2020 Award Nominations Open!
Nominate someone you know for one of several OKWIT awards for 2020. We will honor a community Trailblazer and outstanding OKWIT members and volunteers.
2019 Trailblazer Award Recipient Announcement:
Oklahoma Women in Technology (OKWIT)
OKWIT proudly announces their 2019 Trailblazer award recipient as the Director of IT and Marketing for Palomar, Bekah Mercer.
This annual OKWIT award is given to a woman each year who is not only a member of OKWIT, but has proven herself by way of example, to be a trailblazer for women in the technology field. This recognition is vital to encouraging women to not only select a career in technology but stay the course and reach management levels in IT departments.
In 2019, Bekah launched the CTRL + SHIFT Code School in Oklahoma City to help victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and sex trafficking begin new careers and escape their abusers. The six-month program at the CTRL + SHIFT Code School will forever change the lives of survivors.
“I am a woman in tech and I’d love to see more women in tech in our community in Oklahoma City, and I think it’s a great opportunity to really change lives for survivors and their families,” said Mercer.
You can apply to the program or get more information about it here.
The OKWIT 2019 Trailblazer award was bestowed upon Mercer at the annual OKWIT Gala on January 25th, at VAST located on the 50th floor of Devon Tower. Congratulations, Bekah!
2018 Trailblazer Award Recipient Announcement:
Oklahoma Women in Technology (OKWIT)
OKWIT proudly announces their 2018 Trailblazer award recipient as the Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the University of Central Oklahoma, Sonya Watkins.
This annual OKWIT award is given to a woman each year who is not only a member of OKWIT, but has proven herself by way of example, to be a trail blazer for women in the technology field. This recognition is vital to encouraging women to not only select a career in technology but stay the course and reach management levels in the IT departments.
Currently only 18% of computer science graduates are women, and only 17% of Fortune 500 CIO positions are held by women. This, despite that most of the workforce is comprised of women, with 57% of all professional occupations held by women in the US workforce.
Originally from Tennessee, Watkins was raised in a large family with seven siblings whose parents met while pursuing their master’s degree at Fisk University.
Growing up, Watkins’s school interests centered around literature, math, science and business professional (career tech) courses. During high school her affinity for IT peaked with classes in word processing, desktop software, and computer programming.
Despite her natural inclination towards technology, Watkins didn’t actively pursue IT as a career. Her early career started as a licensed securities representative at a bank, then managing accounts for a group medical practice. Through this experience, she was always looking for a more efficient and effective way to get things done and continuously found technology to be a key part of the solution.
“I would often find myself putting together the business case, developing the specs, researching solutions, buying and installing equipment, implementing the solution, and training others to use it,” Watkins said.
All of this led to the position that she now carries, as an integral leader and CIO for UCO’s IT department. Not only is she breaking glass ceilings for all women in tech, but as a woman of color she’s a true trailblazer when considering that woman of color only comprise 3% of the jobs in IT – let alone reach top management.
Despite statistics, Watkins said has never felt the odds were against her.
“From childhood, I was taught to work hard and encouraged do my best in everything I do–that was how I measured my success.”
The OKWIT 2018 Trailblazer award was bestowed upon Watkins at the annual OKWIT Gala on November 30th, at the Oklahoma City Petroleum Club. Congratulations, Sonya!