By Tessa Roy
Women aren’t as plentiful in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields as men, but The Rhode Island Mentoring Partnership wants to help change that. On Thursday, the organization, along with Governor Gina Raimondo and other companies in the state, gathered at Amgen to celebrate Rhode Island’s participation in Million Women Mentors.
Million Women Mentors, a national initiative, seeks to support the engagement of one million mentors, both male and female, to help increase the interest and confidence of girls and women to persist and succeed in STEM programs and careers. Rhode Island’s participation is supported by the Rhode Island STEM Center at Rhode Island College, Amgen, and the Rhode Island Mentoring Partnership, plus the Million Women Mentors State Leadership Team that’s made up of individuals from organizations dedicated to promoting STEM initiatives.
“As a leading biotechnology company, Amgen is committed to making the study of science and technology exciting for young learners who might help us discover the medicines of tomorrow,” said Amgen Rhode Island Site Operations Vice President Tia Bush in a statement. “We continually support local community organizations such as RI Mentoring Partnership that have a strong commitment to mentoring and inspiring the next generation of scientists.”
Rhode Island STEM Director Carol Giuriceo’s echoed her sentiments.
“We are so happy to have the support of Governor Raimondo, businesses like the RI Mentoring Partnership who understand the value of mentoring in addressing the gender gap in STEM,” she said.
Raimondo, who will serve as honorary chair of the leadership team, said the lack of girls and women in STEM fields may be due to a lack of role models and “nerd” stereotypes. Jo-Ann Schofield, President and CEO of the RI Mentoring Partnership, later joked that being a nerd isn’t so bad when the salary starts at $72,000.
Raimondo also acknowledged that STEM isn’t the only field in which women are underrepresented.
“I’m in a field where there’s still a barrier,” she said, prompting laughs. “In case you haven’t noticed, the 74 people who were governor before me all have one thing in common. They’re all men!”
Congressman Jim Langevin also attended the event to celebrate the initiative and emphasized the importance of getting women in the STEM workforce.
“I’m frustrated, like the Governor and others have said, that half the population is made up of women and they only make up less than 25 percent of the workforce in STEM fields,” he said.
Schofield expressed excitement for participating in Million Women Mentors and thanked Bush, Giuriceo, and Raimondo for being role models.
“You are all brilliant, intelligent women that just exude confidence and that’s what we want for all of our young ladies in Rhode Island,” she said.
The RI State Leadership team includes Candida Desjardins, Naval Undersea Warfare Center; Antonieta Falconi, Social Enterprise Greenhouse, Jen Giroux, Rhode Island College; Carol M. Giuriceo (chair), Rhode Island STEAM Center; Diane Guillemette, Guill Tool & Engineering Co., Inc.; JoAnn Johnson, Tech Collective; Ginger Lallo, Girl Scouts of Southeastern New England; Amy Leidtke, Rhode Island School of Design; Ilona Miko, MikoArtScience; Demetria Moran, Rhode Island College; Deborah Perry; YWCA Rhode Island; Jo-Ann Schofield, Rhode Island Mentoring Partnership.