Tech awards show honors talented women in the industry

After spending long careers in technology, Lori Nguyen and Christina Aldan are working to honor other women in the industry.

To do so, Girls in Tech Las Vegas, HiTech Vegas and Women Advancing are combining to put on the second annual Las Vegas Women in Technology Awards.

The prizes will recognize five women in technology industries ranging from information technology, computer engineering and robotics to entrepreneurship and technology startups.

Awards applications will be accepted until April 15. The awards ceremony will follow sometime in May. For information on the awards, email info@vegaswomentechawards.net.

“We are excited to recognize the amazing innovative advances that local women are making in technology in Las Vegas,” Aldan says.

Although women make up 48 percent of the U.S. workforce, they hold only 24 percent of jobs in science, technology, engineering and math, according to Million Women Mentors, a national campaign working to increase the number of women in STEM jobs.

Nguyen says the valley tech market is making strides.

“Las Vegas has a higher-than-average number of women in the technology field,” she says. “Las Vegas has an estimated 64 percent of women in the field.”

But there’s still a way to go in Las Vegas and beyond. And Aldan says honoring women achievers is a step in the right direction.

Nguyen and Aldan have spent years working to help the community.

Aldan, who has nearly a decade of experience in website design and Internet marketing, is the managing director of Girls in Tech Las Vegas, which started in 2012.

Girls in Tech Las Vegas is part of a larger Girls in Tech organization that was founded in 2007 to give women a place to cultivate ideas and business concepts within the technology industry.

“Even though it’s called Girls in Tech, we are open to all,” she says.

The organization works with multiple local schools to ensure mentorship is available at an early age. It also helps break stereotypes of what technology jobs are.

“We want to get rid of the thought that tech jobs are geeky,” Aldan says. “We try to get rid of this idea that girls won’t be interested in this.”

The organization has worked with Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada and the Girl Scouts to talk about STEM and technology jobs and teach about hypertext markup language, the backbone of basic Web coding. The group even established a 3-D printing badge for the Girl Scouts, Aldan says.

Nguyen, meanwhile, is a technology entrepreneur who has helped companies introduce more than 30 different technology products during her nearly 20 years in the field. Now she works in technology marketing.

The tech job market has changed since Nguyen moved to the valley in 1999.

“When I first moved here, it was like you needed to do a research mission to find a technology company,” she says.

That’s why she helped found HiTech Vegas. The group started with three technology workers meeting for coffee. Instead of trying to find the tech community, the group created a place for the community to come to it.

“This is kind of like a mini chamber of commerce for the tech community,” Nguyen says.

HiTech Vegas hosts meetings throughout the year for anyone in technology.

Now Nguyen and Aldan have joined Women Advancing, formerly known as Women in Media Mentoring Initiative, to work on bigger projects such as the Las Vegas Women in Technology Awards.

In 2014, awards given included High-Tech Woman of the Year, Tech Rising Star, High-Tech Community Service, High-Tech Entrepreneur and High-Tech Mentor.

“It’s time for our Las Vegas technology community to honor the women that are leading and changing the status quo in high tech,” Nguyen says. “This award recognizes the great achievements of local women changing the face of technology today.”

About 200 applications were submitted for the first awards. Nguyen hopes to get about 500 this year. Independent people in the industry serve as judges.

Beyond the awards, Girls in Tech Las Vegas, HiTech Vegas and Women Advancing are working to diversify the local tech workforce.

Often, Aldan says, men are seen leading technology panels or meetings. Aldan hopes to bring in more women to share experiences and break down barriers.

Having more diversity in representation can also inspire the future generation.

Besides promoting the awards, the groups are trying to invest in the next generation of technology professionals.

“I get the question all the time, ‘Where can I find a female programmer?’ ” Aldan says. “I always say, ‘Give me seven to eight years because I am training them.’ ”

The organizations are also reaching out to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the College of Southern Nevada to see how they can support students at the next level of their STEM studies.

“We want to make sure we are getting boys and girls into the same room,” Aldan says.

The groups aim to change the dynamics of women in those classes, which will in turn help boost the number of women who go on to technology careers.

“When I went to school, it was a 10:1 (men-to-women) ratio in my classes,” Aldan says about her college experience in the late ’90s “I was one of the few women in an engineering classroom.”

As the awards and the organizations grow, they hope to focus on other issues such as the low number of black and Hispanic women in the industry.

Contact reporter Michael Lyle at mlyle@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5201. Follow @mjlyle on Twitter.

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