Across our twenty-year history, Techbridge Girls has thrived by keeping the girls we serve at our center. The voices and experiences of the girls we engage through our programming have sustained and propelled us, just as we hope to propel them into bright futures. This month, in our celebration of 20 years of leading fearlessly, we are honored to share the perspective of a young woman who has been nurtured by Techbridge Girls and is now pursuing her dream of a STEM career.
Aileen Iniguez first joined the Techbridge Girls’ community as a middle school student, and attended our program at Roosevelt Middle School in Oakland from 6th through 8th grade. Her experience with Techbridge Girls ignited a passion for STEM that led her to study Applied Mathematics and ultimately pursue a career at Chevron, where she is currently leading fearlessly as a data scientist. For Aileen, a person who leads fearlessly is “someone who uses the skills of emotional intelligence, relationship-building, and empathy to inspire other people.” They lead with authenticity, which Aileen believes we can foster in young people by creating safe spaces where they can be themselves.
Aileen, who was one of the first in her family to attend college, identified a lack of exposure as the first obstacle that girls from low-income communities face in pursuing STEM. She shared that in the immigrant community she grew up in, few were aware of the possibilities of STEM careers. She also called attention to the issues of unconscious bias that may work on a subliminal level to keep girls from accessing their potential, and to the material barriers girls face when expensive equipment is out of reach for them. For girls who are interested in becoming STEM professionals, Aileen recommends exploring classes, attending after-school programs, participating in summer camps, visiting museums, and shadowing professionals. Relationships forged with women like the role models she met through Techbridge Girls have been crucial for her. “I was able to lean on these women for career guidance, professional development, and networking,” she told us, and she now encourages young girls to identify similar opportunities for mentorship.
While women in STEM have come a long way, Aileen told us that she still fears that the STEM fields will not be able to retain those currently interested. She’s currently focused on the retention of first-generation STEM professionals, by connecting and checking in with other women from similar backgrounds to ensure they are working towards defining professional and academic goals.
We are immensely proud of how Aileen has built on the STEM fundamentals first introduced to her by Techbridge Girls to find her own place in STEM and chart new territory. By continuing to reach back to guide girls who will become our future trailblazers, she reminds us all how interconnected the success of one individual is to the success of others in the shared journey toward a more equitable world.