New campus group helps female students succeed

Students network during the Women in Technology International event in the undergraduate lobby in JSOM. As part of the event, speakers gave attendees tips on getting ahead as a woman in STEM. Photo by Noah Whitehead | Mercury Staff.

UTD students established Dallas’ first local chapter of an international organization providing women with resources to succeed in business.

Women In Technology International is a global organization focused on helping women in technology succeed by providing access and support from other professional women working in all sectors of technology.

The WITI UTD chapter gives students networking events to help establish connections with corporate workers from businesses such as Texas Instruments, Microsoft and International Business Machines Corporation. WITI also hosts mentoring sessions and webinars to develop technological skills and leadership. The WITI student chapter will provide UTD students access to these resources.

Dhanushuya Thangavel, an information technology and management graduate and president of the Women In Technology International, personally talked to WITI President David Leighton in order to establish the student chapter with the help of Dawn Owens, clinical assistant professor in management and WITI advisor.

“I reached out to the president of WITI, and he and I were well on talks for the past few months, and he decided to start a student organization and it will be a student chapter of WITI,” Thangavel said.

She said while there have been other women-focused business organizations on campus, WITI is unique because of its inclusiveness of all students, regardless of education level.

“Actually, there are a couple of organizations on campus, like one of the organizations such as WITB, Women in Technology and Business,” Thangavel said. “But that organization has many restrictions, like they are really restricted to the undergrad people only in JSOM. So we are graduate students. We couldn’t be part of that organization. So it prompted me to start an organization of my own that will be available to all the students.”

Bijayeeta Banerjee, information technology and management graduate and vice president of the WITI student chapter, said by allowing graduates to join with undergraduates, WITI helps less-experienced students learn from those who have been in the workplace.

The group is also inclusive of both men and women, despite its focus on helping women in the workplace.

“Men work with females in this organization and in this field,” Owens said. “But again, given the fact that men work with females this often, I’ve had men attend events and be like, ‘Oh wow, that was so helpful because now I know, when I come to these challenges, how to overcome them.’”

Thangavel said such diversity also helps students solve business problems by incorporating different perspectives allowing for an optimized solution. Currently, there are 3,000 undergraduate students and graduate students studying information technology, with 30 percent of those students being female. Owens said WITI’s goal is to also address the problem of support for women in a male-dominated field.

“We are going to talk about challenges we face in technology because there aren’t many women who want to go into information or IT,” Banerjee said. “This organization will help in bridging the gender gap.”

The UTD chapter is the first and only WITI chapter in Dallas. They are currently planning to expand and establish other chapters in universities around Dallas, such as at Southern Methodist University, the University of North Texas and the University of Texas at Arlington so the various chapters can help students collaborate with each other.

“That’s the bigger picture here,” Banerjee said. “It’s not something that we leave, like a legacy. It’s already out there, we’re just introducing it to students.”


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