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Sowmya Shankar, speaking at right, is the 2020 recipient of the Women’s Caucus Torch Award.
Sowmya Shankar, speaking at right, is the 2020 recipient of the Women’s Caucus Torch Award.

Women’s Caucus Torch Award winner

Photo courtesy of Sowmya Shankar

Sowmya Shankar, a UD graduate and IT staff member of 13 years, is honored

Sowmya Shankar, a University of Delaware alumna and senior applications programmer, is the recipient of the 2020 Torch Award for her commitment to advancing women’s equality through the Women in Technology (WIT) initiative.

“I am deeply honored to be receiving this award,” Shankar said. “I'd like to thank the Women's Caucus, as well as my team at Women in Technology for advocating for me. I hope to keep up the momentum and serve the community.”

Sowmya Shankar
Sowmya Shankar

Shankar’s work with WIT began in 2017 when Sharon Pitt, who had recently joined UD as vice president for information technologies, supported the creation of a WIT initiative. “I had just come back from maternity leave and was really charged up to see an email from my colleague, Sarah Meadows, about forming WIT,” Shankar said. Soon after, the two, along with Marilis Cruz, founded WIT.

As WIT vice president, Shankar along with the WIT Team has established a Women in Tech program at Newark High School, where weekly technology workshops are provided to eighth through 12th grade women; served on Microsoft's DigiGirlz Day in Delaware planning committee; and organized technology workshops for UD's College Readiness Scholars program, which serves low-income and first-generation high school students. Shankar is currently creating a range of workshops for students, staff, and faculty on topics such as introductory technology and professional development.

“Sowmya’s efforts have brought over 100 members of the University community — and even more outside UD — closer together, creating a safe environment for staff and faculty to share their experiences as women in various careers paths,” said Meadows, who is also a WIT co-founder.

Shankar offered the following suggestions for others to advocate for women’s equality.

“Hold inclusive meetings, where roles such as the note taker or facilitator are rotated equitably,” Shankar said. “Nominate a female colleague for an award or a leadership role. Serve as a mentor to a female student or colleague. Advocate for female candidates or candidates from under-represented groups when sitting on a hiring committee. Lastly, if you disagree with a female colleague's viewpoint, avoid talking about it behind their back. Embrace your differences, discuss them openly, and move on.”

About the Torch Award

The Torch Award, presented annually, recognizes an individual who has “carried the torch for women’s equality” at the University. The torch recalls the lighting of a torch for the 1977 National Women’s Conference, symbolically charting a course between the first Women’s Rights Convention of 1848 and the modern movement for women’s liberation. It was selected by the Women’s Caucus to represent the past and present efforts to achieve equality and improve the quality of employment for women at UD. While traditionally a public award ceremony is held in honor of the recipient, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, a celebration will take place at a later date.

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