Meet WITI's Hall of Fame new inductees

Each year, Women in Technology International inducts a group of women into their Hall of Fame. Here is a look at the class of 2014 and their many accomplishments.

Twenty-five years ago, Carolyn Leighton founded Women in Technology International (WITI) to help women advance within their chosen technology-related fields. At the first WITI meeting, hosted by Sun Microsystems, meeting organizers expected around 50 women to attend. More than 250 women showed up, and the organization quickly grew from there to today's more than 167,000 members.

 In 1996, WITI established a Hall of Fame to recognize the contributions women have made to science and technology.  Some 98 women have been inducted into it. Here, in alphabetical order, is a look at some of the accomplishments of the five inductees being celebrated tonight at WITI’s Hall of Fame dinner and awards ceremony in Santa Clara, Calif.

Orna Berry, Ph.D.

In 1993, after working on local area networks (LANs) at Systems Development Corporation -- the company that would later become Unisys -- Berry co-founded Ornet Data Communications Ltd.,  developing high-speed switches that effectively doubled data-transmission speed during the formative years of the World Wide Web.

Switching gears in 1997, Berry began working for the Israeli government as a chief scientist at the country’s Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor. Berry was instrumental in implementing pro-innovation government policies. She was also involved in PrimeSense, which developed the technology used by Microsoft's Xbox Kinect.

Today Berry holds many roles, including one as the corporate vice president of EMC’s Centers of Excellence in Israel. Recently, she won the Yakirat Ha’Negev award from Ben Gurion University for her technology achievements.

Jennifer Pahlka

Jennifer Pahlka is the founder and executive director of Code for America, a nonprofit that uses technology to help solve community problems. One project developed an app to send text messages to food stamp recipients on the verge of losing their benefits, including a number to call to ensure they remain enrolled.

Pahlka is also known for her TED talk, Coding a better government, which advocated for an open government run in the same style as the Internet. She is the recipient of MIT’s Kevin Lynch Award, the Oxford Internet Institute’s Internet and Society Award and the National Democratic Institute’s Democracy Award. Pahlka is currently on leave from Code for America to work as the deputy chief technology officer for the United States.

Kim Polese

At the start of her career, Kim Polese worked for IntelliCorp, where she helped Fortune 500 companies use artificial intelligence to solve business problems, and then at Sun Microsystems, where she led the launch of Java in 1995 as the founding project manager. In 1996, Polese -- along with three other Sun engineers -- founded Marimba, a systems management startup.

She won the 2010 National Center for Women and Information Technology Innovator Award, a place on Time’s “25 Most Influential Americans” list in 1997 (the only person in technology to make the list that year) and the San Francisco Business Journal’s 2012 “Most Influential Women” list. She is currently the chairman of ClearStreet, which helps people eliminate debt and achieve financial stability.

Kris Rinne

After graduating college with a degree in math, Kris Rinne thought she would become a high school math teacher and volleyball coach. Instead, thanks to an interview at BellSouth set up by a college professor, she now has over 30 years of experience in telecom. Currently working at AT&T, she is responsible for the company’s IT and network architecture planning and, with her team, has led the implementation and expansion of the 4G LTE network.

In both 2012 and 2013, Rinne was included in Fierce Wireless’ “Top 10 Most Influential Women in Wireless” list, was among those listed by STEMconnector in its Top 100 Leaders in STEM and was inducted into the Wireless History Fountation’s Wireless Hall of Fame in 2013. 

Lauren C. States

When Lauren States started working at IBM in New York as a systems engineer, it soon became clear that she was on the management track. But States avoided a managerial position for years because she loved working with clients and was nervous she would lose the respect of her peers if she was no longer working among them.

That decision allowed her time to build her technical skills -- something that has ultimately served her well. She is now the vice president of strategy and transformation for IBM’s software group, responsible for the sales strategy of IBM’s over-$25 billion software business.

States won the Federal 100 Award in 2012 and the Pioneer Award at the Black Engineer of the Year Conference in 2013.