SALT LAKE CITY — Data scientist Lindsey Zuloaga is thrilled to see the explosion of technology companies in her home state and the growing role women leaders are playing in the success of Utah's innovation industry.
As a youngster, however, Zuloaga said identifying women leaders in the homegrown high-tech zeitgeist was a much harder task.
"I'm a Utah native and it's incredible to see your state becoming this technology hub where women are thriving with so many amazing role models," Zuloaga said. "I didn't see that when I was growing up here."
But now Zuloaga is, herself, a role model for young women interested in pursuing tech careers. She was recognized with the Technology Innovator Award last week at the Women Tech Council's 11th annual Women Tech Awards, an event honoring 20 women, including 17 finalists, seven award recipients and three college students.
Zuloaga is the director of data science for South Jordan's HireVue, a tech firm that specializes in a cloud-based hiring platform that helps companies streamline and automate the hiring process.
"It's important to recognize the good work people are doing," Zuloaga said. "For women, being a minority in any group can be a struggle. A lot of us naturally doubt ourselves. Being recognized for what we're doing and feeling like we're making a difference really does mean something."
One of the student attendees of the awards ceremony at downtown's Grand America Hotel said she was inspired by seeing so many women being recognized for their work and leadership in technology-centric fields. She was particularly moved by Zuloaga's path to success.
"Before the Women Tech Awards, I was not believing in my abilities in STEM," said Corner Canyon High School sophomore Arianna Allen. "Seeing all these amazing women inspired me, especially Lindsey Zuloaga because she majored in physics and applied it to her career. That really motivated me because I'm interested in physics.
"It made me realize that I can do it and not to give up on my dreams."
Building the corps of women technologists and getting more young women students on education pathways that focus on science, technology, engineering and math topics in Utah and across the country is at the heart of the mission statement of the Draper-based Women Tech Council. The nonprofit group's co-founder and CEO Cydni Tetro said the recognition of leaders helps grow the ranks of women technology specialists in the state's innovation sector.
"By highlighting and promoting top talent in technology, these awards amplify the impact of women across the technology industry and accelerate the growth of the entire sector," Tetro said in a statement. "This platform also brings together the technology community to build dialogue and spur meaningful action towards creating solutions to increase the number of women in tech."
Murray High School Assistant Principal Laura deShazo was honored with the Education Innovator Award and said participating in the event helped highlight the power of her role in preparing young women for in-demand and high-paying tech career paths.
"For me, being recognized with this award is so important because it helps the girls in my school to know that they have an advocate for their success," deShazo said. "I want to be able to empower them, and I think the award justifies to them that I know what I'm talking about."
Even though she's an educator who has taught classes in web design and computer literacy, deShazo said she never thought of herself as part of the tech community. But, having the chance to connect with a group of women technologists at the awards event was a powerful experience for her, and one she believes made a lasting impression on the 150 students who participated.
"I feel like all of those kids that were there were probably so motivated by the success of everyone," deShazo said. "I hope in turn they feel confident they can do it themselves."
For a complete list of Women Tech Award winners, visit http://www.womentechcouncil.com/.