Women continue to be underrepresented in industries including technology and government, despite making up more than half of the population. During a special all-women edition of The INsiders on Inside INdiana Business With Gerry Dick, Springbuk Vice President Nicole Bickett, Hallowell Consulting President Jennifer Hallowell and Laurie Jones with INHP offered up suggestions to bridging that gap, including reaching girls as early as elementary school, encouraging companies to be more flexible and engaging more men in the conversation.

Concerning early engagement, Bickett says Indiana companies can find an example in Microsoft, which offers programming allowing young girls to come to their offices and learn coding, among other skills. Jones says another important effort is to let young girls see women in leadership roles, and offer mentorship.

Hallowell says there has been progress in the political world, but there is more work to do.

"Twenty, twenty-five years ago when I got started in politics, I was often the only female in the room for any meeting I was in." said Hallowell, "I think it starts with us, and I've been very intentional about trying to recruit, promote and support women not just in politics but in government, in the corporate world."

She says encouraging more women to take on positions in politics can also be a step in helping address wage disparity.

Jones, who is director of homeowner development and client services for the Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership, says home ownership can also be an important first step for women in the professional world. She says many of the women they serve are low-income single mothers looking for a "safe, decent, affordable home." She says achieving that goal not only builds self esteem, but lets those women begin to build assets for the future.

Perhaps the most important strategy, the panel agreed, is encouraging women to support women in all industries. Bickett says her company has a program called Women of Springbuk, which offers mentorship and networking opportunities for the company's women, and encourages them to collaborate, rather than compete with each other. She also pushes the importance of companies and organizations finding women recruiters to seek out women for high-level positions.

Hallowell also stressed the importance of companies offering more flexibility, allowing women to grow in their professional lives while helping take care of their children, aging parents or other family matters.

The panel, hosted by Beck Communications Group President Lara Beck, was part of an all-women edition of Inside INdiana Business.