When Scarlett Carrillo began her electrical engineering studies at California State University, Los Angeles, there were a mere six girls in her entire program. When she graduated, she was joined by two other girls who managed to stick around and not be discouraged.
“It can be intimidating,” said Carrillo, an engineer at Southern California Edison (SCE), who pointed out she sometimes felt like giving up, but luckily she surrounded herself with mentors and a nurturing environment.
Her message to young engineering girls: “You have to stay strong and stay focused. Don’t give up on your dream if that’s what you want to do.”
Being an engineer has its many challenges and getting to the finish line can be more challenging if you’re a girl. Engineers Week is being celebrated this week with a special acknowledgement of “Introduce a Girl to Engineering” day and major organizations such as the Society of Women Engineers and National Society of Professional Engineers are joining in.
“Introduce a Girl to Engineering” is a movement that shows young girls how the world can benefit from their creative engineering ideas. There are currently dozens of events to help encourage young girls to pursue a degree in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) field.
Carrillo went on to become president of the Society of Women Engineers during her junior year and later was mentored by an SCE employee which led to an internship at the utility. She is now pursuing a master’s degree in electrical engineering and currently works in SCE’s Power System Control division. During her spare time, she talks to kids involved in local Mathematics Engineering and Science Achievement (MESA) programs about college and her engineering background.
The STEM field may be oversaturated with men, but for Tracy Tate, a transmission engineer at SCE, that didn’t hold her back at a young age — she knew she was made for this field.
In elementary school, Tate was already doing college-level math. “My mom was going to a community college at the time and I was helping her with math.”
“The numbers are really low,” added Tate. “There’s almost next to no girls — almost no representation.”
For many women trying to enter the field, it can be challenging. That’s why Tate tries to mentor young girls and partners with student chapters in her spare time by working with the National Council of Black Engineers and Scientists, Society of Women Engineers and Girls Inc., to help mentor young girls.
“It’s easy for girls to feel out of place when there’s a classroom filled with just men. Mentorship and encouragement is important,” she said. “We lose a lot of good students.”
Click here to find an Engineers Week event near you.