IWiT impact on lives, community growing year over year
Across the U.S. more companies are recognizing the importance of developing diverse teams. Diversity in teams has been shown to create smarter and more capable teams, and diverse companies produce more revenue. In Indianapolis, which has recently been recognized by SmartAsset as one of the best cities for women in tech, several hundred tech and tech-enabled companies in the city have job opportunities across all experience levels that would be great for women applicants. With an ecosystem flush with opportunity, the Indy Women in Tech (IWiT) Foundation helps ensure women are adequately trained and prepared for these jobs.
IWiT’s mission is to inspire women to pursue careers in STEM and STEM-related fields; to that effect, IWiT provides women and girls of all ages the support that they need to pursue careers in tech, including training and education, exposure to potential employers in STEM and STEM-related fields, financial support and mentoring. Women and girls can access the benefits through programs such as Ignite Your Superpower Weekend, the IWiT Championship, and IvyWorks, a program at Ivy Tech Community College that supports women in their endeavor to build a career in tech.
Earlier this year, Ariel Crawley, program director at IvyWorks, received the Tech Educator of the Year Mira Award, and one of her students, Wendy Wernke, presented her with the award. Wendy is a career changer who moved to Indy from Fort Wayne. With a background in fashion and product design, she entered the IvyWorks program with a mission to explore emerging trends and innovative technologies in the retail industry. At IvyWorks, she had the opportunity not only to take the classes she needed to accomplish her
“The networking, tech tours, and volunteer opportunities offered in the program helped me tremendously in understanding how I would fit into Indy’s tech market,” said Wendy. “Just in the last school year, I’ve attended over 75 tech events. My network has increased by over 150 new people, and it grows each and every day!”
The IvyWorks program focuses on preparing women for their new careers through company tours, job shadowing opportunities, and internships at local tech businesses such as DeveloperTown, BlackInk IT, Infosys and The Kinney Group. Through a generous grant from Salesforce, IvyWorks is also able to offer paid internships so students can further develop their skills and boost their confidence.
Embarking on a career in tech, however, is not always easy. Ariel talks to the women who join the IvyWorks program and has found that “they deal with various issues having to do with funding, transportation, childcare and professional development. Many are concerned about returning to the workforce after giving birth, while others cannot afford to go to school to skill up into tech as they are still paying off student loans or caring for their families.”
Barriers to entering the workforce like adequate parental leave or childcare options require more than just classes and networking opportunities. IvyWorks offers the supportive environment that women need. “We offer our students scholarships, gas and bus fares, access to local conferences and networking events, and childcare assistance,” said Ariel. “There are coaching sessions to help ensure that the ladies are able to stay on the path of their goals. We also make sure we are there to assist with any personal or family issues that arise, especially as they are working to earn their degrees or certificates.”
Ariel is responsible for equipping the program with personalized student services such as strategic professional development, business networking, and wraparound support. She lends a personal touch to the mission, and many of her students, including Wendy, speak of her as a reliable advisor who goes out of her way to create the tools and connections her students need for career development. Wendy feels that the program is “structured to help every woman find her unique voice in the tech ecosystem.”
The students in the program pay it forward, too. Many of them volunteer to support other initiatives and programs at IWiT, including the upcoming Ignite Your Superpower STEM Day and the Indy Women in Tech Championship at Brickyard Crossing. Their contributions are reflective of how IWiT has made an impact on nearly 20,000 women and girls throughout Indiana since its inception in 2016.
The IvyWorks program eases the transition into tech for many women like Wendy, and