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Lack of women in STEM courses cause concern

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Over the last year or so, society as a whole has been plunged into the discussion of equality in the workforce with an emphasis on equal representation across many industries.

Social movements, such as #metoo and #timesup, have garnered much attention and a degree of success for the cause of female representation and equality on a national level.

However, this problem has not fully been resolved in engineering classrooms.

“There are professional organizations out there trying to recruit women into the field,” Victoria Martinez, faculty adviser for the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), Women in Technology (WIT), and El Camino Robotics Club, said. “But they’re finding out there are no women at the community college, or college level, to move into those professions.”

Various students, such as machine technology major Brady Fernandez, said they’ve witnessed the stark lack of female representation in engineering classes.

“There’s one woman out of 16 students in my ‘Intro to Machine Tools’ class,” Fernandez said.

Kimberly Orellana, electronic engineering technology major and co-president of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), said she has experienced this isolation firsthand.

“Sometimes I’ll be the only female in my class,“ Orellana said. “And I hear that from other girls too, about their classes.”

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Kimberly Orellana (right) talks to Dolores Ocegueda who expresses interest in joining the Society of Women Engineers. March 6, 2019. Photo credit: Jaime Solis

Also, SWE and WIT are two EC clubs dedicated to promoting the representation of women in the technology industry.

“We aim to get women to be aware of the programs we have here involving the industry,” Orellana said.

Both clubs are nationallybased and provide many benefits such as scholarships and conferences for members.

Here at EC, SWE and WIT have hosted events such as Woman Tech Voices, a panel where professional women from outside organizations such as JPL and Amazon are invited to speak.

“We invited our women to hear what’s happening in the field and to encourage them to want to go into these fields,” Martinez said.

Currently, SWE is only an affiliate at EC—the goal is for it to become an official student chapter of the organization, but that in itself is a struggle.

“To become an official student chapter, we have to get 10 women in engineering to sign up for SWE,” Martinez said. “Our biggest challenge is finding the 10 women in engineering.”

SWE and WIT, in conjunction with other clubs such as the Robotics Club, participate in community events, such as the Onizuka Space Science Day, in an effort to promote women in the industry to students of all ages.

But Brandon Marshall, electronics and computer hardware technology major, said many of the engineering and STEM majors seem to follow traditional gender views.

“If you go to something like [computer-aided design] or construction, it’s mostly guys,” Marshall said. “While if you go to something like cosmetology or nursing, it’s mostly women.”

This tradition is one that SWE and WIT hope to break through the continuous promotion of women in technology and the value women bring to the industry.

“That’s why we do these community events,” Martinez said. “To get people aware, especially when we bring our women, that women can do this too.”

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Lack of women in STEM courses cause concern