I still get a thrill driving through the gates of our legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway and I will be lucky enough to do so for an entire week soon. This week, the best women golfers in the world will once again gather at IMS to display their talents at Brickyard Crossing Golf Course in the Indy Women in Tech Championship. It is an exciting, family-friendly event, well worth the affordable pricing to watch these amazing athletes. However, the tournament is much more than an athletic competition. It is an opportunity to support a solution to a critical economic and workforce development issue.

In just a few years, there will be over a million unfilled tech jobs in America. The burgeoning tech culture of Central Indiana will have its fair share of this dilemma. Indy Women in Tech was formed to address this problem, and this LPGA tournament provides visibility and support to actually place more women in tech fields to address the workforce gap.

Companies such as Salesforce, Infosys and Amazon rely on a strong pipeline of talent to ensure their companies can continue to thrive in Central Indiana. Along with our training partners at Eleven Fifty Academy and Ivy Tech, IWIT provides scholarships and wraparound services for women to enter the tech world, at a substantially higher wage than their previous jobs. The vast majority of the graduates, without a four-year degree, receive a salary of more than $50,000 and some of them start at $70,000.

To ensure the pipeline remains full, IWIT, along with partners Women and Hi-Tech and Conner Prairie, also sponsor a STEM day annually for over 600 middle school girls at a local college campus. IWIT is also the primary sponsor for the VEX Robotics State Championship, the largest of its kind by far in the nation, run by TechPoint Foundation for Youth.

Besides the golf, there are many other activities during tournament week including the powerful and informative Women in Tech Summit with keynote speaker Reshma Saujani, CEO of Girls Who Code; the Eureka! Exchange, an interactive STEM experience for middle school students; BYTE, a true culinary highlight which will showcase some of the finest restaurants and breweries in Central Indiana and will include a live band after play concludes on Saturday; along with golf experiences for younger students.

This is a real opportunity to enjoy the best golfers in the world while helping place more women into tech fields and inspiring young women to develop their passions in STEM. I’ve been to golf tournaments for five different tours and the LPGA is by far the friendliest experience of all of them. The practice and pro-am rounds on Tuesday and Wednesday are free for all spectators, and for the Thursday-Sunday tournament rounds, children under 17 are free with a ticketed adult.

Please join me in celebrating great athletes while helping to support a worthwhile mission. You’ll enjoy it.

Greg Ballard is the former mayor of Indianapolis and a co-founder and current board member of Indy Women in Tech.

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