Helping to Narrow the Gender Gap for Female Student Engineers

Edison International’s recent donation to Cal Poly Pomona will go toward the school’s Women in Engineering Program.

March 07, 2014 | By Susan Cox

Holli Rosdail, a junior at Cal Poly Pomona, has sat in her engineering classes and found no female peers. Worse, some male classmates assumed she was lost and in the wrong class.

“It’s no secret that women are definitely underrepresented in this field,” she said. “And honestly there are times I feel a little out of place. It can be intimidating.”

For many female students like Holli, pursuing studies in a traditionally male-dominated field like engineering can be daunting. After all, engineering has not been a career path young women have typically been encouraged to explore.

To help young women succeed in engineering classrooms, Edison International recently donated $100,000 to Cal Poly Pomona’s Women in Engineering Program, recently renamed the Edison International Women in Engineering Program.  

Through this collaboration, there will be greater opportunities for women engineering students to network, participate in WiFi chats, and interact with female mentors, faculty and industry guests.

“We know that women bring their own unique perspectives to this profession,” said David Mead, senior vice president, Transmission and Distribution for Southern California Edison (SCE). “Working together, Edison and Cal Poly Pomona can increase access to this field for women of all ethnicities.”

Dr. Mahyar Amouzegar, dean of Cal Poly Pomona’s College of Engineering, said Edison International’s contribution will help improve the recruitment and retention of women in engineering, and inspire the next generation. 

“We have to grab our students early on,” he said. “In sixth and seventh grades, that is where we can catch them, and when they come here, we want to make sure we have an environment that is conducive to them, where they can learn and do better as we grow our engineering program.”

Maria Medina Alva, a junior majoring in industrial engineering at Cal Poly Pomona, has benefitted from the program which offers guest speakers, alumni and one-on-one opportunities with faculty members. 

She wants young girls, especially those from underrepresented communities, to learn about greater education and career choices.  

“I want to show little girls that there’s not just tiaras and dolls,” said Maria, “that there are also tools you can use to become an engineer.”

Her classmate, senior Minerva Munoz, said women bring a different perspective than men to the field of engineering.  

“Women think about different functions so whenever I’ve had team projects and I’m either the only one, or one of two women in a predominately male group, we’ve noticed that we think a little  bit different,” she said. “We put more attention to details.”

It’s those types of differences and talents that Angela Delgado looks for as manager of SCE’s University and Campus Relations team. She partners with various schools and organizations to target and recruit the best entry-level talent for the utility’s diverse workforce.

“Women in Engineering is really focusing on a holistic approach,” she said. “They’re working with high school and junior high school students to feed more students into the major. They’re also working with current students on campus to ensure they stay through the program, and mentor and bring in female engineers from the profession to mentor them.”

Since 2009, Edison International has given almost $45 million to education programs that help students excel in science, technology, engineering and math, the so-called STEM fields. As an energy company, SCE recognizes the skills needed for its future workforce.

“Our philosophy of giving is that all people should have opportunities to do well,” said Tammy Tumbling, SCE director of Community Investment and Philanthropy. “We partner with educational institutions that promote the inclusion of minority, low-income and underrepresented students in the STEM fields.”

Maria and Holli agree that seeing successful women in engineering not only enhances their personal and professional growth, but creates a network of opportunities. It also makes their dream of becoming engineers feel much more attainable.

“As an engineer, I will be a successful person because others have done things before me,” said Maria. 

Topics: People