The New Mexico Technology Council honored six women for their career achievements and efforts to mentor and inspire others in an all-virtual celebration July 9 that attracted hundreds of viewers.
The council’s annual Women in Technology award ceremony, now in its 12th year, was scheduled for a live event in March, but the coronavirus lockdown forced organizers to postpone, said Tech Council Executive Director Deborah Breitfeld.
“We were a week away from our live event when the government closed things down,” Breitfeld said. “We had to pivot fast into the virtual world to continue with council activities, but we held out hope of still doing the annual event live. When we realized that can’t happen, we reached out to our members and local networks to do it online.”
Albuquerque-based Heritage Audio Visual managed logistics, pre-producing biographical videos of the honorees, acceptance speeches, and keynote address while allowing the council to host the actual award presentations live. Some 200 people participated, and the archived YouTube video link for the celebration has logged more than 500 views.
“We even had a ‘good morning’ pre-celebration show to recognize our sponsors that included a spoof,” Breitfeld said. “Council members wore flannel pajamas and slippers as if they mistakenly thought the whole thing was a Zoom event where their wardrobes couldn’t be seen. Everything went really well.”
The annual awards aim to highlight the achievements of local women as role models who can inspire others to pursue education and opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math, said Council Chair Sheila Mendez.
“It’s important to take time to acknowledge women in New Mexico for their achievements in technology and their mentoring and advocacy for other women to pursue STEM careers,” Mendez said. “We want to encourage and inspire more young women.”
Keynote speaker Amy Lynch, Comcast senior vice president for the Mountain West Region, emphasized the important of such mentorship in her address while imploring women to stand up for themselves and pursue their goals.
“We are the architects of our own future,” Lynch said. “The initiative and responsibility to build your future is yours. … Make time for your own development.”
Lynch said one of the biggest lessons she learned from 25 years in media and technology is the importance of pulling people up alongside one’s own achievements.
“Be a shoulder for other women to stand on,” Lynch said. “Teach, inspire greatness. We each serve as a living example to one another.”
The annual awards and the Technology Council’s activities in general help to do that in New Mexico, where women in technology fare much better than in other U.S. cities.
The 2020 edition of “Best Cities for Women in Technology,” an annual report published in February by the financial research and consulting firm SmartAsset, ranked Albuquerque as fifth best among 59 cities surveyed in 2019. That’s up from sixth place in the 2019 report, and 12th best in 2016.
The report shows Albuquerque as third-lowest in gender pay gap, with women here on average earning 97% of what their male counterparts do, surpassed only by Houston, Texas, and Long Beach, California. Nationally, women earn on average just 83% of what men do.
SmartAsset says women in Albuquerque currently hold 31.2% of all local technology jobs, up from 29.7% in the 2019 report, and 27.3% in 2016. That’s still low, but it’s much better than the national average, where women hold just 25.7% of all tech jobs.
“Outreach to younger women is what helps change things,” Breitfeld said. “We have so many women here working hard to grow STEM education, including the women honored in this year’s awards.”
Awardees are evaluated based on outstanding work in the technology profession, volunteer and community service, exemplification of an entrepreneurial spirit, and active mentorship of other women.
This year’s six honorees were chosen from 49 nominees. The award winners are:
• Carol Adkins, director for Sandia National Laboratories’ Energy and Earth Systems Center
• Sarah Boisvert, founder and CEO of Fab Lab Hub LLC in Santa Fe
• Jill Meyers, aviation consultant with Meyers AeroConsulting LLC
• Kimball Sekaquaptewa, chief technology director at Santa Fe Indian School
• Sharon Sessions, physics professor at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
• Caren Shiozaki, executive vice president and chief information officer at TMST Inc. in Santa Fe
The council also awarded scholarships to two women who are pursuing engineering degrees at the University of New Mexico. Anna Janicek won a $5,000 scholarship sponsored by Nusenda Credit Union, and Eva Paola Nunez won $2,5000 sponsored by ISACA She Leads Tech.