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Honoring extraordinary Indianapolis women

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The Recorder nominated and celebrated the recognition of Tamika Catchings for the Torchbearer Award and Rupal Thanawala for the Women & Hitech You Mentor Us Leading Light Award.

 On September 28th, Indiana’s First Lady Janet Holcomb presented the Indiana Commission for Women’s Torchbearer award to six outstanding Hoosier women including two minority women Tamika Catchings and Angela Freeman. Freeman is an attorney at Barnes and Thornburg. Additionally, Tamika was recognized as “Heart of Indiana” and Angela as “Trailblazer”.

 On October 1st, Women & Hitech hosted a virtual event to celebrate the achievements of Indiana women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and new this year, diversity, equity, and inclusion champions, as well as male allies where Thanawala received “You Mentor Us” recognition. Women & Hitech awarded over $ 50,000 in scholarships and grants.

 “The vast contributions and massive accomplishments of women — regardless of industry — are often minimized and rarely honored,” Robert Shegog, president and CEO of the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper, said. “This unfortunate reality is why the Indiana Commission for Women’s recent cohort of extraordinary statewide leaders is so meaningful. Each of the distinguished recipients exemplifies tremendous talent, courageous tenacity and true dedication to the state of Indiana. I commend the Commission for recognizing such deserving women and I congratulate each of the honorees, as their efforts make Indiana an even better state to live and work.”

Thanawala, who also is a columnist for the Recorder, said, “we need to inspire and mentor minority young girls to pursue careers in STEM and coach minority women professionals to elevate to executive positions. Additionally, Thanawala received the Torchbearer Award in 2018, she was the first Asian woman to be recognized for the honor.

Thanawala was the first woman in her biomedical program at her college in Mumbai, India. After moving to Indiana, she began mentoring young women in STEM and has made it her mission to increase diversity in the technology field.

“Everyone is a consumer of technology today,” Thanawala said. “But often [minorities] do not have a seat at the table to discuss what products should be made and how we want to consume these products. … Having diversity is important to create and bring innovation and new ideas to the market.”

Catchings, who overcame shyness which stemmed from hearing loss, went on to become a star player in the WNBA and a community leader in Indianapolis.

Catchings created the Catch the Stars Foundation in 2004 to help Indianapolis children achieve fitness and literacy goals. In 2011, the foundation announced a partnership with the University of Tennessee School of Education, Health and Human Services to assist high school students in Knoxville. Catchings frequently volunteers with Gleaners Food Bank and owns Tea’s Me Café, which hosts discussions on community issues, such as racism and poverty. She’s also vice president of basketball operations for the Indiana Fever.

“Tamika has been a star to many,” Shegog said in the nomination form. “But she has had her own struggles that she overcame with great courage and inspires others to lead by example.”

Congratulations to the following diverse 2020 Women & Hitech Leading Light Award recipients:

Inaugural OperationALL Male Allies Champion Award — Lamont Hatcher, founder and CEO of AIS

Barnes & Thornburg Hi Tech Woman of the Year Award — Toni Hickey, J.D., deputy general counsel and chief intellectual property (IP) counsel, Cummins Inc.

Outstanding Educator in STEM Award — Keeanna Warren, principal, Purdue Polytechnic High School North

Honorary Equity and Inclusion Champion Award — Angela B. Freeman, M.S., J.D., senior associate intellectual property (IP)/patent attorney, Barnes & Thornburg LLP

Rising Star Award — Shilpi Bhargav, global head of Requirements Modeling Group, Roche Diabetes Care Inc.

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