It is clear from the sound of her voice that Kati C. Machtley is having a good day. The founder and director of the Women’s Summit at Bryant University is beaming, because the Bryant varsity lacrosse team just won the Northeast Conference championship.
“We’re off to play the top seed,” she says. “Syracuse at Syracuse on Mother’s Day.”
Plans went into motion to reschedule her Mother’s Day brunch so the family could get to New York for the game, a match the team lost. Such is her passion for the university she has called home for 17 years. It is a passion matched by her lifelong work.
Machtley is being recognized as the outstanding mentor in the 2013 Business Women Awards program because she is in the business of mentoring women.
Since 1974, Machtley has devoted her career to educating and empowering women, the most recent stretch at Bryant, where her husband, Ronald K. Machtley, is the university’s president.
Among her top achievements is her founding and subsequent job as director of the Women’s Summit at the university. Since she established the event 16 years ago, Machtley has helped advance the personal and professional achievements of more than 16,000 women from all walks of life. The program is aimed at empowering women in order to attain or maintain economic stability. It is about creating support where it’s needed.
“Kati has been a steady and powerful force at Bryant, serving as mentor and adviser to numerous organizations and thousands of individual students,” said Dr. Kathleen C. Hittner, who nominated Machtley for the mentorship award. “She has earned a reputation for helping students develop their ideas and potential, creating several programs that advance young women in business,” said the former president and CEO of The Miriam Hospital and current chair of the R.I. Airport Corporation board of directors.
As a child, Machtley learned the importance of education, for very practical reasons. “My grandmother told me that it is important to finish your education in order to be equipped to work in a profession. She said that you never know when you are going to have to support yourself and your family,” Machtley said.
Her grandmother lived through the Great Depression and was fortunate enough to be part of a family that valued education. As a teacher, she helped support her family during those lean years and for many years after.
“My mother also received a degree in teaching, and because of her work as a teacher for many years she helped our family to achieve a higher standard of living,” Machtley added.
She’s talking about having a support system. This is an important theme for Machtley. She’s also talking about a difficult question that still exists for women despite years of progress. Can women achieve success in business and family? The recent release of the book “Lean In,” by Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook and a former Google executive, once again put the vexing business career versus motherhood question front and center. The answer, after decades of discussion, is still elusive.
“Sheryl Sandberg has compiled some very convincing statistics as to why there should be more women in senior leadership positions as a result of the educational opportunities, abilities and leadership experience women have today. However, not everyone has the support system necessary to assist these women when they are required to work long hours in order to achieve promotions to the senior positions in their company,” Machtley said.
According to Sandberg’s book, about 41 percent of mothers are primary breadwinners and earn the majority of their family’s earnings. This includes single mothers. Child care is an underlying concern for those mothers who are primary breadwinners. No mother wants to neglect her children in favor of her career. For that matter, Machtley says caring for children isn’t the only nurturing responsibility expected of American women.
“Life happens and usually women are the caregivers and decision-makers for family members when health care situations arise,” she said. “Women want to be present to provide emotional support, to comfort and to advocate for their loved ones.”
Machtley has a bachelor of science degree in nursing from the University of Maryland and a master of science degree in nursing education from the University of Rhode Island. She has served as associate professor of nursing in maternal child-health nursing at Salve Regina University in Newport and as adjunct nursing faculty member in parent child-health nursing and mental-health nursing at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
She was also a visiting clinical instructor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., in the area of parent-child health nursing and physical assessment. She has worked as a school nurse and teacher at several public schools in Rhode Island, including a preschool special-needs classroom in Middletown and as a substitute school nurse/teacher in the Smithfield and North Smithfield elementary schools.
Her time at Bryant has included a period in which she taught in a team approach with her husband Bryant’s transformational “Foundations for Learning” course, serving as teacher, adviser and mentor to hundreds of first-year students. Machtley has led the Student Herstory Event Conference and the Young Women’s Colloquium. She is integral to the mentoring of all students, including her role in the Sophomore International Experience – which recently was capped off with a global learning experience in Italy.
Machtley’s resume is impressive. But it’s what she has done with her education and professional experience that makes her a true mentor. “Kati has created a powerful network for women in the region and provided firsthand access to inspirational women, including Arianna Huffington, Kay Koplowitz, [founder of USA Networks]; actress Marlee Matlin and others,” Hittner said.
Those are big names with big accomplishments behind them. As such, Machtley is right at home in their company. She has worked with thousands of Bryant students, helping them transition effectively into college life and go on to lead successful lives as Bryant alumnae. As an adviser for the Big Sisters of Bryant, a member of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ocean State, she has created programs that partner Bryant students with children facing adversity. She’s also served on the boards of Girl Scouts of Rhode Island and Meeting Street school.
“As Bryant’s extraordinary first lady, Kati intersects with the whole community. Whether you are working closely with her or not, her impact is felt by the entire Bryant community,” said colleague Mary Moroney, director of Bryant’s Library Services. “Kati wants to please everyone and will spend a lot of time – which I am sure she does not have – on details. She treats all visitors to Bryant as if they were visiting her private home.”
Just don’t visit when the lacrosse team is playing. She’s probably in the stands, spending time she doesn’t have, rooting for another win. •