The Women Tech Council held its 12th annual Women Tech Awards on Wednesday at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City, recognizing and honoring women in technology for their impact on the tech industry and economy. Among the 22 finalists were several women who work for Utah County companies, such as Adobe, Domo, Workfront, Instructure and more.
Although most of the award winners work for Salt Lake City-based companies, Utah Valley University physics student Jessica Jones walked away with the STEM Pathway award, and Adobe was given the Impact Award for their efforts to increase industry inclusion and diversity.
Besides the finalists and their families, friends and coworkers, the event also brought 150 female high school students to share tables with women in tech.
“Young women need role models, whether they’re in high school, college or early career, and this platform lets them (see) role models and that makes a difference for all of us,” Cydni Tetro, president and co-founder of the Women in Tech Council, said.
Pomai Betham, a senior at Mountain View High School, and Lillie Ray, a sophomore at Lehi High School, are two such high school students. This is Pomai’s second year attending the Women Tech Awards, after first getting involved with SheTech, WTC’s free event for high school girls, her freshman year.
“We’re representing the SheTech side of things for the Women Tech Council, showing really what SheTech has been showing us girls, what we can do in the technology field,” Pomai said. “Being here today, especially showing us what we can strive to become, and seeing role models who have made it so far in the technology field … it’s amazing.”
Before meeting Pomai, Lillie said she had never been interested in a STEM career, but she attended her first SheTech event last year as a freshman and applied to be on the student board for this year.
“Being on the student board has really sparked my interest … in technology and science and stuff I thought I’d never be into or interested in,” Lillie said.
She said attending the awards ceremony was particularly inspiring as well. “It’s cool to see women get awards for really prestigious things and have their names up there … (in a field) that’s usually male dominated.”
Lillie said she’s interested in going into medical technology, while Pomai plans to be a software engineering student specializing in social media platforms.
“Just being here showed me I can do better things, and I can do bigger things to make a difference in the world and show other high school girls, ‘Hey, you can do STEM careers, you can do technology careers,’” Pomai said, adding that she never would have imagined wanting to study software engineering without SheTech and the Women Tech Council introducing the possibility to her. “It’s been pretty awesome.”
Audrey Langheinrich, a product manager for Pluralsight, was volunteering at the event. Even though she herself wasn’t a finalist, she came to support friends of hers and women in tech in general. The tech awards are her first Women Tech Council event.
“I think it’s great and important to support other women, especially in technology,” Langheinrich said. “I think (Women Tech Council is) serving a need that’s been missing in our market.”
Langheinrich said over the course of her own career as a woman in tech, she’s often been the only woman on a team, or even in an entire building.
“So when you bring people who are experiencing these things all together, it’s amazing. Like I am not alone,” she said.
The other big Utah County winner was Adobe, with Wendy Steinle, a senior director in product management, in attendance to accept the award on Adobe’s behalf. Steinle also serves as the Adobe Utah Site Leader, leading a council comprised of six action committees, one of which is dedicated to promoting and increasing diversity and inclusion.
“Adobe has always at the core been focused on diversity, because we know it to be true that a more diverse workforce drives business in a much more effective way,” Steinle said. Having a diverse workforce also better enables the company to serve diverse customers, she added. “It’s our responsibility to make sure that the way we are developing products and solutions are with recognition to who’s going to be using them.”
Last year, Steinle said, Adobe achieved global pay parity, which according to recent numbers is still being sustained in hiring practices. Now, Steinle said the company is shifting their sights to “opportunity parity,” looking at practices in who gets promotions and opportunities within the company to figure out if they need to make changes.
Another way Adobe has worked to be more inclusive, Steinle said, is by changing the name of their annual global conference from “Adobe and Women” to “Adobe for All.”
“The shift in name is indicative of our broader focus that the end goal is to create an environment where everyone is respected and valued for who they are, and invited to contribute and grow according to their strengths and passions,” Steinle said.
Nominations for women in tech finalists began in May, but the Impact Award isn’t given based on nominations. Rather, the Women Tech Council looks at what different technology companies are doing to make a positive impact, and this year felt Adobe had done the most.
“It is a tremendous honor to be recognized for what Adobe is doing around driving impact for women in tech and diversity and inclusion,” Steinle said. “We do what we do, because we believe that it’s the right thing, just inherently as humans, and we also know that it’s good for business.”
Top tech talent, Steinle said, is generally made up of people who want to work for companies that are diverse and inclusive.
“(It is) really gratifying to know that what we’re doing is driving impact and therefore we were recognized,” she said. “Adobe is grateful for the work that the Women Tech Council leads and drives in the state of Utah. They are driving the conversation that needs to be had so that we as a state can grow and thrive as the expectations of the workforce change and the expectations of customers change … and part of that means that we need the whole state to embrace diversity and inclusion.