It’s been proven that diversity in the workplace leads to higher productivity and can make an organization stronger. At Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, we recognize the value of diversity, but also realize that it takes dedication to achieve a diverse workforce. As part of our effort to increase female representation in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) industries, we recently held a webinar featuring the experiences of women in STEM that focused specifically on information technology and security at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
Hosted by Brent Cieszynski, VP — chief information security officer at Blue Cross, the webinar featured panelists who shared insights and advice on a number of topics, including:
- A woman’s journey to a tech career in Michigan
- Underrepresentation in tech
- Influencing recruitment and retention
- Advantages of tech in Michigan
- Cyber and tech security
- Job perspectives
Chris Rydzewski, executive director of the Michigan Council of Women in Technology Foundation (MCWT), spoke about her organization’s mission to inspire girls and women to pursue careers in technology. She also gave advice on dealing with the roadblocks she encountered in her own career. “I often found myself being the only female in meetings with all men,” she shared. “Women tend not to have the confidence they need in those situations, but it’s important to have a voice and make a contribution.”
Take advantage of opportunities
Throughout the webinar, panelists highlighted the great opportunities available for women in tech. “STEM is not a box, it’s a path,” explained Sharon Zuschlag, a PMO director with Senior Health Services. “There are so many places you can go once you get involved.” Michigan in particular offers many advantages for women in IT, including a wide range of high-tech industries, a strong and supportive community of tech professionals, a high growth rate for tech jobs and a low cost of living.
STEM at BCBSM
During the question and answer session, Katie Ramsay, a systems analyst for application services and strategic partnerships at BCBSM, described the positive IT culture at Blue Cross. “There has always been a distinctively diverse quality at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, with many women and people of color in leadership positions.” She also shared her experience as an engaged member of the IT Diversity Employee Committee and volunteering on the Blunited Diversity and Inclusion Council: “I’m really aiming to break down the stereotypes of women in tech.”
Growing the STEM community
To close out the webinar, attendees were encouraged to join the movement to help make Michigan the No. 1 state for women in technology. Specific steps were shared to help strengthen the community of women in tech to help reach that goal, including:
- Be the spark that inspires other women to explore STEM
- Be a role model for young women struggling with underrepresentation
- Take time to become a mentor
- Volunteer with groups like MCWT that advocate for women in technology
We thank everyone involved in making this webinar such a success. Blue Cross will continue to host events that promote diversity and inclusion in STEM-related fields because we know that additional insights and perspectives in our industry can benefit all of us.