“I love connecting with other women in technology because I learn from them, I’m inspired by them and I want to help and support them.
Minute by minute, the retail industry is reinventing itself and online suppliers like Amazon now dominate the market. Jeff Bezos launched Amazon in 1994 as a successful small online bookseller, but even then, he had a grander vision for what would become the pinnacle of e-commerce.
During college at Immaculata, Mary Beth McGrath Westmoreland ’88 remembers roaming the aisles at Drug Emporium and Caldor to buy school supplies, snacks or the required hair care products like Aqua Net in the late 1980s. She could only dream that a click of a mouse would bring these items to her door within minutes or that she would be at the forefront of a company that has changed how people purchase everyday necessities.
Westmoreland has often credited her Immaculata degree in math/physics for providing her with the education and confidence to accept her first position as a computer programmer. Immaculata recognized her academic achievements and offered the New Jersey native a scholarship that helped her afford college. With the support and encouragement of her professors, she learned persistence and how to understand complex material. With a love for math and science, Westmoreland was interested in a career within the tech industry but wasn’t sure what area. Taking as many math, physics and computer science courses as she could, she decided to jump into programming as a career.
After graduating, Westmoreland was working her way up to a senior-level technical engineering position at Westinghouse Savannah River Company in South Carolina in the early 1990s. To her, Amazon was just a river in South America. However, after successfully entering the male-dominated field of technology, she expanded her experience into global technology and product strategy while spending 12 years at the cloud computing provider of Charleston-based Blackbaud as chief technology officer. During this time, Amazon contacted Westmoreland for a position with the company, but the timing was not right, and she had more to accomplish with Blackbaud. Last year, when Amazon was searching for a new vice president for brand protection, they contacted her again. This time, Westmoreland was ready to join the world’s largest online retailer. She started last summer, while working remotely throughout the pandemic.
The turnover rate for women in computing roles is more than twice as high for men.
In 2019, Forbes proclaimed that Amazon surpassed Walmart as the world’s largest retailer, with profits reaching a record-breaking $10 billion. Westmoreland’s brand protection team of 1,200 employees supports 300 million active customer accounts. The team consists of engineers, scientists, product leaders, designers, marketing and business development professionals. Their main goal is to develop technology-driven tools to prevent counterfeit products and other types of product infringement before they affect a customer, selling partner or brand. Blocking more than 10 billion suspected bad product listings before they were published, Westmoreland and her team need to be vigilant. In addition, their verification processes prevented over 6 million attempts to create selling accounts—stopping bad actors before they could publish a single product for sale. To accomplish this, Amazon invested over $700 million to protect its stores from fraud and abuse.
With a strong foundation in the sciences, Westmoreland excels in the technology field. She acknowledges that there are other female vice presidents at Amazon—but far fewer female vice presidents in the tech area. She explains that overall, women hold only 26% of computing jobs—and that percentage is declining.
“The turnover rate for women in computing roles is more than twice as high for men,” she shares. Westmoreland advises that women from all STEM fields form meaningful connections and create a “safe space” to help support each other. She adds that over 40% of women decide to leave their tech jobs as opposed to only 17% of their male colleagues.
“I love connecting with other women in technology because I learn from them, I’m inspired by them and I want to help and support them,” she says. Named multiple times as one of the 50 most powerful women in technology by various organizations, Westmoreland understands her responsibility to be a strong role model, especially for young women and girls contemplating a future in the STEM fields. To support this population of tech and science leaders, she helped found a non-profit, Charleston Women in Tech, along with other women technology leaders from the Charleston, South Carolina area. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) also invited Westmoreland to be an ambassador for their program that shares stories about women in STEM careers with middle school girls.
Demonstrating her commitment to support students and paying it forward to the college that helped launch her career, Westmoreland serves on the Immaculata Board of Trustees. She also attends reunions with her circle of lifelong friends, including Kristin Hendricks Rebuck and Nancy Gottshall Case from the Class of 1988.
Technology has evolved dramatically since Westmoreland graduated from Immaculata. However, she embraces these changes—especially in e-commerce—that are so heavily reliant on technology and the further enhancement of artificial intelligence.
“AI is already powering our online shopping experience by learning about our preferences—try asking Alexa to buy a pair of jeans,” she jokingly challenges. AI helps ensure products are authentic and enables shopping via voice [aka natural language processing]. “AI can help understand the intent of searches, leading us to products that meet our needs, although we didn’t know they existed,” she says. Self-driving—and flying vehicles—can then deliver your purchases within minutes.
Amazon is no slow-moving river, and its vice president of brand protection is at the forefront of the retail technology world.
- Amazon: Vice President of Brand Protection (2020 – Present)
- Blackbaud: Chief Technology Officer, SVP of Software Development (2008 – 2020)
- Ipswitch, Inc.: Vice President of Research and Development (2001 – 2007)
- Westinghouse Savannah River Company: Manager of Enterprise and Technical systems, Engineer (1988 – 2000)
- Immaculata University Trustee (2018 – Present)
- Clemson University College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences Board Member (2018 – Present)
- Make-A-Wish® South Carolina, Board Secretary (2015 – 2018)
- Charleston Women in Tech, founding Board Member (2014 – Present)
- Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Technology for 2017, 2019, 2020 by the National Diversity Council; American Association for the Advancement of Science If/Then Ambassador; YWCA “What Women Bring” Honoree
- Featured on the Edison Awards “Women Behind Innovation” series, the “Lessons from Inspirational Women in STEM and Tech” series from Thrive Global, among other media interviews and speaking engagements.
- Throughout her illustrious career, Mary Beth Westmoreland has always supported women entering STEM fields. Recently she was selected for the If/ThenSheCan, a collection of 122 statues featuring contemporary women of all ages and backgrounds working in STEM professions.