SALT LAKE CITY — Nikki Walker attended the Women in Tech Awards in 2019, before the world shutdown. She watched women take the stage and talk about their work in the technology industry, and she felt like she belonged and was capable of amazing things.
"It was beyond my wildest dreams to see such brilliant women recognized," Walker said.
Two years later, the director of brand experience and community engagement for Domo is a finalist for those same awards because of her efforts in diversity and inclusion within the cloud software company.
The Women Tech Council has honored over 300 women in all aspects of tech since its organization 14 years ago. The national organization is based in Silicon Slopes, and it focuses on the economic impact of women in the tech industry through programs that create a pipeline for women from high school to the boardroom.
Twenty-one outstanding women in tech were nominated as finalists for this year's Women Tech Awards. Nominees were required to have ties to Utah, even if they weren't residents.
These awards come at a time when national reports have shown that the coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately affected women in the technology sector, as they have suffered job loss and an increase in family-related responsibilities that has led to a recession and a step backward for efforts in pay equity.
"As we face the first female recession and the great resignation, everyone is more acutely aware of the vital impact of women in all fields, especially technology, and the need to create opportunities for women at every level," said Cydni Tetro, president and cofounder of the Women Tech Council.
The purpose of the annual awards is to shine a light on women in the industry and their accomplishments and contributions in leading companies, inventing new tech, innovating and inspiring the tech community. The hope is to accelerate the recipients' careers and inspire more women and girls to pursue STEM fields.
"After nearly two years apart due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we can think of no greater reason to come together, and no more pressing time to do so," Tetro said.
Although it is a tough time for women in tech, there have been some dramatic improvements in gender equity.
"Tech has led out on and is doing a great job with baseline equity in pay. They also offer benefits that really improve women's work experience," Tetro said.
She went on to give examples, such as Adobe offering a six-month parental leave policy, an increase of flexible time off schedules and on-site daycares.
Walker pointed out that when Domo originally signed Parity.org's ParityPledge, they had no women on their board. Since then they have added three women to their board, and the company was recently named to Parity.org's top companies for women to advance list for the second consecutive year.
And these awards provide a platform to bring visibility to women in tech and educates tech companies on women's talent in the workplace, explained Tetro. And the data shows that most recipients experience career acceleration within six months of being awarded.
One of the Women Tech Council's biggest programs is SHETech, which gives young women a chance to meet role models and mentors in the field. The council hopes to inspire these young women to stay in STEM by showing them the things that women can accomplish in these sectors.
As a Black woman, Walker hopes that her nomination will show women and girls, and especially women and girls of color, that there is a place for them in the tech industry.
"I want them to know that they are wanted and needed in tech," she said. "I hope they see my face and see themselves."
The award recipients will be announced Sept. 30, in a ceremony at noon at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City.
Anyone is welcome to attend and hear these recipients' stories. Tables and tickets for the awards can be purchased at womentechcouncil.com/awards.