Did you know that approximately only 30% of all engineering jobs are occupied by women? This is why Downey Unified is proud to provide an opportunity for our female students to grow their representation in STEM fields and be more successful post-graduation by continuing to expand our female-focused engineering program throughout the district.
In partnership with Cal Poly Pomona’s Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) program, formerly known as their Women in Engineering program, the Femineer program is embedded into our four middle schools and our two comprehensive high schools with the goal of providing more opportunities for young women to learn firsthand what a career in engineering and other related fields encompasses.
At the end of March, the annual Femineer Gala was hosted by Downey High School where the work of our Femineers was showcased. This event brought over 300 people in attendance to see what more than 200 of our young future female engineers have been diligently focused on this school year. This gala featured an expansive exhibition where students explained their unique movable designs—some resembling the function of vending machines or recreating scenes from well-known movies such as the ballroom in Disney’s animated version of Beauty and the Beast—made with motors, sensors and circuit boards. Similar to previous years, this year’s event was rounded out with an impressive panel session made up of female engineers.
The panel spoke to our students and guests about their chosen pathways and experiences in engineering and were also able to answer questions. The panel included professional engineer, Nicky Virdone, who holds a bachelor’s degree in Bioengineering from UCLA and a master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from Duke University, who spoke about her experience as current Project Manager/Director of Outreach at a National Science Foundation center called CI Compass. She was joined by three Downey Unified alumni and former Femineer members, Stephanie Vaca, currently in her third year at Cal State Long Beach, majoring in Computer Engineering; Ifunanya Okoroma, a second-year student at UC San Diego majoring in Data Science; and Karla Sarabia, currently in her third year at Cal Poly Pomona, majoring in Aerospace Engineering.
“We are honored and excited to hear from these talented women in engineering, and to have them inspire and influence the trajectories of our Femineers in Downey Unified,” stated our district’s Board of Education President, Giovanna Perez-Saab. “Hearing their honest and open perspectives on what it takes to excel in the various engineering fields they are working and studying in provides such a valuable perspective for our students. I want to thank our staff for supporting our young female engineers and ensuring they are ready for various opportunities in STEAM related fields in their future.”
Cal Poly Pomona’s Women in Engineering Program was established by Dr. Ontiveros in 2012 to provide young women with the resources and supportive services to succeed in the fields of engineering. Transitioning to their Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) program in 2021 as part of the Cal Poly Pomona STEM Success Network, WiSE provides resources and support services for students to succeed in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). WiSE serves undergraduate and graduate students and faculty in STEM fields at Cal Poly Pomona. WiSE is dedicated to not only creating a supportive community for our current STEM students, but also strives to inspire young students to consider STEM as a possible career. Exposing young students to the creativity and excitement of STEM through hands-on activities and role models is an excellent way to build confidence in their capacity within the STEM field.