SOUTHFIELD—The Michigan Council of Women in Technology Foundation’s 14th annual Signature Gala went virtual—one more pivot this year for the nonprofit working to make Michigan the No. 1 state for women in technology.
The Oct. 17 digital fundraiser, with a theme of “Embrace the Moment,” raised $352,000 in gross revenue for programs that help inspire and grow girls and women in technology. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles served as host sponsor and over 500 individuals tuned in for the evening.
“Despite the pandemic, we’ve actually had a significant year here at MCWT,” said Chris Rydzewski, MCWT’s executive director. “We are a technology group, and thanks to our partners, we’ve been able to build on our strengths, adapt to an ever-changing environment, and reach even more people. The move to virtual was an opportunity to maintain our community connections and make an even bigger impact among the girls and women who need to hear our message the most.”
The event provided a behind-the-scenes look at how the nonprofit found the upside in the year’s challenges, detailing five impactful pivots:
- Sparking curiosity through virtual summer technology programs. Instead of 10 in-person camps for middle and high school girls across the state, MCWT launched a Summer Virtual Learning Series spanning six weeks. A total of 270 girls attended the camps, thanks to sponsors Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Dow, and Google, along with many volunteers. New MCWT Midweek MeetUps provided a one-hour virtual connection with thought leaders, millennials and current MCWT scholarship winners.
- Increasing access to scholarships. MCWT’s scholarship program became its biggest yet with 43 scholarship winners. More than 10 partner companies sponsored Named Scholarships, including Thirdware, which provided a 4-year commitment to a $25,000 scholarship each year.
- Focusing on support and engagement for women in tech careers. MCWT research revealed that many women in technology are concerned with being the only woman in the room, so the group is working to cultivate a community of likeminded allies through its revamped mentoring programs and professional development offerings. The relaunched virtual Lunch and Learn events and ConnectNet sessions have drawn over 1,400 participants since April.
- Fostering community, safely. Following strict health guidelines, MCWT hosted its Southeast Michigan Golf Classic, its second most successful golf fundraiser since this event’s inception 14 years ago. MCWT then added a West Michigan Golf Classic that highlighted the commitment of companies in the region, such as Stryker, Whirlpool and Spectrum Health.
- Multiplying positive impact through partnerships. Understanding that more can be accomplished by coming together in a united mission, MCWT ramped up engagement with technology-driven community partners to share best practices, learn about the latest outreach strategies and further promote the cause to inspire and grow women in technology.
Dow CIO and MCWT President Melanie Kalmar urged attendees to continue to contribute to the momentum as there is more work to do and more people to reach.
“It is only with our technology community’s support that we can show the nation what Michigan can do,” said Kalmar. “I envision a future where tech hubs today look to our region for attraction and retention strategies. What we are doing today, fueled by Michigan-centric data and insights, is positively impacting our state’s economy, our businesses and people’s lives. We must strive to ensure our workforces reflect the diversity of the communities in which we operate.”
Twenty-six companies sponsored the digital gala, including visionary sponsor BCBSM. The event featured entertainment from the Dan Rafferty Band, an auction, live appeal and remarks from MCWT stakeholders.
“We need to embrace this moment,” said FCA CIO Mamatha Chamarthi. “We need to provide women with role models and the resources they need to be successful in their careers and in life. If we do not, we could lose years of progress that we have made towards growing and inspiring women and young girls to pursue careers in technology.”