Women in tech jobs at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan are on a mission: to bring more diversity into the field, now and into the future.
That mission has led many individuals at Blue Cross to volunteer their time with the Michigan Council of Women in Technology (MCWT), an organization that seeks to engage and inspire girls and women to pursue careers in the field.
“Each year the percentage of women in technological careers has remained the same, though there is a growing need for more technical solutions to solve business problems. Many girls stereotype a job in technology as someone who develops code; but MCWT wants to highlight all the various jobs available in technology,” said Amy Krause, IT Director, Enterprise Corporate Services & Emerging Markets, at Blue Cross. “By having a diverse workforce, we can have varied mindsets contributing to technical solutions, and that broader mindset can only be beneficial to BCBSM and the greater community.”
The Michigan Council of Women in Technology offers results-orientated and hands-on programs, networking opportunities and career development events to expose more individuals to the wide array of career opportunities in the tech field. This includes high school tutoring in web design, tech workshops and summer camps for students, as well as opportunities for working women transitioning career fields.
The organization is guided by a network of stakeholders and volunteers, including professionals at Blue Cross and other leading companies, as well as teachers, parents, students, businesses, professionals and retirees.
‘If they can’t see it, they can’t achieve it’
For Krause, as her career has progressed, she’s seen few women in the IT industry or in executive leadership – and has become used to being the only woman in a meeting. That’s something she wants to help change.
Krause joined the MCWT in 2019, and last year she helped to start a program called “Women in Tech Podium” which showcases women leaders in technology by featuring select speakers at various events.
“We believe that it’s important for young girls and women to see and hear what the women leaders have achieved in their careers in technology…if they can’t see it, they can’t achieve it!” Krause said.
Role models make a difference
Strong female role models played a significant part in motivating Patrece Hamblin, Director of Planning and Initiative Management at Blue Cross, to take her love of math, science and coding in high school and turn it into a career in information technology.
“My first computer lab teacher was a black female, Ms. Swavy McSwain,” Hamblin said. “I attended STEM programs where there were men and women instructors that looked like me. This provided me the confidence that I too could pursue my information technology dreams.”
Now, Hamblin is reaching down to the next generation to help inspire and motivate them to follow their dreams. She started volunteering with MCWT in 2011, serving as a panelist, speaker, teacher, and has helped to lead many of their signature events.
“The work MCWT is doing is so important. The one main reason is the intentional focus on girls and women in STEM. It has made a huge impact on how we approach ideas and concepts around exposure and access to careers in STEM and the knowledge of what a technology career paths has to offer,” Hamblin said.
A shared commitment
For Vaneitta Goines, systems analyst II at Blue Cross, there’s a clear connection between the MCWT and the culture of working in IT at Blue Cross. Goines started volunteering with the MCWT in 2015 helping with the high school Web Design Contest.
“BCBSM and MCWT align on shared goals, such as expanding the IT pipeline and teaching youth about IT. MCWT prepares a great foundation for partners such as BCBSM to step into and contribute subject-matter expertise,” Goines said. “With the wealth of information found by MCWT through their research initiatives, our teams can partner to build more effective workshops, campus trainings, networking sessions and other tools to support the growth of IT careers from elementary through retirement.”
Blue Cross and MCWT, along with other organizations, created a Women in Cyber project to widen the talent pipeline for cybersecurity jobs to help women transition in their career paths. When the call went out looking for volunteers and mentors to help launch the program, the response was overwhelming. Goines, who helped lead the implementation of the project, said it speaks to the tremendous level of support and positive energy between the organizations in opening doors to jobs in the field.
“BCBSM’s commitment to offering existing employees, and youthful members of the IT pipeline, the best possible awareness and training is evident in how readily volunteers partner to plan and implement various types of fun and educational opportunities for youth, college students and women returning to the workforce,” Goines said.