Event Focuses On Young Minority Women In Science

By Mark Prado
The Marin Independent Journal, Novato, Calif.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) 75 students had the opportunity to meet several women in leadership who are focused on supporting girls in STEM. The goal of the “Enlighten” program is to focus on science and technology related fields the young women can get into and the opportunities that are out there.

The Marin Independent Journal, Novato, Calif.

About 75 young girls of color gathered Saturday in Marin City to hear about the worlds of science, technology, engineering and mathematics — areas of study that have sometimes been out of reach for minority women.

The “Enlighten” program also hosted mentors who hold jobs in those fields, from environmental engineers to aerospace workers to forensic specialists who spoke to attendees about their fields.

“There has been a lack of women and a lack of women of color in these fields,” said Felecia Gaston, executive director of Performing Stars, who coordinated the event for fifth- through 12th-grade students.

“This is a chance for the students to meet with different women with diverse backgrounds. We want to focus on the fields they can get into and the opportunities that are out there.”

Three women who grew up in Marin City also were recognized with awards. One of the honorees was 2008 Tamalpais High School graduate Malachia Hoover, who will earn a masters of science in biology this month from California State University at Northridge. She also earned an undergraduate degree in cell and molecular biology at Northridge. She will next pursue a doctorate at Stanford in stem cell and regenerative medicine.

“It’s people like her who are role models,” Gaston said.

The program was designed to stir interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics — also known as STEM — in minority students. As part of the event, the Academy Award-nominated movie “Hidden Figures” was shown to some of the group Friday night.

The movie tells the story of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, black women working at NASA who helped launch John Glenn’s historic orbit of Earth in 1962.
Karl Reid, the executive director of the National Society of Black Engineers, said the film can help change perceptions.

“There are so many young women that self-restrict themselves, and so seeing this movie hopefully will inspire them to have a belief in that they can make an impact in these fields … so that the ‘hidden figures’ are no longer hidden,” he said.

Earlier this year the group launched a national multimedia campaign, called #BlackSTEMLikeMe, which is aimed at encouraging black students and professionals in science, technology, engineering and math to share their stories and passions.

Its goal is to lead the United States in tripling the number of black engineering bachelor degree recipients to 10,000 annually by 2025, so that their representation in the field would reach 12 percent, equaling their percentage of the overall U.S. population, Reid said.

Bay Area News Group contributed to this report.

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