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Supporting women in tech, from the classroom to the boardroom

In an effort to accomplish its mission, WIT hires its first-ever executive director

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June 1, 2023

WISCONSIN – The mission of Women In Technology (WIT) Wisconsin is to attract, grow and retain women and girls in technology-related careers.

Founded eight years ago by a handful of women who were driven to find more opportunities for women to have a voice in technology, the nonprofit organization has been 100%-volunteer driven – until now.

Last month, the organization announced the hiring of its first-ever executive director – Natalie Nelson.

“It’s been 100% volunteer run for the entire last eight years, which is unheard of for a nonprofit organization,” Nelson said. “The reason they were at the point now of needing an executive director is that was really an impetus to grow the organization. They’ve done such great work, but now they’re ready to take it to the next level.”

Michelle Schuler, WIT Wisconsin co-founder and state board president, said Nelson’s appointment marks a significant milestone in the organization’s ongoing commitment to supporting Wisconsin women and girls in technology – from the classroom to the boardroom. 

“Natalie’s proven record of leadership and her passion for empowering women in the technology industry aligns perfectly with our mission,” she said. “We are confident that under her leadership, WIT Wisconsin will continue to flourish and provide unparalleled support for Wisconsin women and girls in technology.”

A little more about Nelson
Though not a native of Wisconsin, Nelson has called America’s Dairyland home since she was a teenager.

“I moved to Wisconsin when I was in high school from Washington D.C.,” she said. “My dad was in the Navy, so we moved around quite a bit. But, I graduated from Verona High School and then I went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison for my undergrad.”

Nelson furthered her education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where she obtained her master’s degree in business administration.

She said her diverse working experience has always had some connection with marketing.

“I’ve always been motivated to be more in the digital marketing space,” she said.

Before starting with WIT, Nelson held various positions in well-known Wisconsin companies, including Oshkosh Corporation, Ascension and, most recently, AriensCo.

In terms of nonprofit experience, Nelson said she has been involved with several organizations in the animal welfare sector – including Wish Upon A Paw, Orphan Animal Rescue and Sanctuary and the Neenah Animal Shelter.

// Nelson

“I played roles, such as director, I was a local board member and (I helped) build processes and structure and leadership,” she said.

Nelson said it’s her combined corporate and nonprofit experience that makes her a perfect fit for the WIT executive director role.

“I bring to the table fundraising, marketing and communication – those are some of my strong pillars of strength,” she said. “The thing that is great about WIT is it has such a great story and an incredible mission. My hope is I can take it to the next level (in sharing those) stories with the world. It is a tremendous honor to be selected as the (organization’s) first executive director.”

Eyes on future growth
Nelson said WIT Wisconsin has experienced remarkable growth in its first eight years, transforming from a small regional professional group into a state-wide organization.

And though she’s only been at the helm for about a month, Nelson said she’s ready to tackle what’s in front of her.

“My job will be to execute the WIT mission, vision and values and take that strategy to the next level based on the direction from their state board,” she said. “I want to make sure (there is) long-term success of the organization’s fundraising and programs.”

Part of the organization’s goal of attracting, growing and retaining women of all ages in technology-related careers across all industries, Nelson said, is collaborative partnerships.

“WIT collaborates with Wisconsin professionals, companies and communities to help women in technology of all ages and stages – from the classroom to the boardroom – by providing a variety of leadership development, technology education, networking and mentoring opportunities for women and girls,” she said. “We believe in the power of inclusivity, collaboration and mentorship to drive positive change.”

Through a range of initiatives, programs and resources, Nelson said WIT aims to break down barriers and overcome gender disparities within the field.

“We provide a supportive network that encourages women to pursue their passions, develop their skills and achieve success in their chosen technology careers,” she said.

With a focus on education, networking and professional development, Nelson said WIT hopes to empower women to thrive in technology-related roles.

“We are committed to creating a community where women can share knowledge, gain confidence and inspire one another,” she said.

Nelson said the first few weeks on the job were spent “getting my arms around” the many events and activities WIT offers.

“We have so many great events coming up in the next year,” she said. “We need to get that information out for our audiences.”
Nelson said she is also getting up to speed on the grant potential the organization has.

“We have a huge opportunity to start going after grants and sponsors that are aligned with what our needs are,” she said.
In the executive director role, Nelson said she hopes to “truly showcase the mission of the organization.”

Nelson said WIT Wisconsin has three pillars – WIT@Work, WITonCampus and WIT4Girls.

“(WIT4Girls) is dedicated to helping girls understand what careers are available in technology,” she said. “The secondary pillar we’re hoping to grow is WITonCampus – matching young women in their college years with opportunities and mentors in the technology sector.”

The third pillar – WIT@Work – Nelson said is around the workplace professional.

“Truly helping professionals have a voice in the technological space,” she said. “If there’s a big conference (taking) place, we want to make sure we’re one of the speakers providing education and continuous learning. Technology, as you know, is constantly changing and we want to be not just a part of it – we want to be leading the story when it comes to technology.”

Carving out a place
Nelson said knowing women make up more than 50% of the workforce, “I think we need to be represented in the same fashion in leadership positions.”

“I think an organization like WIT is allowing us to have a voice and to also elevate ourselves,” she said. “I think oftentimes women don’t necessarily speak up unless they have already done something in the past. But, I think this is giving more women the chance to elevate themselves and empower one another.”

And that, Nelson said, is what WIT is all about.

“(WIT is) creating a community of ‘sisterhood’ – which is the word I heard multiple times,” she said. “We’ve created a sisterhood, a community of women that can rely on each other, empower each other and then help each other be more successful in their careers.”

Right fit
Nelson said the role as executive director for WIT Wisconsin is a “perfect calling for me.”

“I have always been drawn to helping empower women,” she said. “When I was here at AriensCo, I helped develop a women’s alliance dedicated to helping women be successful.”

Nelson said she also loves innovation and change when it comes to technology.

“I’m an early adopter,” she said. “I also like working with smart, strong women, and making sure that women have a voice.”

Nelson said she encourages those interested in a potential career in technology or further one they already have to reach out.

“We want to be there to listen to them, help cultivate that interest and then help make sure they’re successful,” she said.

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