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SALT LAKE CITY — Qun Maxine Liu moved to the United States 10 years ago from China. She taught herself how to develop software, went to school, and has now authored several academic publications in high-performance computing, medical imaging, and biomedical materials; she also holds two patents in those areas. Liu is now the director of the partner program at Health Catalyst.
Seraphine Kapsandoy-Jones, who is originally from Kenya, started her first business at 17 selling T-shirts to help pay for her education. She soon learned the importance of having computer knowledge, so she spent hours in a lab and taught herself as much as she could. A degree in nursing followed, as well as a doctorate, and now she's the chief information officer at Intermountain Healthcare.
These are the types of stories Utah's Women Tech Council wants to share and continue to cultivate.
The council, which held its annual awards on Wednesday, is a nonprofit organization focused on the economic impact of women in the tech sector. Their goal is to foster a talent pipeline that goes all the way from high school to the boardroom — while also highlighting the best of the best.
"It's a way for us to recognize top technology talent and show that they really do inspire all of the community and the women around them," Women Tech Council President Cydni Tetro said.
Liu was given the strategic innovator award on Wednesday, and Kapsandoy-Jones won the operational excellence award. Those were two of nine awards that were presented.
Women Tech Awards winners
- Technology Transformation Excellence: Kristiane Koontz, Zions Bancorporation
- Founder Leadership: Linda Klug, Airin
- Trailblazer: Margo Georgiadis, Ancestry
- Digital Education Innovator: Melissa Bueno Hamilton, Murray City School District
- Strategic Innovator: Qun Maxine Liu, Health Catalyst
- Technology Leadership: Rebecca Whitehead, HealthEquity
- Operational Excellence: Seraphine Kapsandoy-Jones, Intermountain Healthcare
- Leadership Excellence: Wendy Steinle, Adobe
- Student Pathway: Jennifer Morales, Weber State University
Award winners were peer-nominated and then judged. The awards honor women who have not just had great career accomplishments, but have also made an impact in the community,
"It provides awareness to what they're doing, it allows their stories to be heard, and it accelerates the opportunities that they also have in technology," Tetro said. "By creating a platform where you can raise the visibility of the talent, it lifts everything around them and the tech community. You see the talents you weren't aware of; you see the problems that you're solving; you see the passion that they bring to the world they're in and that, in turn, just amplifies the entire tech community and accelerates things for those women also in their careers."
And it provides a view into the future for many young women. The Women Tech Council has had about 17,000 students go through its high school program, SheTech. Tetro said that by acknowledging women's accomplishments in the field, it creates role models for those students.
"It changes the entire trajectory of thousands of young women, which then in turn, over time, is changing the number of women in technology," Tetro said. "That's the huge reason that we do all of these programs, is to help that pipeline at every stage."
That's always important, but it feels more relevant this year. Between August and September, 865,000 women dropped out of the labor force, according to a National Women's Law Center analysis of the Bureau of Labor Statistics September jobs report.
"Women have been more challenged with taking care of children at home, homeschooling families, and that's why they're dropping out of the workforce," Tetro said.
With the struggles so many have had to endure, being able to showcase a bit of light was special for Tetro.
"These women are so inspirational, which is something we also really need this year because it's just been really hard," she said. "And we've all just tried to manage through, but then when you sit down with them, and then you hear, you see this better tomorrow and this better future and the talents that are getting used."