East Bay high school wants to increase women in STEM with 'Femineer' program

Future female engineers at Ygnacio Valley High School in Concord are getting some hands-on experience and mentoring as part of the “Femineer” program.
Future female engineers at Ygnacio Valley High School in Concord are getting some hands-on experience and mentoring as part of the “Femineer” program. Photo credit Contra Costa Transportation Authority

Future female engineers at Ygnacio Valley High School in Concord are getting some hands-on experience and mentoring as part of the "Femineer" program, which aims to inspire female students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The school's robotics club is evenly split between boys and girls, but that currently isn’t the case for the vast majority of STEM companies.

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"When you take a look at the number of women that work in the engineering workforce, women engineers make up less than 20% of the engineering workforce," Julianita Jauregui, a business development lead with Stantec, a global architecture, design and engineering firm, told KCBS Radio.

She is a big supporter of the "Femineer" program in high schools, which was developed by Cal Poly Pomona’s College of Engineering in 2013.

"Something that we feel is really key, is representation," she said. "The fact that representation matters."

The program is in its first year at Ygnacio Valley. One of its chief goals is to connect female students with female engineers, who serve as mentors.

“Femineer” program aims to inspire female students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“Femineer” program aims to inspire female students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Photo credit Contra Costa Transportation Authority

"They offer advice to the female students and then just really provide inside to what a STEM career is like for women," Tyren, a junior at Ygnacio Valley High School, said.

Tim Hale, Executive Director of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority, is a civil engineer and a "girl dad" himself. He said engineering is evolving with sensors, cameras and wireless communications becoming part of the infrastructure.

"And so, it's a really exciting time to show that science, technology, engineering and math is not about necessarily, you know, building bridges anymore," Hale said.  "It's about, really, how do we better leverage technology to help improve people’s lives."

“Femineer” program aims to inspire female students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“Femineer” program aims to inspire female students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Photo credit Contra Costa Transportation Authority

That's the aspect of engineering that resonates with Ygnacio Valley sophomore Sara Venegas.

"I would like to go for mechanical engineering or biomedical," she commented.

Organizers hope to expand the "Femineer" program to more high schools in the Mount Diablo Unified School District.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Contra Costa Transportation Authority