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Women in STEM Presentation at Cuyahoga Community College

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On Monday evening, April 17th, we went to Cuyahoga Community College/Corporate College West on Center Ridge Road in Westlake for a presentation by Ms. Diana Centeno-Gomez , NASA Supervisory Aerospace Engineer, regarding Women in STEM or STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math). Actually we have known Ms. Centeno-Gomez for years since she is the wife of our good friend, Mr. Luis Gomez who was our colleague when we worked for U.S. Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich. Ms. Centeno-Gomez' presentation was very appropriately detailed in statistics and specifics and she was more than agreeable in allowing us to photograph her notes so we make sure that we captured the essence of her message.

To start off with, Ms. Centeno-Gomez reviewed the status of women in STEM/STEAM related fields by referring to data from National Science Foundation Science and Engineering Indicators Report (2016) concerning K-12, higher education, and the workforce. As far as women in the workforce, the conclusions (and we quote her notes virtually verbatim)were:

***Women make up half of the total U.S. college related workforce, but only 29% of science and engineering workforce.

***Female scientists and engineers are concentrated in different occupations that are men, with relatively high shares of women in social scientists (62%) and biological, agricultural, and environmental life sciences (48%) and relatively low shares in engineering (15%) and computer and mathematical sciences (25%).

The USA science and engineering workforce has become more diverse but several racial and ethnic groups continue to be significantly underrepresented.

***In 2013, 70% of workers in science and engineering occupations were white which is close to the proportion in the USA working age population.

***Hispanics, blacks and American Indians/Alaska Natives make up a smaller share of the science and engineering workforce (11%) than their proportion in the general population (27% of the USA working age population).

***Asians work in science and engineering occupations at higher rates (17%) than their representation in the U.S. working age population (5%). Asians are particularly highly concentrated in computer and informational science occupations. 

The female participation in science and engineering has increased over the past two decades but more needs to be done. In 2013 Women in the Science and Engineering workforce were as follows-white women were 66.6%, Hispanic women 6.9%, Black women 6.6%, Asian 17.7%, American Indian or Alaska Native 0.25 and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander 0.1%.

Later, after reviewing other such statistics, Ms. Centeno-Gomez contended that we need to pay attention to such numbers because "they indicate the urgent need for more highly trained U.S. scientists, engineers, and technologists. They demonstrate the ongoing underrepresentation of women and specifically women of color in high-demand STEM fields and an opportunity to increase the STEM talent pool. To address the needs of a nation a greater number of women especially women of color need to be educated and prepared to lead and serve. The United States and all of us must provide opportunity for future generations of children by educating the children of today. Our lives are richer when we share with one another our diversity of experiences and perspectives."

Ms. Centeno-Gomez' current position is Supervisory Aerospace Engineer at the NASA Glenn Research Center for Aeronautics and Ground Based Systems Branch. During the course of her presentation, she discussed the other positions that she has held at NASA since she joined it in 1983. She also discussed her education and her upbringing in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Of course, she also mentioned her family (in addition to being married to Luis, she has a lovely daughter) and the career choices she has made over the years. Along these lines, she urged everyone there to take advantage of opportunities to move forward in their careers even if they feel a bit unsteady at first because, as she maintained, some of the greatest rewards that she has experienced have occurred when she dared step out of her comfort zone.

In addition to having a family and a successful career, Ms. Centeno-Gomez is also very civically involved in such organizations as the Hispanic Roundtable, LATINA, Inc., and the St. Luke's Foundation. Over the years, she has been honored by the National Conference of Puerto Rican Women and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers among other groups.

Ms. Centeno-Gomez concluded her presentation by stating why she cares so much about STEM/STEAM. Her exact words were:

"I care because I want all young women to have all the opportunities you deserve. I want you to dream and have those dreams become a reality. I want you to grow with a sense of adventure, not being afraid of taking risks. I want you to know that you are loved and respected as an individual. I wan you to believe that you can accomplish anything. And on a selfish note, I want many more women to come and work for NASA. What do I intend to do about it and I encourage you all to do the same: first accept the responsibility that I am a teacher, we all are teachers and role models. I will have high expectations for all the young women I come in contact with. i will continue to mentor young people. I will celebrate the achievements of women from all areas, ages and countries. I will continue to be involved in community affairs and advocate for educational reforms that include all of America's children.

As a final thought, remember what Jose Marti said, 'there are no established roadmaps, the road is built by doing not for ourselves but for those to come.'

It is our turn to build those roads and be active participants in maintaining US global competitiveness through STEM/STEAM."

By:

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC