Communicating openly and honestly Creating an awesome work environment Pursuing opportunities for diversification and growth By Susie McCormick October 26, 2023

Fostering Success: Women in Leadership and IT at Nelnet

Women at Nelnet are leading and inspiring other women – what channels are supporting their success?

Women are inspirational at Nelnet. At the company’s annual All Director’s Meeting, women have won the cherished Butterfield Leadership Award in the first two years of its existence. The award was established in 2022 to honor a current leader who exhibits key traits of the late Nelnet co-founder, co-CEO, and later Vice Chairman Steve Butterfield – or “Butter,” as he was affectionately known. Nelnet leaders are nominated for their commitment to serving others, developing and inspiring co-workers, and working to build a strong company culture.

If the Butterfield Leadership Award is an indication – and it is – women can excel in the Nelnet environment, and they’re recognized by their peers for their achievement at a high level when they do so. What resources are helping Nelnet’s female associates to enjoy success and feel supported?

Nelnet Women’s Leadership Network

Nelnet Women’s Leadership Network (NWLN) is an associate resource group (ARG) established in February 2022. It was intended to create additional career opportunities and a supportive community to help women at Nelnet be successful in leadership roles.

With monthly or quarterly events, the NWLN focuses on career, leadership, and mentoring opportunities, as well as business skill development. The initiative has both an external focus to offer activities and events that provide opportunities to develop relationships and learn from others outside the company, and an internal focus on providing resources to enhance women’s leadership and business development skills and mentoring within the company.

Women who get involved with NWLN can:

  • Enhance their business skill development.
  • Build relationships within the company.
  • Provide mentorship opportunities to other women.
  • Grow their careers.

Women Engaged in Computing at Nelnet

Women Engaged in Computing at Nelnet (We Can) is an ARG that was also formed in February 2022. Open to all active associates, the ARG’s mission is to connect women in IT at Nelnet to a community where they can grow as professionals through social, developmental, and leadership events.

We Can strives to create a community for women in IT to thrive at Nelnet and enable inclusion, empowerment, affirmation of value, and advocacy for work-life balance. We Can aligns with Nelnet’s core values by creating a space for women in IT to engage with each other in activities such as:

  • Social gatherings.
  • Leadership discussions between current and future leaders in IT.
  • Mentorship program.
  • A forum for discussion of professional challenges and how to overcome them.
  • Encouraging the use of existing Nelnet development programs.

The ARG provides a way for members to develop relationships with others who share common experiences and challenges, and to find a sense of being supported and advocated for. We Can promises to:

  • Offer members opportunities to meet new people and engage in events tailored to their interests.
  • Provide professional development events focused on individual growth.
  • Facilitate open communication through leadership events that encourage We Can members to interact with Nelnet’s leadership.
  • Foster opportunities to volunteer in the community.

Partnering to Provide Additional Opportunities

As two groups sharing a common goal of fostering success for women in their careers at Nelnet, NWLN and We Can also hold joint professional development and networking events. For example, at one recent event, former U.S. congressman, Hall of Fame inductee, and former University of Nebraska-Lincoln Head Football Coach and Athletic Director Dr. Tom Osborne was invited to speak to the group about his life, legacy, and leadership.

NWLN also partners with the Better Together Council, Nelnet’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiative, to present a monthly dedicated hour of small group conversations where all Nelnet associates can come together to discuss topics that impact them on a personal and professional level.

The conversations – aptly named Empower Hour – dive deep into a variety of relevant professional and personal topics. A recent topic covered How to Say No, while an upcoming topic is titled Finding Your Voice. Sessions such as these create an awesome work environment, allow for open, honest communicaton, and provide associates at any level of their career an opportunity to gain valuable skills and support that can position them for greater professional and personal success. The interactive sessions also offer a networking opportunity for participants.

While mentorship is part of both NWLN and We Can, Nelnet’s ongoing Mentorship Program is also available to all associates who sign up. Currently, there are 77 mentors and mentees participating in the six-month program. Since the program started in 2020, over 800 Nelnet associates have participated.

Channels are Available

Women at Nelnet from entry-level on up can find inspiration from seeing other women who are respected and recognized for their leadership at Nelnet. There are a growing number of channels to help female associates at any level find their voice, feel supported – and grow their skills, relationships, and careers at Nelnet.




Susie McCormick

Senior Corporate Communications Writer