Eight women awarded for achievement in technology

Eight prominent women were selected Tuesday from a pool of 16 finalists to receive the Women in Tech Award.

This year marks the eighth time the Women Tech Council (WTC) hosted its award program, which seeks to recognize innovative women who are positively impacting the technology industry.

The 2015 recipients are: Denise Leleux (eBay), Mary Anne White (Orbital ATK), Jill Layfield (Backcountry.com), Stormy Simon (Overstock.com), Catherine Wong (Domo), Vicky Thomas (Lucid Software), Jessica Harris (Utah Valley University) and Amanda Hudson (Western Governors University).

Wong, as well as runners-up Mary Sinnott, Tricia Schumann and JoCee Porter, all have affiliations with the U. Wong served on the advisory board for the College of Engineering, Sinnott is an alumna with her master’s degree in mechanical engineering and Schumann is an associate instructor for the U’s MBA program.

Porter, a sophomore in chemical engineering, is the secretary of the American Nuclear Society Student Section and interns with the Utah Nuclear Engineering Program. She first got involved in her current field of study as a participant in the U’s ACCESS program, which aims to jump-start the education of incoming freshman women interested in science and math.

Porter said she loved meeting the other finalists.

“It’s mostly the women, not the awards, that people are there for,” Porter said. “It was so inspiring to talk to the other women and realize that this is something that’s possible for me as well. I’m just a girl from Utah, but I can do this.”

Kristin Wright, programs director at the WTC, believes the award is an important way to recognize women in a field typically dominated by men. She said the group was formed in 2007 because “there was no existing community in the state for women in technology to go and connect.”

One of the award co-sponsors is the Utah Science, Technology and Research Agency (USTAR), which has an innovation center at the James L. Sorenson Molecular Biotechnology Building on campus. Ivy Estabrooke, executive director of USTAR, stressed the economic importance of encouraging women to participate in the industry.

“As you look at many organizations and companies, the ones with women on their boards tend to function better,” she said. “Boards with diversity, like gender diversity, tend to be higher-performing.”

Porter, too, encourages other women to get involved in technology.

She said: “It’s a male-dominated field but that doesn’t mean girls can’t do it too.”

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