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Thriving Despite Stereotypes

March 01, 2018
By Deb Daley

Empowering the young women of Mercy High School is essential part of our school’s mission.   For Mercy, it important that the women who enter as freshmen exit as strong, confident women able to face challenges and societal issues they may encounter in later years.

Alumnae Anna Berg ’09 knows firsthand the importance of that confidence as the Information Technology (IT) Helpdesk Manager at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO).  She attributes thriving in the midst of possible workplace stereotypes in her field (more men in information technology positions than women) to her enrollment at Mercy.

Ironically, Mercy was not Berg’s primary school choice, but it ended up being one of the best decisions of her life. 

Berg was heavily involved in the Theatre Department during her high school years.  She was a theatre technician all four years, starting as a basic builder and working her way up to Stage Manager, Run Crew Chair, and Costume Chair. 

“I loved theatre because it empowered me to be more than my gender,” said Berg. 

Within the Theatre Department, Berg said that the men would try to take over the use of power tools and heavy lifting because they assumed the women could not handle it.  She said that the women of the Theatre Department worked to rise above those assumptions, which helped her realize gender did not matter. And this was only the very beginning of Berg overcoming the gender stereotypes that surrounded her.

Another program Berg excelled in at Mercy was the vex robotics team.  Berg’s team won the Regional Competition against a Mount Michael team the first year she became involved, only reinforcing the idea that girls were just as good as boys.  Mercy’s team received an automatic bid to nationals and scholarships to go for free.  It was this, Berg said, that led her to her current field.

“I know I wouldn’t be in the field I am without learning how to overcome gender stereotypes and how to be a strong individual no matter my gender,” Berg said.

Post-graduation, Berg attended UNO’s Computer Engineering program.  After a few years, she switched to the Cybersecurity program, but finally landed in the Bachelor of General Studies IT Program.  Berg graduated from UNO in May of 2014 with a Bachelor of General Studies: IT, Math and Engineering Degree.

As an undergraduate, she had a work study job with the IT Services Department in their Helpdesk.  When she graduated, she was offered a full-time staff position as the manager overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Helpdesk and managing the student workers.  Berg was hardly finished, though.

In the spring of 2015, she started her Master’s in Public Administration with a public policy concentration and an IT specialization.  She plans to graduate with this degree in the summer of 2019.

“I want to write IT Policy for Higher Education,” Berg said, “because I believe that technology should make our lives easier, not make us want to cry.”

Berg made it clear that she loves her job and the people that surround her, but it is not always easy.

“People don’t often take women seriously, especially in a technical support role. I have 17 people in my level of the department. However, I am the only woman,” she said.

The courage to face adversity as Berg does every day stems from her Mercy education.

“I can truthfully say that I wouldn’t be where I am today without learning how to be a strong, empowered woman from Mercy,” she said.

Along with her current job and studies, Berg is a volunteer lead at Do Space with the teen tech program and a mentor for women in IT at UNO.  She also recently joined Project 18.  Their mission statement: “Let’s establish Omaha as the most women-friendly tech community in the United States.”  As part of this, Berg wants to learn and get some insight on why women may plan to go into the tech field and how to help them succeed.

“Though I don’t do anything specifically with Mercy currently,” Berg said, “I feel that all of these volunteer projects relate back to everything that Mercy taught me.”

Berg said that she wants to reach out and assist the women who did not receive the same opportunities as Mercy students because of gender stereotypes.  She wants to share the feeling of empowerment that she learned from Mercy.

“I know that being involved with Mercy is important, but I feel that currently, my time is best spent supporting others who weren’t given the same opportunities I was,” Berg added.

Berg faced and still faces day-to-day stereotypes and prejudices within her field, but her tenacity has paid off and now she gets to do what she loves each day.  She has also pledged to focus on helping other women follow the same path, giving them the same courage.  She could not have done it without Mercy.