.D., Deputy General Counsel & Chief IP Counsel, Cummins, Inc.

  • 09/28/2020 8:02 AM | Anonymous

    Dear Members, Sponsors, Volunteers, Supporters, and Friends,

    The United States Patent and Trademark's Office's (USPTO) 2019 Progress and Potential Report indicated in the US that the rise in women named inventors on patents has been exceedingly slow, 13% in 1995 growing to only 16% in 2016. The report also indicates that the proportion of inventors who are women remains below the proportion of science and engineering jobs held by women, suggesting the low "women inventor rates" are not merely the result of gender-based discrepancies in STEM education. There is no conclusive data indicating why this is the case; it may be due to fewer women having inventive activity, institutional or industrial failures to acknowledge the innovative activity of women, or gender bias among patent examiners. Regardless of the reason, the data from the USPTO is another piece of evidence indicating women STEM professionals have ground to make up. This is why Women & Hi Tech's mission to change the landscape of women represented in STEM to be equally inclusive to all is so relevant.

    We are proud to publish our "Grown from STEM" monthly newsletter highlighting the Women & Hi Tech Board and members who are, in fact, changing the landscape in their profession in meaningful and positive ways. This month's newsletter focuses on Intellectual Property (IP). IP is an important focus area because it is an integral part of a STEM professional's work, no matter the industry or career path. STEM professionals are routinely creating something inventive, maintaining inventive work, or as highlighted in this newsletter, protecting the innovative work of others. This month we feature two amazing IP professionals, Angela B. Freeman M.S., J.D., Past President of Women & Hi Tech and Intellectual Property/Patent Attorney at Barnes & Thornburg, LLP, and Jordan Downham J.D., an IP Attorney at Quarles and Brady, LLP specializing in trademark and copyright law. After you read their profiles, you will agree, they are undoubtedly changing the landscape for us all!

    As for myself, an engineer and a leader of technology organizations, IP management is an essential part of my role and the most fun. To prepare for this newsletter introduction, I had the opportunity to benchmark with Deborah Pollack-Milgate J.D., a former Women & Hi Tech President and an IP Litigation Attorney and Partner at Barnes & Thornburg, LLP, who I highly admire. I am excited to share with our readers Deborah's perspective on why she finds IP work so rewarding, challenges that still exist for women in IP management, and how the landscape has changed throughout her years of IP practice.

    Deborah's view on why she finds her career so rewarding perfectly aligns with why I describe IP as fun. She indicates the most rewarding part of her role is having the opportunity to learn about so many different technologies and how each person's unique contribution creates new products and innovations. It never gets old for her. This sentiment is echoed by Jordan, who indicates that the problem solving that exists in IP management makes the work extremely fulfilling.

    Concerning the landscape - Deborah indicated she does not think that women in IP are differently situated from other women in predominantly male fields of work. "I have encountered my share of sexist behavior over the years, particularly from my male opponents in litigation. The stakes are high in patent litigation, so the tactics are sometimes brutal. I have kept a list of names I have been called over the years that you almost have to see to believe. Once, when a man apologized after a deposition in which a colleague of his had made several sexist comments, he then proceeded to describe to me that he was sitting in his dark office, all alone, watching a woman swaying outside his window. These are surreal experiences – and yet they happen. A woman, when present in a group of men, is rarely a neutral presence, in my experience. She is the presence of the "other" which may be highlighted, or praised, but also sidelined and ignored," Deborah explained. This ties in with the message captured within the accompanying profile on Angela B. Freeman. Angela is an advocate for increasing the percentage of all women in STEM to create a better landscape. And she stresses that racial diversity is also vitally important to achieving the inclusivity we seek.

    Deborah's summary hits the mark, "It is critical to have a group of women – or several of them -- looking out for you. Women and Hi Tech is a fantastic organization that reminds each of us we matter, and we are not fighting these battles alone." Deborah and I also agree on this final point; we need to share candidly, not only with women but also with men. When we do this, we find the connections we need to lead us back to ourselves and our success.

    In this 21st edition of "Grown from STEM," Women & Hi Tech would like to invite you to learn more about our Past President, Angela B. Freeman, M.S., J.D. We are also excited to introduce you to a dedicated member, Jordan Downham J.D. Each of these women continues to blaze trails in their careers while being strong advocates for others and advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the STEM fields. In their profiles, Angela and Jordan both shared candid comments about their journeys and provided us a moment of honesty to help us all consider what we can do to encourage each other. We can work together to change the landscape, no matter our chosen STEM field. Please read more about Angela and Jordan.


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

  • 09/28/2020 8:01 AM | Anonymous

    As Angela Freeman completes her tenure as Past President and prepares to leave the Women & Hi Tech board of directors, she looks back over the trail she has blazed over the past 7 years beginning as Networking Director with a mix of confidence and hope. “When I set out as the first African American president of this organization, I had lots of goals related to diversity. I wanted to increase the diversity of judges, applicants, and award recipients for our amazing scholarships. I wanted to attract a more diverse STEM population to become our members. And I wanted to see our board become more diverse.”

    At the time she assumed the three-year commitment of becoming Women & Hi Tech’s President, Freeman was seriously considering leaving the board. “You don’t have influence and make change in an organization because you love things the way they are. You do it because you see what can be and the higher heights there are to reach,” she said of her decision to stay on the board and assume leadership. “Me going into Women & Hi Tech leadership was really a function of the mentorship, championship, encouragement, and coaching I received from organization leaders who convinced me that the organization could benefit from my leadership, particularly at that time.”

    So, Angela took on the challenge, as she really believed that the board was at a point where they were willing to make some changes. Using her legal expertise, Angela spearheaded overdue revisions to the organization’s bylaws, policies, and infrastructure related to evaluating and assessing board service. Angela also chaired the historical Women & Hi Tech 20th Anniversary Celebration Event in 2019. Importantly, as Women & Hi Tech’s first diverse President, Freeman achieved all of her goals, drastically increasing the organization’s diversity in race, creed, gender identity, and STEM profession from scholarship applicants and new members all the way to the leadership represented in the board room.

    Now, what she wants is to see those goals become foundational until they are obsolete. “What I hope to see is the normalization of diversity, equity, and inclusion. For it to be built in, not an exception to the rule or a blip on the radar. Intentionally trying to increase diversity within and external to the organization must be an expectation of every Women & Hi Tech president and leader moving forward.”

    At the same time, however, Freeman thinks this requires a candid evaluation of Women & Hi Tech’s core mission. “We can’t become something that isn’t a women’s organization.” As one example, Freeman points to the circumstances of Women & Hi Tech’s founding. Because women were not given equal seats at the table in their STEM careers, the organization’s co-founders and charter members created their own community.

    “That’s why I believe leadership positions of this esteemed organization should be mostly reserved for women. Because opportunities for women in board leadership often don’t exist elsewhere,” she said. “I am super excited that we have Ben Phillips acting as our Treasurer, and am supportive of getting more men involved in committees and other volunteer roles. However, I don’t think we need to recruit more men to the board to be considered ‘inclusive.’” Freeman says we can instead recognize, train, develop, and empower men who serve as allies and help women succeed in STEM, because most successful female STEM leaders attribute some portion of that success to men. “We can celebrate the allyship, sponsorship, and support of men—but they already get plenty of recognition for being outstanding STEM professionals, and women typically do not.”

    In this same vein, Freeman hopes future Women & Hi Tech presidents and leadership will feel secure in keeping the organization’s mission focused squarely on STEM issues related to women. “Our leadership should feel empowered to enforce this boundary and keep the organization focused on the narrow scope of advancing women in STEM,” she said. As Women & Hi Tech President, Angela learned to navigate this delicate crossroads where the organization exists. “We are inclusive to all women in STEM, not just some. But we shouldn’t be concerned about being so inclusive or broadening our mission scope to the point that we are leveling the playing field for people who don’t need it.”

    Angela also shared a realization that resulted from her presidency. “It has been challenging and maybe even a bit disappointing at times to see how much we have been making efforts to communicate our mission of inclusion, yet not necessarily be met with an overwhelming response or participation of ladies in our diverse communities.” Freeman described years of intentionally contacting and making radio and television appearances, giving newspaper and magazine interviews, and reaching out to diverse STEM professional organizations to communicate the resources available through Women & Hi Tech. She even recounted working with translators to make Women & Hi Tech STEM scholarship, grant, award, and/or board opportunities publicly known to non-English speakers. “Certainly, non-diverse organizations need to make room for qualified diverse leaders and members. But, diverse leaders and professionals must also step up and take on the opportunities and resources that are available.”

    When asked what barriers she thinks might still exist to increased participation by diverse women, Freeman comes up short of a suitable answer. “Before I became our president I told myself, diverse women weren’t getting involved because they didn’t see themselves represented in our population and leadership,” she said. “But now I personally know that isn’t the case. That can’t be the excuse anymore. Everything we are striving and fighting for will take your personal time,” she responds. “You don’t drive change, open doors, or blaze trails by putting in a little work or effort. At the end of the day, a nonprofit is a business too. If they are investing resources to attract a specific type of talent, but not getting a return on investment (ROI), those resources will dry up or get reallocated elsewhere.”

    “I strongly encourage diverse women in STEM across Indiana to get more involved in the opportunities Women & Hi Tech offers,” she said. “There has to be more engagement by women who expect to move into STEM leadership, and the Women & Hi Tech board is a great opportunity to develop and/or exhibit leadership skills that you may not be able to demonstrate professionally. Board service means you will invest sweat equity. But your performance has the power to positively impact and influence our community while opening doors for people coming behind you. It’s an opportunity to pay it forward.”

    Angela says that opening doors for more diverse women to lead Women & Hi Tech is her deepest hope for the legacy of her presidency. “At this point, especially with this board, I think we have the critical mass, a collective will, and visibility, along with brand recognition and momentum, to have a great 2021 and years beyond,” she said. “We are hitting our diversity, equity, and inclusion stride with real tangible metrics, parameters, and people that hold similar values. That’s what it will take to get traction so diverse female STEM professionals see Women & Hi Tech as a valid opportunity to develop as a professional leader, find community and professional support, and get civically engaged.”

    Angela says that Women & Hi Tech is an organization where diverse women can make a special contribution to advance the organization in tangible and long-lasting ways. “It’s different for each person and their talents,” she allowed. “But who else can do what you think you can do? No one.”

    “I certainly hope and expect in the near future that another diverse woman will be in the president’s seat. We already have plenty of great candidates. And, if Women & Hi Tech expects to grow to meet the needs of the ever-changing STEM population in Indiana, diversity, equity, and inclusion of all women in STEM must remain prioritized values of the organization and its leadership. If we expect to see a 40th anniversary, the key is equity and inclusion,” she concluded. “And I plan to be there to celebrate.”

  • 09/28/2020 8:00 AM | Anonymous

    Jordan Downham left the farm she grew up on in Tippecanoe County to study journalism at Notre Dame. But working as a journalist, she found herself in an often inflexible, male-dominated environment defined by late shifts and high-pressure deadlines. Many people might not think of law school as an escape from such challenges, but Downham enrolled at IU Maurer School of Law in Bloomington full of excitement and relief. “I went in with an open mind, but thinking I might do ag tech patents, because I had my personal roots in agriculture. But I found out I couldn’t be a patent attorney because I had no science background.”

    Instead, Downham was drawn to trademark and copyright law. “Word choice and splitting hairs is a huge part of trademark and copyright law, and after working as an editor, I had strengths and passion in that area.” Graduating in 2016, Downham was hired by Quarles & Brady LLP, where she helps technology and science innovators bring their products to market. “I help them navigate the process of registering a trademark. It can’t be too descriptive or too similar to another. This process helps market their product so people can actually use the tools they create.”

    Downham says one of the best parts of her experience in law has been the supportive environment at Quarles & Brady. The company culture is part of what sold her on the firm. “I find the environment much less inflexible than journalism. My firm has been formally recognized multiple times as a Best Law Firm for Women, and it’s proven to be so.” With a two-year-old son, Jordan had the opportunity to work a 75% schedule without needing to self-advocate or “take what I could get,” she explained.

    It’s also been heartening to her that a lot of the contacts and clients she serves are women. “Whether they’re in marketing or legal at tech companies, I collaborate with lots of women helping amazing discoveries find the light of day. It was a surprise at first. I had heard horror stories about the boy’s club and I’m grateful that I haven’t had that experience.” Downham loves supporting Women & Hi Tech because she knows the mission of the organization is to create a parallel experience for women in STEM roles across every industry and specialty.

    Jordan encourages anyone with an interest in STEM to think about how their skill set can apply to the needs of STEM companies. “You can be involved with STEM without the background. There are so many ways to be supportive in every tech company. Attorneys are needed, support and sales staff are needed, marketers are needed. You can still be involved in exciting work even if you aren’t a biochemist or software engineer. If that industry fascinates you and gets you excited, don’t be afraid to come at it with a different angle.”

    Sustaining the potential of innovation is also part of how Downham got involved with Women & Hi Tech. The Get On Board fair, organized by Leadership Indianapolis, is an event that connects interested people to volunteer and nonprofit leadership opportunities. That’s where Jordan met fellow intellectual property attorney and Women & Hi Tech Past President Angela Freeman. “Women & Hi Tech needed help with updating its bylaws and other governance documents and so I shared my brain. I knew revising the governance with the Board was an important contribution to help the organization remain sustainable.”

    Jordan has deep experience in creative problem-solving that still abides by rules and guidelines. “The trademark office has very strict requirements. You don’t get to just smudge the rules. A copyright or trademark application can be easily rejected and we don’t want that because clients are focusing on the product and the innovation. That mess isn’t what they need to worry about.”

    In much the same fashion, her insight helped Women & Hi Tech’s board create governance that protects the organization and lets other members focus on their roles without worry. “Women & Hi Tech are innovators,” she said. Jordan went on to share one of her hopes for the organization to leverage that innovation. “We need to be thinking about the ways women in STEM get opportunities. We don’t have to just focus on giving a woman a spot that was for a man before. What if we create a new spot that makes the most of female perspectives? Men don’t have to be uprooted; instead, women are elevated on our terms and in roles that prioritize the use of our strengths. So much of what we struggle with comes from this illusion of scarcity,” Downham concluded. “The world is wide enough for all types of people to have opportunities.”

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Women & Hi Tech is a 501(c)3 charitable organization, and all donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. Federal ID Number: 35-2113596. 
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