Being a Woman in STEM is Hard, But It Shouldn’t Be — Here’s How My Company Made it Easier

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Sandra Blettner
Sandra Blettner
April 22, 2024 at 4:5AM UTC
A few years back, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to X’ian, China to see the incredible Terracotta Warriors. While trying to hold on for dear life during the bus ride, I managed to strike up a conversation with a father-daughter duo from the United States. The father happened to be an international business school consultant (and a great example of a non-IT decision-maker driving the case for cloud… but I’ll save that for a future blog post) and his daughter, Sarah, was a precocious fourth-grader. 

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While the father and I discussed how cloud-based analytics helped an international school analyze 20-plus years of historical test scores, Sarah quickly exclaimed, “Girls always score better than boys in math and science!” I couldn’t help but smile and laugh at that comment.

Increasing Interest in STEM

In recent years, nationwide studies have shown that math and science scores have been near equal for both girls and boys in school. Additionally, the number of women enrolling in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields in colleges and universities has increased over the past few years. At my alma mater, the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois, 25 percent of the incoming freshmen in 2018 were women.
Despite this positive trend, the fact of the matter is that the number of women in technical fields in college and beyond still pales in comparison to the number of men. It’s certainly an interesting and worthy discussion topic: Is it a matter of environment — do women feel like outsiders and uncomfortable? Or is it perhaps a lack of desire or interest?

Balancing Technology and Relationships

Growing up, my sisters and I were encouraged toward math and science (most likely because our first-generation parents could not help us a great deal with history or English homework). Perhaps because of that, it is no wonder that all three of us ended up in technology/science-related fields. That being said, each of us really enjoyed problem-solving, and excelled in math and science while we were surrounded in an environment that encouraged it.
For me, pursuing a technical degree in school, then launching into a career in technical sales seemed like a natural transition. I love not only working with people and building relationships but also staying close to technology and the ever-changing field that it is. My role here at CDW as a principal cloud client executive is the perfect balance and allows me to stay on the cutting edge of technology, while building relationships and creating solutions for our customers.

Greater Diversity, Greater Success

Despite being in male-dominated environments for most of my education and sales career, the transition to CDW was still a difficult one. I am one of a few women on my team. I’ll admit that the predominately male environment was a bit intimidating and overwhelming for me at first. What I realized soon thereafter was that my peers and colleagues are extremely supportive, encouraging and willing to help.
Even after talking to my women peers that have been at CDW for ten-plus years, the overwhelming feedback is the same: CDW is a great place to be and is supportive of all backgrounds and experiences. Colleagues support colleagues and there is a path to progress your career, should you choose to do so. It is also important to note that women hold nearly half of the executive leadership positions at CDW, and we now have our first female CEO.
There are also coworker groups within the company — such as the Women Opportunity Network (WON) and Women in Integrated Technology Services (WITS) — that offer networking and learning opportunities for women. And it’s worth mentioning that in 2018, CDW was voted the No. 11 best workplace for women and the No. 3 best tech company for women by Fairygodboss.
While there is still room for improvement and growth in increasing the number of women in technical roles, I feel so fortunate to be part of a culture and team here that celebrates all aspects of diversity and inclusion. It is well-known that more diverse teams — defined as different backgrounds, ages, cultures and genders — not only have more fun but also garner better results and outcomes.
Sandra Blettner originally published this article here. Fairygodboss has republished it with permission from Sandra Blettner and CDW Corporation.
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