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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Celebrating Black women making big moves in STEM

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As Black History Month ends and celebrations of women begin, it is the prime time to talk about Black women. In the fields of sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), Black women are very much present, but underrepresented in education (2.9% of STEM degrees in the U.S.) and careers (2.5% of science and engineering employees in the U.S.). As the local economy continues to evolve, the demand for diverse STEM-skilled workers and entrepreneurs will be essential — and Black women need to play a leading role in the industry.

There are many Black women in STEM who are leading the charge locally. Here are six of Indy’s Black women leaders making incredible impacts that you need to know.

Baindu Banyon and Amie Bakare, founders, STEMsiSTARS — These biological sisters have established a company, HARPII LLC, that connects international STEM talent to companies looking to diversify their talent pools. They recently launched a serious online presence, The STEMsiSTARS, which showcases Black women in STEM, from recent graduates to seasoned professionals. The STEMsiSTARS desire “to remove the excuse of the ‘pipeline problem’ by making it clear that we exist and are more than ready to contribute to the science and tech landscapes in ways that only Black women can.”

Linda Calvin, vice president, School of Information Technology, Workforce Alignment, Ivy Tech Community College — When we set out to identify Black women leading in tech locally, Calvin is on every short-list of Black women leading in tech locally. She leads boldly in this space and intimately understands the importance of Black women being educated in tech. She believes that “we need Black women now to nurture the next gen. We need BIPOC women in all levels of IT, from IT support, to coding, project management, cyber, digital product design and tech sales. We need BIPOC women to be exposed to and placed in positions of influence so we can stop celebrating ‘the one’ and normalize having true diversity in leadership.” 

Ariel Crawley, community engagement, Indy Women in Tech — Establishes community connections that help facilitate women becoming part of the tech workforce and girls being exposed to STEM. She works to find resources to support women enrolling and completing tech education. Connecting with Ariel we learned, “women must be educated and engaged in the tech sector as it is fastest-growing and provides a great return on investment. Local organizations like Ivy Tech Community College and Eleven Fifty Academy provide tech education at an affordable cost, allowing women to find great paying jobs in a short amount of time and with little debt. This better positions women to find financial stability for themselves and their families, which helps all communities.”

Kelli Jones, co-founder, Sixty8 Capital and Be Nimble Foundation — Jones initially set out on a totally different career path but has made major moves in the tech ecosystem. She is one of Indy’s premier Black leaders in the space.  As co-founder of Sixty8 Capital, a seed stage fund for Black, brown, women, and LGBTQ+ led startups powered by Allos Ventures and Be Nimble Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports Black and Latinx tech entrepreneurs and career pipelines, she has dedicated her talent to building and investing in diverse and inclusive tech ecosystems, including the new Melon Kitchen Accelerator in the AMP at 16 Tech.

Turae Dabney, executive director, People for Urban Progress (PUP) — Dabney began leading PUP, an Indianapolis-based 501c3 nonprofit focused on advancing good design and civic sustainability by developing products and projects in connectivity, responsible reuse and making, in July 2019. As a Black woman leading this role, she believes people who look like her to have equitable seats at the table because diverse opinions bring forth the best ideas.  She is currently part of the design team for the 16 Tech Bridge and focused on leading community engagement.

We are proud to connect with this incredible list of leaders in our work at 16 Tech – and we know there are many more leading women out there. Nearly 40% of our neighbors are Black women — and we understand how important these women are to the future of our city and state. We’re focused on prioritizing several key talent development strategies to enhance connections between employers and neighborhood talent, address disparities that limit potential and develop cross-cultural, cross-sector networks that advance inclusive talent pipelines.  If you are (or if you know) a Black woman leader in STEM, reach out and connect with us. I am thrilled to see Black women play a vital role in leading efforts of change and innovation.

Starla Hart is the director of community initiatives at 16 Tech Community Corporation and contributor for the Indianapolis Recorder. Contact her at shart@16tech.com.

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