As a young girl, Yvonne Marchand always had an interest in math, but she didn’t know what kind of jobs she could pursue. It wasn’t until she spoke with some Boeing engineers at a career day during her senior year in high school that she considered a career in engineering.
“The fact that they mentioned you can use your current passion for math and science to pursue an engineering degree was the main trigger,” said Marchand, an engineer at Southern California Edison (SCE). Her work includes providing detailed cost estimates for transmission lines throughout the utility’s 50,000-square-mile service territory.
Recently, Marchand and several female SCE engineers who are part of the Edison Roundtable employee resource group that focuses on women, led a workshop to expose young girls from kindergarten through sixth grade to the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.
The workshop is part of a summer program in partnership with Girls Inc. of Orange County, a nonprofit that inspires all girls to be strong, smart and bold.
“The goal was to get the girls exposed to science projects and help build their analytical skills,” said Marchand, who collaborated with her colleagues to develop hands-on activities to introduce the girls to topics ranging from how sound travels and how gravity works, to how materials interact with one another. They also spoke to the girls about the education and training needed to become engineers.
“I learned to just keep trying and to share ideas with my team,” said Leila, 10, who took part in the workshop. “Being an engineer seems really cool and something I want to do.”
Only about 25 percent of all STEM degree holders are women. To increase the number of female college students seeking technical degrees, SCE is taking part in these mentoring and outreach programs.
Engaging girls in STEM subjects early and often in both formal and informal environments, as well as providing mentoring support throughout academic and professional experiences, is something the White House is taking on with their Women in STEM initiative.
For Edison Roundtable members like Marchand, their hope is that by participating in community service activities like the workshop with Girls, Inc., they can help generate interest in STEM and create more opportunities for women in the workplace.
“Girls deserve supportive, experiential, all-girl environments where they feel invited and encouraged to join the fun of discovering the world around them, and where they can prove to themselves that they do like and can be good at STEM,” said Kelli Norris, elementary program coordinator for Girls Inc. of Orange County.