When Lori Newman Cohen ’79 entered the computing world, most of her work involved automation—creating programs to help computerize previously paperbound processes. Today, she focuses on business intelligence and data warehousing, or using information to improve a business’s service and bottom line.
“Data analytics is empowering,” said Cohen, head of data and analytics at New York Life Insurance Company in New York City. “Now, we’re not only able to measure what has happened in the past, but we’re getting into predictive analytics.”
Unlike the technological developments in the field, few strides have been made in solving the gender gap in computer science. In fact, it has gotten worse in the 37 years since Cohen graduated. A 2015 study by the American Association of University Women showed the number of female students enrolled in computer science programs dropped from 37 percent in the early 1980s to 18 percent in 2013.
A problem-solver by nature, Cohen provided funding, including a 100-percent matching gift up to $5,000 a year from her employer, to support the Women in Computing organization at SUNY Oswego and nurture the next generation of female computer scientists.
“We can reach more students through the club than through a single scholarship,” she said. “The club can use this money for club members to travel to conferences and build their professional networks. But I also want the college students to help pay it forward by working with the local school district to introduce students in grade school to coding. They need to hear and see that it’s cool to code!”
Melissa King ’15 M’16, president of Women in Computing, said the endowment helped the club grow from a few members to more than 20 students—female and male. They have been able to attend a hack-a-thon, a gaming convention and a Women in Computing conference, thanks to the funds provided by the Lori Newman Cohen ’79 Women in Computing at Oswego Endowment.
King said the group is not only grateful for the funds that Cohen donated, but also the mentoring she provides during her regular visits to campus.
“It’s helpful to hear her stories and know that she was challenged, too,” King said. “But she did it and has been very successful. It gives us inspiration and confidence to move forward and achieve our goals.”
Cohen’s gift has also encouraged others to support the fund, including fellow computer science alumna and Alpha Sigma Chi sorority member Stephanie Pianka ’87, treasurer and vice president of financial operations at New York University. To support the fund, contact the Office of University Development at firstname.lastname@example.org, 315-312-3003 or alumni.oswego.edu/givenow.