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HooWiT group for women in tech connects students to professionals

Cathy O’Bryan of University Information Technology Services said she rose through the tech field with the encouragement of mentors and peers. She will share her story with young women  Oct. 25 as the featured speaker for the first Hoosier Women in Tech event.

“Women in the workforce today in STEM are a minority,” O’Bryan said. “They need the support that a minority needs in order to be successful.” 

HooWiT will offer networking and professional development opportunities for local students interested in tech-related fields.

The first HooWiT meeting is at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 25 at Blueline Media Productions on West Fourth Street. Tickets to the free event can be purchased through Eventbrite

HooWiT will join the ranks of several initiatives run by Humanetrix Foundation, a local nonprofit founded in 2002. It organizes programming to develop and publicize Bloomington’s growing technology sector, according to a statement.

The new group will facilitate interactions between students and professional women in STEM-related fields, said Danise Alano-Martin, president of Humanetrix Foundation. The organization was able to launch HooWiT through a $10,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County.

Bloomington’s Trades District, a technology park downtown, and the Bloomington Technology Partnership are cases-in-point for the area’s active tech community, Alano-Martin said.

“We want to make sure and see that women are included, and that their talents are leveraged by companies and opportunities as we continue to grow the tech sector here,” Alano-Martin said. 

For now, HooWiT will consist of monthly meetings featuring guest speakers and networking forums. Students of any major from IU, Ivy Tech Community College Bloomington and elsewhere in South Central Indiana are welcome to attend.

IU has its own group dedicated to empowering women in tech fields, the Center of Excellence for Women in Technology. But while CEWiT focuses broadly on encouraging women to become involved in tech, HooWiT is designed to connect female students with professional women. 

“I think it’s a natural partnership,” Alano-Martin said. 

Graduating from college with an elementary education and teaching degree, O’Bryan found her way into the tech world by happenstance, she said. Her first teaching job consisted of language arts and computer education — though she had no undergraduate training with computers. 

“I said, well, I can figure this out,” O’Bryan recalled. “I’m smart, and I can learn.”

Women often feel they need to qualify for all requirements listed in a job description to apply, O’Bryan said. In 1999, she almost didn’t apply for a job described as a professional technical training manager at the University of Wisconsin-Madison because she didn’t feel like she met every requirement. 

“I suffered from what a lot of women suffer from, and that’s the imposter syndrome,” O’Bryan said. 

After a male friend pointed out the unlikeliness anyone could meet all the qualifications, O’Bryan wound up not only taking the job, but loving it.

According to the National Center for Women and Information Technology, only one in four computing jobs are occupied by women.

“We need to be more aware, as women, that technology is important to our career and there are ways for us to support each other,” O’Bryan said. 

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