Editor’s note: CharlotteBeat is a regular weekly feature in WRAL Local Tech Wire.
_______________________________________________________________________________________The Charlotte chapter of the North Carolina Technology Association’s Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program is celebrating a highly successful first year.

Recognizing that technology is still very much a male-dominated field, Charlotteans Frances Queen and Theresa Payton tried to get a group going for their fellow girl geeks a few years ago. But they had trouble finding a viable organization to affiliate with, and they knew how difficult is it to form an independent group.

Bu they kept trying, and last year, they teamed up with the NCTA to form a Charlotte chapter of WISE similar to one formed in RTP. The two women sensed the need for such a group was there, but even they were surprised when more than 200 women showed up at their first meeting last March.

“It proved to us that there was a very real networking void for women executives in IT, the sciences and engineering, and we are delighted to have hit the right theme with WISE,” said NCTA President and CEO Joan Myers. “NCTA is proud to have this unique program as part of our services to the technologies industries in North Carolina.”

Now a year later, attendance at quarterly meetings has remained stable, and there’s a steering committee with 33 members (one of them a man) and an e-mail distribution list of 1,000. Some 50 companies are sponsors or provide support of some kind. Said Payton, who serves as chapter chair, “The support has been phenomenal, and the positive feedback overwhelming.”

Queen, the chapter’s vice chair, said the group has three main goals: to educate, to engage and to empower. “There’s not enough of us (women) in these fields,” she observed. “We want to support women so they can progress through the ranks and break through the glass ceiling.” Chapter membership is evenly divided between the entrepreneur and corporate community, or as she described it “users and providers” of technology.”

Queen is president of her own IT staffing firm, Queens Associates, while Payton is senior vice president and business technology executive at Bank of America. Payton actually described herself as “a banker who happens to do technology.”

“The success of our events last year solidified our passions to create a supportive professional environment for women to enhance their leadership potential and career mindset,” Payton said.

But WISE is about more than networking, and members also want to address the declining number of women entering the science and technology fields. So on the agenda for this year is beginning outreach programs to local high school and college women, as well as launching a scholarship in memory of one of the chapter’s founding members, Kasie Capling. “We see the chapter expanding and reaching out with hands-on giving back,” Queen noted.

NCTA’s Myers couldn’t be more pleased. “NCTA is extremely proud of the rapid growth of our WISE program in both Charlotte – and RTP,” she said. “The dynamic women in Charlotte WISE have been aggressively organizing events and setting up other activities including those focused on getting girls and young women interested in careers in these fields. I applaud their leadership.”

For Payton, the purpose of WISE goes beyond helping women. “I’m passionate about the Carolinas, and I believe a group like WISE tells companies thinking about moving here that we have an able and willing workforce to meet their needs.” she said.

The first Charlotte WISE meeting of 2006 will be Wednesday, March 22, when the program will feature a panel discussing cyber security and cyber terrorism featuring Myers (who has completed an Eisenhower Fellowship in cyber security and cyber terrorism); Bill Chu, chair of the Department of Software Information Systems at UNC Charlotte; and Doris Gardner, supervisory special agent with the FBI. The event begins at 5:30 pm with a networking reception; the location is still being determined. Cost is $20 for members and $30 for guests. Guests — and men — are welcome. For information: MichelleC@nc-tech.org.

New UNCC Chancellor Wants To Spread Technology Expertise

Although he’s been on the job since July, Dr. Philip L. Dubois wasn’t installed as UNC Charlotte’s fourth chancellor until Feb. 3. But he’s already got some firm goals for the university’s Charlotte Research Institute (CRI) and its growing technology research capabilities and expertise. “CRI can be a portal between all the assets of the university and local industry,” he told WRAL Local Tech Wire. “We need to keep getting those two connected.”

Dubois praised the work of the university’s office of technology transfer, which ranks among the best in the country for spin-offs, licensing agreements and patents produced. “We do a good job of moving the research we do here into the marketplace,” he said, “but an open question for me is how we can move even more of it.”

One way to do that, Dubois noted, is to address businesses’ need for laboratory space. One facility that might be able to do that is the Ben Craig Center, a university-affiliated business incubator located off campus. “The center has no lab space now, but is there a way they could support that need,” he asked.

Dubois is no stranger to UNCC, having served six years as provost until 1997 when he become president of the University of Wyoming. But in many ways, the homecoming is more like coming to a new campus. “Eight years ago, the CRI didn’t exist, there was no such thing as bioinfomatics, we had one faculty member in opto-electronics, and not a single PhD student had graduated,” he said. Today, UNCC has more than 20,000 students and offers doctorates in 16 fields (primarily in science and technology) and graduates about 50 doctoral students annually.

Work Begins on NC Research Campus

A groundbreaking will be held Thursday, Feb. 23 for the first building on the $1 billion, 350-acre NC Research Campus in Kannapolis. The 311,000-square-foot core lab building will be the centerpiece of the biotech center being developed by David Murdock on the site of a former Pillowtex plant. The building, set to open next spring, will feature a fermentation facility for product testing, a research lab for Dole Foods (which is owned by Murdock) and temporary facilities for the state’s university system, which will be heavily involved in the center’s activities.

And The Nominees are:

The Charlotte Chamber’s ITC Council has announced finalists for its Blue Diamond Awards to be presented March 27. Among them are: American Tire Distributors Interactive Services, Bank of America, Camstar Systems, Charlotte Latin School, CT Communications, goodmortgage.com, Little Diversified Architectural Consulting, Mecklenburg County Code Enforcement, Peak 10, Premier Inc., SocialServe.com, Stripling & Beck, Urban League of Central Carolinas, UVEST Financial Services, Wachovia and YMCA of Greater Charlotte. For information: www.charlottechamber.com/events

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