Women in IST hosts annual Lean In Panel to empower female technologists

Mackenzie Stagnito
March 26, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Women in Information Sciences and Technology (WIST), a student organization in the College of Information Sciences and Technology, hosted the sixth annual Lean In Panel on March 18 at the Nittany Lion Inn. The annual event provides women in technology the opportunity to learn from experienced and empowering female professionals from companies such as Deloitte Consulting, Erie Insurance, and Lean In Circle.

This year’s event was organized by WIST Vice President and Lean In Chair Ritika Bafna, a junior security and risk analysis major. She encourages women to feel empowered by participating in these events and networking with the experts in attendance.

“I’m hoping the audience can gain from [the panelists’] experiences and the leadership opportunities they have held in the past,” she said. “It will be my gain if that goal can be delivered.”

The panelists traveled to campus for the event to help achieve that objective. College of IST alumnae Himanshi Patel, class of 2017, of Erie Insurance, and Kirsten Winkeler, class of 2014, of Deloitte, shared stories of their efforts as undergraduate students to empower women with their involvement in organizations such as WIST. Their messages during the panel were aimed at advising women to face challenges and informing them of opportunities available in the field, despite its male-dominated reputation.

“As women, a lot of times we’re intimidated,” Patel said. “We think, ‘I might not be the right fit for this job because I’m a woman.’ Don’t stop yourself. Take that risk and go for it. You might fail or you might succeed, but either way it’s going to be a good experience.”

Winkeler credited her involvement in female student organizations during her time in the College of IST for much of her professional success.

“It was groups like [WIST] that helped me to feel comfortable and like I was not alone in my pursuit for a degree in a male-dominated field,” she said. “WIST is a great organization for building confidence, getting women together, and collaborating in order to be successful and grow our presence in this field.”

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, women earn just 35 percent of undergraduate degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics conferred each year in the United States. This gender gap is something that students such as Bafna are actively working to change.

“One of the reasons I chose to be in the College of IST is because there has always been a gender gap,” she said. “To close this gap is one of my main goals. That’s why we’re doing these events. We’re making sure that people are aware and to hear from people who have faced this gap and learn how things can be better for tomorrow.”

The panel is based on the national Lean In movement created by Facebook’s Chief Operations Officer Sheryl Sandberg. The purpose of Lean In is to empower women to lean into their ambitions and achieve their goals.

Last Updated March 26, 2019