Skip to main content

Widening the pipeline for women in network engineering

IU’s Brenna Meade takes leadership role in program built to bridge the gender gap in tech

High performance systems May 17, 2023
Brenna Meade and Luke Fowler at the SC22 Conference.
Brenna Meade discussing network technology at SC22 conference

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — When she won a Women in IT Networking at SC (WINS) award in 2018, Brenna Meade could not have predicted the effect it would have on her life.  

At the time, she was a campus network engineer at the University of Denver with a growing career in research and education networks. Through her WINS connections, she met Hans Addleman, a network architect for International Networks at IU, who later this year will lead the world’s fastest network at the annual supercomputing conference, SC23.  

Brenna Meade Brenna Meade

Fast forward five years, and Meade is now a network systems engineer in International Networks at Indiana University, globe-trotting to Italy, the Czech Republic, Singapore, and more to collaborate with colleagues. She’s remained involved with WINS through the years, taking part in the alumni group and serving as WINS lead at SC21-SC23. (SC’s official name is the International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage, and Analysis.) 

This spring, WINS announced Meade now has a leadership role with the program and will continue to take on more responsibilities. “WINS changed my career and my life dramatically. I’m honored to help other women experience the same career-altering opportunities that I did through WINS,” Meade said. “I’m excited to bring more women into the field of networking.”  

How WINS works  

Meade speaks candidly about her own experiences in tech. “In most meetings or rooms I’m in, I’m the only woman. A big reason for that is that the pipeline is too small—most women don’t know that network engineering even exists as a career,” she said.  

WINS is working to change all that. According to its marketing materials, “The Women in IT Networking at SC (WINS) program was developed as a means for addressing the prevalent gender gap that exists in information technology, particularly in the fields of network engineering and high performance computing (HPC).”  

Through WINS, you get to work with innovative gear, not to mention engineers who are really sharp. It’s an amazing learning opportunity.

Brenna Meade

Each year, WINS sponsors up to five early- to mid-career women from the U.S. research and education IT community for “hands-on” experience with SCinet, one of the fastest and most advanced computer networks in the world 

WINS began in 2015 as a joint effort between the Energy Sciences Network (ESnet), the Keystone Initiative for Network Based Education and Research (KINBER), the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), and SCinet. Its success led to a three-year award from the National Science Foundation.  

When that funding ended in March 2023, WINS announced changes to its leadership structure. The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, the Energy Sciences Network, and Indiana University will be the core partners and managers of the WINS program.  

“Through WINS, you get to work with innovative gear, not to mention engineers who are really sharp. It’s an amazing learning opportunity,” Meade said. “I’m grateful for this opportunity, and for the support IU has shown for WINS from the beginning. Without IU, and especially Dave Jent, our associate vice president for networks, a lot of WINS’ success wouldn’t be possible.”  

More stories