Inspired Alumna Supports Women in the Computer Science Field
Sandy Reynolds ’79 remembers when women in technology were left behind, so she is determined to help create a path for young women to connect with peers and mentors as they pursue careers as engineers, computer scientists and developers.
As a student at Berea College in the late 1970s, she worked as a computer operator for her labor assignment. That experience helped her land her first job, working as a computer operator at Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). There, she managed a CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration) Maturity Level 5 software development organization and rose to corporate vice president during her 27 years with the company.
Recalling her first meeting with Dr. Jan Pearce, chair of Berea’s Computer Science department and professor of Computer Science, Reynolds remembers a particular statistic from Pearce’s presentation. It was something she had known in her heart but didn’t want to believe.
“Women were in so many fields, initially, and then when those fields were professionalized, all of a sudden they became male dominated,” she said. “For instance, bookkeepers: primarily women, but when it became ‘certified public accountant,’ it was almost all men. The adders like you saw in the movie Hidden Figures, those were all women. But if you looked at who were the engineers, those were all men.”
The emergence of that gender hierarchy was very telling for Reynolds. It inspired her to help the next generation of women in technology.
“While I believe I broke through some glass ceilings at SAIC, I would have never done it without the women that came before me,” Reynolds admits. “Not only did they make the path easier, but they actually helped me find a path and know that that was a path that was even possible. And I think that’s still a very necessary step for the next generation that is coming now, that we show them what’s possible.”
A native of Paintsville, Ky., Reynolds makes gifts to Berea to help students attend conferences in their field so they can network, learn about job opportunities, and discover the latest trends and advancements. She said she also hopes her support will provide opportunities for students to learn how to communicate and make presentations—skills that are underrated but necessary in technology fields.
What else fuels her generosity?
“Oh, I think part of it is payback, paying it forward,” she said. “There have been so many women that came before me that created paths for me to follow. There are so many things today that you could give to that are good causes. My husband and I are really supportive of both education and giving the people of Appalachia a chance to succeed.”