• 12/30/2020 11:00 AM | Anonymous

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 12/18/2020 1:00 PM | Anonymous

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

    Recognizing Amazing STEM Females and Volunteers

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

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

    Supporting Dayspring Center

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 11/30/2020 8:02 AM | Anonymous

    Dear Members, Sponsors, Volunteers, Supporters and Friends,

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

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

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

    What are the effects of practicing gratitude?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    In this 23rd edition of "Grown from STEM," we are excited to introduce you to and invite you to learn more about our Networking Director, Dr. Maria Alvim Gaston, and our dedicated member, Arwa Ghalawan. Both women are incredibly accomplished in their respective STEM fields; Dr. Alvim Gaston, a chemist, and Ghalawan in the field of technology. Dr. Alvim Gaston and Ghalawan are champions for diversity, equity, and inclusion, particularly for women in STEM, in their careers, volunteerism, and personal lives. Please read more about Dr. Alvim Gaston and Arwa Ghalawan and how their backgrounds, STEM expertise, and passion for equity and inclusion for girls and STEM professionals helps fuel their support and involvement in Women & Hi Tech.

    As we began in the October 2020 edition of "Grown from STEM," we are delighted to continue to feature one of our 2020 Virtual Leading Light Awards (LLAs) recipients in this newsletter. This month we continue to celebrate and recognize Women & Hi Tech’s Inaugural Equity & Inclusion Champion Award recipient, Erica Diebold, Senior Intellectual Property Manager (Patents) at Roche Diabetes Care, Inc. Erica was the first transgender employee at Roche in Indianapolis and faced significant internal backlash for her decision to manifest her true self. She met these reactions with courage, sharing her unique perspective on the challenges of womanhood, and resolving to do all she could to eliminate those challenges. She has built increased allyship for women and members of the LGBTQ+ community at Roche and in the local community, including developing allyship training. Please watch this segment of the 2020 Virtual LLAs to learn more about what fuels Erica's passion and drive for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the STEM fields and beyond. Again, Congratulations Erica!

    Kind Regards,

    Rebecca Bormann
    President, Women & Hi Tech

  • 11/30/2020 8:01 AM | Anonymous

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 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 a diversity and inclusion 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 at Infosys. 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,

    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 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.”

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