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New Program to Bridge the Gender Gap in STEM Careers Coming to Palm Beach County
Indy Women in Tech (IWiT) is Launching Expansion to PBC with Acceptance of $35,000 Check and Press Conference on Monday, April 9; Participants Include: Executive Director of IWiT, President of Keiser University, CFO of Florida, Former Indy Mayor
But until recently, these careers were largely male-dominated, with only 26% of the positions filled by women. Now that's changing. Indy Women in Tech "IWiT" is an organization dedicated to introducing women and girls to tech career opportunities, and then providing for the educational, financial and mentoring support needed to help them embark on and advance in these careers. Founded in 2016 and headquartered in Indianapolis, IN, IWiT is open to partnering with organizations in Southeast Florida to expand their mission and initiatives.
Palm Beach County attorney, Sharma J. Schacknow, is helping IWiT on a volunteer basis to get them established in the Sunshine State. She fully believes in their mission. "Girls often have a phobia about working in technology,"
In helping to launch IWiT locally, Schacknow has involved several other organizations. These include Keiser University, Pratt & Whitney, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County. Current plans call for two major elements of the IWiT program to be the first implemented and replicated:
• Recognizing children's fascination with robots, IWiT has designed a low-cost, entry level platform on which young people can create their own robotic devices. Boys and Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County is currently expanding their facility in Belle Glade, an underserved area of the county. IWiT will help implement and launch their robotics program for middle school students in that facility.
• In Indiana, IWiT has successfully launched a STEM day titled Ignite Your Superpower! for middle school girls, featuring hands-on experiments and exhibits. Following their lead, Keiser University plans to hold a STEM day on its Palm Beach County residential campus. Pratt & Whitney is interested in holding a similar program at its Palm Beach Gardens facility.
Keiser University president, Dr. Gary B. Vonk, fully supports bringing more women into tech jobs. Keiser is launching a full slate of technology programs at all of its 18 Florida campuses, citing an industry shortage of qualified people for STEM jobs, a shortage that could be alleviated by more women joining these fields. "We recently met with industry leaders," Vonk reports. "Their only problem is finding people to do these jobs."
As for hosting a STEM day, Vonk adds, "We'd be happy to host a STEM week, if they'd like."
To help finance the initial IWiT efforts, Simple Health, a health insurance agency based in Hollywood, Florida which leans heavily on technology to fuel its proprietary sales and quoting system, is donating $25,000 to Indy Women in Tech. The Schacknow Family Foundation, of which Sharma Schacknow is a director, is making a $10,000 donation through Israel Bonds, one of IWiT's philanthropic partners.
"We're excited to partner with Indy Women in Tech and encourage all of our supporters who are considering giving a gift in the form of an Israel Bond to give to this organization,"
Sharma Schacknow sees the initial IWiT programs as first steps. "Ultimately, I'm envisioning the creation of robotics programs for girls reaching beyond Palm Beach County," she says. "The result would be empowered women who have the skills and talents which will serve them well in their careers and as members of society."
Vonk and Schacknow will be invited to attend the IWiT Championship, a full field LPGA event held annually at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The event week serves as a convening point for all current IWiT initiatives including, robotics and STEM days, and raises funds and awareness for the cause. The goal will be for those interested in growing the mission in South East Florida to attend, learn and benchmark, with an objective of implementing similar programs in Palm Beach County in 2019.
For more information about IWiT, visit the organization's web site at www.indywit.com.
PRESS CONFERENCE DETAILS:
WHAT: Indy Women in Tech ("IWiT"), has identified South East Florida as a potential future expansion market and is seeking funding and partnerships to make an impact, beginning in Palm Beach County. Join us at the launch press conference to find out the details your viewers and readers will certainly want to know.
WHEN: Monday, April 9, 2018, 3:00 PM
WHERE: Offices of Simple Health, 2 Oakwood Blvd, Suite 110, Hollywood, FL, 33020
• Hon. Greg Ballard, Former Mayor, Indianapolis, Indiana
• Jody Dedon, Executive Director, Indy Women in Tech (IWiT)
• Dr. Gary B. Vonk, President, Keiser University, West Palm Beach
• Steve Dorfman, CEO, Simple Health
• Cam Girouard, Simple Health
• Mark Ruben, Executive Director, Israel Bonds, Palm Beach County
• And special guest: Hon. Jimmy Patronis, Chief Financial Officer, State of Florida
Melissa Perlman, BlueIvy Communications