Five years ago in November, Indy Women in Tech was founded to help women and girls learn about STEM opportunities and enter or transition to the STEM workforce. Since this organization’s inception, Eleven Fifty Academy has been a proud partner of their efforts to create opportunities for women in tech and ensure those opportunities are distributed across barriers. We sat down with Ariel Crawley, Community Engagement Chair of Indy Women in Tech, to talk about the work of this amazing group and how it’s paying off for women across Indiana.
What is unique about Indy Women in Tech?
One way we are unique is our partnerships with both Eleven Fifty Academy and Ivy Tech. Helping women transition to new careers, we aren’t going into it alone. We need these partners to help us with the mission.
We also really understand the barriers preventing women from entering tech—we provide not only scholarships, but also childcare stipends, professional development, emergency assistance, and mentoring. Often, without childcare or additional funding to supplement income, women can’t go back to school. And even when they can, they need a tribe that looks like them to help get to know the tech workforce. No matter what skill level or what their interest, we have help to achieve their goals.
Are there some tech industries where you are seeing major opportunities for women?
Coding is a very strong entry point, both web development and software development. Also, cybersecurity—almost everyone has had their data breached, or gotten a notice in our email that our credit card or social security is compromised. As these incidents increase people get curious about what can be done to prevent them. Cloud and data science are also growing.
We love working with Eleven Fifty because the bootcamps they offer are a direct pathway for women to quickly achieve the opportunities that are most available. Even their new UX/UI bootcamp offers a more creative pathway to a tech career.
What are some of the successes Indy Women in Tech has achieved in the community?
One of our biggest wins was the Indy Women in Tech LPGA Championship at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS). This was actually a week of events, including an event for children, Tee. This brought elementary kids out to learn about STEM, not just watching Bill Nye in a classroom, but doing hands on experiences.
Another event we hosted over the course of three years at IMS was Pathways. A round 500 high school students were able to complete reverse interviews with different STEM companies and employers. This meant students got to go up to an employer like AT&T and ask their questions—what do I need to know to get a job? What are the perks? This helps them see they don’t need to get a Ph.D to work in tech.
For younger girls, we partner with Conner Prairie and Women & Hi Tech to present an event called Ignite Your Superpower, a day for middle school girls to come to a college campus and get hands-on experience with different STEM careers. They explore—what are the daily tasks of an engineer or a developer? This lets these girls light a spark of interest in a STEM future. We also work with Techpoint for Youth to get more girls involved in robotics and have seen much success with that.
Lastly, we partnered with Eleven Fifty last year to get 40 women placed in jobs, a number that is only growing every day. We have been able to raise over a million dollars to provide scholarships, get girls interested in STEM, childcare assistance, emergency funding—all as a free service.
What kind of change is still needed to make the tech community more inclusive?
One is hiring initiatives. Businesses should team up with local organizations to find more talent deliberately. Talking to women, I’ve even learned that job descriptions aren’t written to be inviting to women at an entry level.
Also, those in the tech community that are male might not know up and coming female talent. So when they leverage their network, they are inevitably calling only on other men to see what they can do. They need to go beyond their comfort zone to reach out and see who else might be qualified. For instance, we were recently in a meeting and asked if a business had any job openings. We were able to get on the phone right in the meeting and help source talent for the position. The woman in questions now has an interview set up. Basically, tech orgs need to not assume diverse talent is coming to them, and seek out diverse talent instead.
They also need to identify the barriers in place for women in working a traditional 9-5 job. Especially as more companies are looking to reopen the office, but schools might not open simultaneously, women are left with a burden of needing to balance kids in a hybrid schedule, as well as work, as well as additional home responsibilities because an elderly person may have moved in for safety, as well as…the list goes on and on, and women are drastically taking on more of the burden. What we are seeing companies like Salesforce do is allow women to create their own schedule, working from home some days when duties are less time-sensitive, then other days coming to the office to be fully-focused.
Look at your organization and ask, are these policies necessary for the bottom line? Or are we just doing it because of tradition or because it’s the easiest approach? Taking the path of least resistance does not elevate the cause of inclusion.
How does Indy Women in Tech partner with Eleven Fifty Academy?
Eleven Fifty has been an awesome partner for all 5 years we have existed. They have been with us since the beginning and the passion they show for students is amazing. If they see students increase in volume, they don’t hesitate to find avenues for resources. And they don’t just look for traditional tech students. They make it a mission to partner locally with the orgs that connect them to veterans, women, and people of color. Eleven Fifty takes a holistic approach to not only say “tech is for everybody,” but also to act and make sure tech is really for everyone.
They understand a bootcamp is not an easy task. It’s an 8-5 or 9-5 program for 13 weeks, and now it’s being completed all from home. And at home these students can’t escape for focus by going to the school itself. Now there are so many distractions from kids and other family, especially for women. I see Eleven Fifty working hard to make sure all possible attendees get met where they are to enable their success.
What would you say to a woman reading this who is considering a career change to tech?
First, contact Indy Women in Tech. Don’t talk yourself out of it. As soon as you start thinking about it, it is human nature to start thinking of all the reasons it won’t work. You think, “I don’t have money, I won’t have time for the kids, I have bills due now so I can’t lose income.” Come talk to us so we can help you see past the negative. We know not only that it is possible, but how it is possible.
We won’t just talk to you but will connect with women in your shoes. If you are a 65 year old woman with your family depending on you—we have someone like you who is thinking the same thing. If you are in hospitality and laid off, and don’t know what to do or you need to work now and can’t afford school—we know other women in that situation. We can provide short-term assistance that will help you overcome these barriers that could be preventing you from financial freedom in a tech career down the road.
Opening Doors in Tech for All
Like Ariel and our other friends at Indy Women in Tech, Eleven Fifty Academy is deeply passionate about empowering women toward fulfilling and high-paying careers in tech. It’s our mission to help every student, especially those who have been traditionally underserved or left out of the tech industry, achieve the excellence we know is within them. If you’re ready to jump start your career, you can reach out to Indy Women in Tech at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Eleven Fifty Academy.