When Gina Bronkie Hammond, MS ’73, began her career in computer science, she had very few female colleagues, and even fewer female role models and mentors. As she moved up in the industry—beginning in banking and eventually landing at a company that developed the electronic filing system for the IRS—she began to recognize that this lack of diversity hindered productivity and innovation, an observation she shared with the company president.
A few weeks later, he surprised her by gifting her a box of business cards, listing her name with the title of assistant vice president. Hammond continued to advance in her career, eventually serving as director and vice president of Computer Sciences Corporation, managing 800 employees producing $125 million worth of business each year.
Hammond credits not only the experience she gained earning her master’s at UB for preparing her for success, but also an innate confidence and belief in her abilities. Throughout her career, she made it a point to “never say no” to growth opportunities and to engage and empower her female colleagues. Now, she has created a scholarship in UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences so female students can build their own confidence and follow their own bold aspirations.
Despite gains in recent years, women’s participation in the prestigious field of STEM still lags that of men. The engineering school, aiming to be ranked among the top 25 engineering schools in the country, has several initiatives in place to help address this disparity, including its WiSE (Women in Science and Engineering) program. “Our goal is to change the perception that STEM is a male-dominated field. This field is for everybody,” shares Marina Blanton, WiSE faculty director and associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering.
While Blanton feels that there needs to be earlier interventions to encourage young women to enter STEM, she knows the work WiSE is doing can help to ensure UB’s female students can succeed. And she reiterates Hammond’s sentiments that diversity leads to better innovations.
Tanvie Kirane, a junior computer science major from India, is a recipient of the Gina Bronkie Hammond Computer Science Scholarship. Kirane, who has been programming since she was in eighth grade, has embraced being a female computer science major at UB. Yet even with the community she’s built as a female in STEM, she credits the Hammond scholarship for the validation that encourages her to persist.
“The scholarship has definitely helped me financially,” says Kirane. “In times when I am struggling with a class, it’s a ray of light to know that someone believes in me, and it helps me keep going.”
Kirane was inspired when she learned more about Hammond’s career, and the bold pathway she set for herself. “The fact that I am associated with such a great woman is honestly motivating,” Kirane shares. “This scholarship has morally impacted me and once I graduate, I’d like to be that source of assistance and confidence for a future student.”
Gina Hammond (left) is impressed with what the students she has supported over the years have accomplished. “The students at UB are so exciting to watch,” she shares. “It’s important to encourage them, and it’s wonderful to know that my scholarship can help inspire that confidence.”