Growing LPGA event positioning Indy as driving force for women in tech

The second annual Indy Women in Tech Championship kicked off its week-long run at the Brickyard Crossing Golf Course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Monday, and event organizers are expecting a much bigger event this year than last.

But it's not just about the golf. It's also about encouraging more women and girls to get involved in science, math and technology.

The headline event is a four-day LPGA golf tournament featuring some of the biggest names in professional women’s golf. This year’s tournament—despite some rainy weather to start—will almost certainly have significantly higher attendance than the inaugural event. Organizers said that’s due to improved awareness of the event in year two, but also because this year’s tournament is four days instead of three. 

Last year’s tournament wrapped up on Saturday due to scheduling difficulties in the LPGA calendar. And while this year’s tournament started under cloudy skies and a chance of rain on Thursday, the forecast for Saturday and Sunday is much brighter.

“We think that extra day—on a Sunday—will be huge for exposure, not just live but on TV for the event, for Indy Women in Tech and for our community,” Jody Dedon, executive director for Indy Women in Tech, told IBJ.

The Indy Women in Tech Championship is being aired for two hours each of its four days on The Golf Channel with an additional hour of coverage each day streamed on the cable television network's web site, for a total of 12 hours of coverage.

Officials for Octagon, which is helping run the tournament, said they expect strong double-digit attendance increases this year over last. Octagon and LPGA officials declined to reveal last year’s attendance.

“In our experience, you’ll look to see a 30 percent attendance increase in year two, and with this event having the added day, we expect to see at least that much,” said Harry Hardy, Octagon’s tournament director. “The event feels much bigger this year than it did a year ago. The number of volunteers is up 10 percent, ticket sales are up significantly, sponsorship and hospitality sales are up, and there’s a real buzz this year about the event. The city has a real appetite for this event, and I think the future for this event here is bright.”

And the feedback from the players thus far has been “very positive,” Hardy said. “The players are excited to play here. There’s something special about playing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and a number of players have mentioned that this week. You get the feel that this is a special event.”

Dedon said that “so much has changed from last year to this year.” And though the event is far from over, there’s already proof it has grown considerably—even beyond the tournament itself. 

This year’s IWiT Summit at the IMS Pavilion on Tuesday afternoon drew more than 550 people, compared to 400 last year. The demand to attend this year’s summit grew so high, Dedon said a wait list for tickets was created.

Not only did the Summit’s attendance grow, the audience broadened, Dedon explained.

“Last year we had tech leaders, which of course is great. But this year we’ve expanded to have not only tech leaders, but change makers; community and business leaders and leaders of various women’s groups,” Dedon explained.

The message at the summit—and of the entire event—also has expanded.

“Last year was more of an introduction to the Indy Women in Tech,” Dedon said. “This year we’re talking more about what we’re doing to activate.”

At the summit, results from the Indy Women in Tech 2018 Benchmark Report were unveiled. The report was created to educate the Indiana tech community about the challenges women face across all departments and allows the community to have specific performance indicators measured annually to quantifiably track the progress of key initiatives.

The week-long events surrounding the Indy Women in Tech Championship include a bevy of activities to help introduce girls and women of various ages to STEM—science, technology, engineering and math—fields and opportunities in tech.

Octagon’s Hardy said the event is “promoting Indianapolis as a driving force in women in tech.”

The golf tournament was the brainchild of former Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and Indy Women in Tech as a way to get more girls and women involved in STEM fields and enhance women’s voices in the burgeoning technology sector—as well as bring another world-class sports event to Indianapolis.

Already, Dedon said the message trumpeted through the event has morphed.

“It’s not enough just to get women into tech,” Dedon said. “We are building a culture that welcomes them and gives them a voice at the table.”

Earlier this week, local event organizers launched the hashtag #seeyourselfhere. 

“That means see yourself here in Indiana, see yourself in tech and see yourself in a seat at the table—with a voice,” Dedon said. “We need to inspire the next generation to dream bigger and to advocate for themselves.”

Dedon is hoping that the Indy Women in Tech Championship and the organization’s other initiatives will be a blueprint for other cities and states to get involved in the movement of getting girls and women involved in STEM fields.

“We think the exposure of this event can put a big spotlight on what we’re doing here,” Dedon said. “We’re looking to have this replicated and have the nation join us on this.”

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