Rhode Island College junior Gisselle Germosen with her mentor, Kathleen Lomi, at Tech Collective offices in Providence.
Kathleen Lomi ’89 didn’t have a mentor while she was majoring in computer information systems at Rhode Island College. She wishes she had; now that she’s a computer programming professional, she sees the value in inspiring young women to pursue careers in the tech field.
“From my perspective, women are in touch with users’ needs when developing computer systems,” said Lomi, a systems manager at Automobile Insurance Plan Service Office (AIPSO), a nonprofit serving the automobile insurance market. “Organization and analysis skills from a woman’s perspective seem to round out a team’s ability to hit the mark. That’s why I want to support other women entering this field.”
Lomi and fellow tech professionals Carly Cravers, Sarah Eltinge and Ashley Urrutia volunteered this past fall to be mentors in an inaugural program sponsored by Million Women Mentors Rhode Island (MWM-RI). The program, in partnership with Rhode Island STEAM Center, Mentor RI and the Tech Collective, focuses on building capacity among women to obtain careers in science, technology, engineering, arts+ design and math.
Carol Giuriceo, director of the Rhode Island STEAM Center and MWM-RI chair, explained that the program also seeks to give “college women an opportunity to share their concerns and learn from someone who is only a few years ahead in her professional life,” she said.
The four mentors were matched with Rhode Island College computer information systems majors Marilyn Lux, Gisselle Germosen, Sabina Piorkowski and Teema Garpue. Mentors and mentees met regularly to discuss both personal and professional matters.
Lomi said the main point she aimed to get across to her mentee, Germosen, was to have confidence in her abilities.
“I told her to think about what she does well and to practice talking about it, so she can articulate it well in an interview,” Lomi said.
Lux, a RIC senior, said her mentor, Urrutia, offered similar advice. She said the tech world is appealing because of the vast number of opportunities that exist.
“I like the fact that in tech you can learn constantly, even if you’re not in school anymore,” she said. “Because I’m a woman, it will be challenging but I think it’s worth taking the initiative and making a difference.”
Eltinge, a data engineer for Rhode Island Quality Institute, which facilitates improvements in health care in the state, said she was fortunate to enter the computer information systems field at a time when it was becoming more equitable for women.
“Tech, more so than some other fields, has historically kept out talented people – women and minorities – who don’t have very specific skills and experiences,” she said. “I’m in tech today because I’ve been very fortunate to always work in environments that have appreciated my existing skills and trained me up in necessary areas. When workplaces are unsupportive of learning and growth, they are toxic to everyone – especially gender, sexual and racial minorities.”
Lisa Bain, a computer information systems professor at RIC, agreed that the options for women are far more plentiful than when she entered the tech field more than three decades ago.
“We still need to increase the interest of women (especially girls) in information technology and put a stronger focus on promoting women into management and decision-making roles,” Bain said.
Giuriceo expressed appreciation for the multigenerational collaboration that has fueled the development of this program.
“I love that everyone is bringing ideas to the table,” she said. “We will continue to gather feedback, tweak our program and expand our offerings. In the spring semester, we hope to recruit another cohort of students from RIC’s Computer Science Department and then offer our program to other colleges and universities in Rhode Island.”
Bain added that the pilot mentoring program will also help the college build stronger ties to tech-related employers in the state.
For more information about RIC’s pilot Million Women Mentors’ program, contact Giuriceo at 401-456-2799.