Club pushes to inspire women in engineering


Denis Perez / The Advocate

Chemical engineering major Aidee Guzman has dealt with being challenged as a woman in the field of engineering.

By Alondra Gallardo, Opinion Editor

Although there is a lack of women in engineering today, a campus club is helping inspire women to join and continue in this field.

Women Advancing Via Engineering and Science (WAVES) was created on the Contra Costa College campus to help close the gap between men and women working this field.

Only 9 percent of the engineering workforce are women, according to the women in engineering society.

Originally, social science and literature were considered “feminine” subjects and areas such as science, technology, business and engineering were labeled as “masculine” areas of expertise, according to information found in the encyclopedia of Modern Feminist Movement and Contemporary Issues.

“I remember in my physics class I was the only female,” chemical engineering major Aidee Guzman said. “We got put into lab groups to answer questions and do an assignment and my group members would constantly question my knowledge just to see if I actually knew the material or not.

“I feel like I constantly was challenged and had to prove myself just for the simple fact that I am a woman.”

According to the Society of Women Engineers, one in four female engineers leave the field after the age of 30 now compared to one in 10 male engineers leaving the field.

Mayra Padilla HSI, STEM and equity director said there are not many women, especially Latinas or African-American women, in this field.

“Women drop out of STEM either really early or really late and this happens particularly in the Adelante program,” Padilla said. “We can start off with 50 percent women and by the time they get to the science it is about 20 percent. This all happens within a year.”

Padilla said they really try to encourage women to join and continue their studies the field.

They invite women scientists to speak to the classes to encourage and influence women. The hope is that they can obtain such positions and teach men that women can be in high positions as well.

According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, only 29 percent of the science and engineering workforce are women, but women make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce.

“We actually hired a STEM counselor and she is developing a workshop for women in a group so when they have to make tough decisions they have someone to talk to,” Padilla said.

STEM counselor and coordinator Lorena Gonzalez said, “In regards to decisions such as moving on and transferring, the impact of culture affects them with things like being the first female in their family to go to college.”

Here at CCC there is diversity, but the higher you go in STEM classes, the less color and diversity you see. This is not only seen in the career path but in the classes, Gonzalez said.

“Female students do come to me and address the intimidation due to males and the environment,” Gonzalez said.

Padilla said, “We want faculty to encourage young women in science classes so that they can pursue these careers. By creating a social justice in the work environment, it helps women see that they can excel, however, we need to re-frame it for them.

Guzman said, “I joined WAVES because my friend created it and it feels way more comfortable because it is predominately us women. But men can join as well.”