2021 Women in Tech Initiative Athena Award Winners Announced

2021 Women in Tech Initiative Athena Award Winners Announced

The Women in Tech Initiative at UC is proud to announce the fifth annual Athena Award winners. Sponsored by CITRIS and the Banatao Institute and Berkeley Engineering, the awards recognize those who embody, encourage, and promote the inclusion of women in technology.

Nominations opened in fall 2020 and submissions covered a wide range of expertise and accomplishments. Awardees were selected by a distinguished panel of representatives from academia and industry. It was a highly competitive process and we thank everyone who submitted a nomination. The awards will be presented on March 12, 2021, during the annual Women in Tech Symposium. This year’s symposium will focus on “The New Era in Human-Computer Interaction” and will examine leading-edge technologies and challenges to ensuring equitable and inclusive HCI.

This year’s Athena Award winners include UC Merced Professor Teenie Matlock, World Economic Forum’s Sheila Warren, UC Davis Assistant Professor Katia Cánepa Vega, and the nonprofit organization Self e-STEM.

Learn more about the winners below. 

Academic Leadership: 

Teenie Matlock, Ph.D.
Professor, Vice Provost for Academic Personnel, and McClatchy Chair in Communications at UC Merced

Teenie Matlock is the Vice Provost for Academic Personnel and Professor of Cognitive Science at UC Merced. She holds the McClatchy Chair in Communications and has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles, some of which analyze how humans communicate including how they communicate in the context of technology. She helped pioneer human-computer interaction research in the early 2000s, before the ubiquity of attentive systems. She has a U.S. patent for an invention involving rapid symbolic input for hand-held devices, designed when she worked for IBM Research, and she has done seminal work on the role of metaphor in everyday thought about web searches. She has awards for distinction in research, teaching, and mentoring. Matlock was one of the first 10 faculty hired at UC Merced and was internally involved in laying the foundation for what has become top cognitive science program in the country, the Cognitive and Information Sciences Department. She has served on many boards, including the Cognitive Science Society governing board member and was a standing member of LCOM, a National Institute of Health Study Section. Matlock is one of few women to play an executive leadership role at UC Merced. Matlock’s research contributions are interdisciplinary, meshing theories and practice from linguistics, experimental psychology, and human-computer interaction. At UC Merced, she has broken down traditional academic hierarchies and strengthened efforts to broaden diversity among the faculty using innovative approaches to inclusivity. Her commitment to guiding women to succeed in technology is reflected through the expanded career opportunities she has created for a long list of mentees. Her mentees have been accepted into top graduate programs, landed tenure-track positions at research universities, and obtained competitive positions in leading technological companies, such as Google.

Matlock served as Vice Chair of the American Indian Council of Mariposa, and continues to engage in community activities with local Native American tribal groups, including her own, Southern Sierra Miwuk, to promote better educational opportunities and create bridges between the University of California and local indigenous peoples.  Several years ago, she served on the systemwide President’s Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion. In addition to her scholarly and leadership activities, Matlock is a trumpet player, who performs with local jazz musicians.

Executive Leadership: 

Sheila Warren
Head of Blockchain, Digital Assets, and Data Policy at the World Economic Forum

Sheila Warren is the Head of Blockchain, Digital Assets, and Data Policy at the World Economic Forum (WEF). Sheila’s focus on building solutions to real-world problems has helped shape the space of blockchain technology and digital identity. Her first technical contribution was the 2013 launch of NGOsource, a first-of-its-kind SaaS product that focused on international grantmaking and revolutionized the way diligence in the sector is conducted using algorithms and blockchain technology. At the WEF she oversaw the development of the first proof-of-concept to combat corruption in public procurement. She has become one of the most influential women in blockchain. Her co-authored paper “Blockchain Beyond the Hype” is the most downloaded WEF paper of the decade. She has provided testimony to the EU and UK Parliament, served on high-level advisory boards for the OECD, World Bank, California government, and several critical projects. Her insistence on inclusion and problem solving has already shaped the trajectory of this technology, and she conceived of and oversaw the creation of the world’s first comprehensive guides to central bank digital currencies and blockchain for the supply chain. The Presidio Principles, which launched under her leadership, are the first ethical framework for blockchain technology.

Sheila’s current team is staffed entirely by women, a rare representation in the field of blockchain. As a leader, she does not hide her personal responsibilities. She emphasizes new models of leadership and flexible work that better accommodate the realities of modern life. Her openness about being a mother of young children and the complexities of work-life balance are inspiring the next generation of women leaders in technology.

Early Career:

Katia Cánepa Vega
Assistant Professor, Department of Design at UC Davis

Katia Vega is an Assistant Professor at the UC Davis Department of Design and directs the Interactive Organisms Lab. Katia’s pioneering research creates novel interfaces around the skin and within fungal colonies known as Beauty Technologies, Growable Interfaces, and Interactive Tattoos. This research integrates electronics into cosmetics to be applied directly to skin, fingernails, and hair to transform the body’s surface into an interactive platform. Her work in Beauty Technology (a term she introduced in 2012) helped open a field with innovations like Conductive Makeup, Tech Nails, Hairware, and FX e-makeup. Katia’s research helped open a new subfield in Wearable Computing by transforming the body into an interactive platform. Her work has been featured by the BBC, New Scientist, Wired, Discovery, CNN, and has received awards from SXSW, Ars Electronica, and the Ubimedia Competition, among others. She is the co-author of the book, “Beauty Technology: Designing Seamless Interfaces for Wearable Computing.”

As a Geek Girl LatAm Ambassador, Katia has a marked impact in encouraging Latina and female students to undertake STEAM disciplines. Seventy percent of the undergraduate students joining her lab have been women, and many come from outside the US (Peru, China, Taiwan, Turkey). Her design is women-centered, creating novel beauty technologies that are mindful of the social, aesthetic, and cultural perspective of women, and she positions women as innovation drivers.

Next Generation Engagement:

Self e-STEM

Self-eSTEM provides interactive, culturally responsive STEM literacy, leadership, and technical training for girls and young women. Self-eSTEM focuses on building the skills, confidence, and resiliency needed for the STEM workforce of the future. The organization helps young women visualize themselves as STEM educators, engineers, programmers, and future industry leaders and mentors. The program model is designed to scale culturally-relevant content for educators and provide participant support at core developmental stages: childhood, emerging adulthood, and early career. The Self-eSTEM team is recruited from the community they serve and shares the experiences and background of their constituents. Since 2014, Self-eSTEM has served over 1,200 girls and helped them realize their education and career pursuits.

Recently, Self-eSTEM launched a STEM Equity and Racial Justice Pledge as a direct response to our nation’s racial and gender challenges. It reflects a direct approach toward dismantling the systemic inequality and racism within STEM education and career pathways. The free program provides wraparound support and culturally relevant content to increase recruitment and retention of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) populations in the STEM talent pipeline.

The 5th Annual Women in Tech Symposium on “The New Era in Human-Computer Interaction” will be held Friday, March 12, 2021. For more information and to register, please visit the event page.


The Women in Technology Initiative at the University of California is a program jointly launched in 2017 by CITRIS and the Banatao Institute and Berkeley Engineering to advocate for women in the tech industry and academia to be proportionately represented and equitably compensated throughout the professional ranks.

The Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) and the Banatao Institute drive interdisciplinary innovation for social good with faculty researchers and students from four University of California campuses – Berkeley, Davis, Merced, and Santa Cruz – along with public and private partners.

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