Women in STEM Expo engages young girls through versatile career paths

Principal Test engineer Li Wan speaks to attendees at the Women in STEM Expo on Wednesday evening at the New Tech High @ Coppell cafeteria. The Women in STEM Expo was hosted by NTH@C senior Alice Zhu-Hill to encourage young women to join the field. Photo by Aliza Abidi

Aliza Abidi

Principal Test engineer Li Wan speaks to attendees at the Women in STEM Expo on Wednesday evening at the New Tech High @ Coppell cafeteria. The Women in STEM Expo was hosted by [email protected] senior Alice Zhu-Hill to encourage young women to join the field. Photo by Aliza Abidi

Minnie Gazawada, Staff Writer/Designer

“There’s all pilots here.”

That’s what many young attendees had in mind when they attended the Women in STEM Expo, hosted by New Tech High @ Coppell senior Alice Zhu-Hill. But, the hidden truth behind STEM was revealed with a few words; versatility through STEM to the younger generations.

“I met a pilot who wasn’t gifted in mathematics, but they still have a really cool occupation that they enjoy,” Coppell Middle School East eighth grader Shaista Inaganti said.

 The expo included eight booths featuring eight women from different STEM careers and was Alice’s senior capstone project to influence her community by engaging interest in the field of STEM to young girls.

“I’m a woman. I want to be a woman in STEM,” Zhu-Hill said. “I think it’s really impactful to see other women doing those careers; my goal was to kind of show other girls in stem who were younger than me, that it is possible to have a career in STEM and have a leadership role.”

At the expo, attendees visited boothes and asked questions to the guest speakers; and speakers at the event came with one goal in mind; expanding the interest of the STEM career to young girls by showcasing the versatile pathways.

“I really wanted to bring awareness to this event today was that we need pilots,”  American Airlines Boeing 737 First Officer Taylor Brown said. “All over the world, airlines and other companies are seeing a shortage of pilots and it’s a very rewarding career as far as financially schedule flexibility and benefits.”

“I wanted to make sure they know their option are limitless” ”

— American Airlines Boeing 737 First Officer Taylor Brown

Mr. Cooper assistant vice president and Alice’s mother Xiao Zhu-Hill runs a business intelligence group which observes data to make strategy decisions. She uses her background in finance to talk about the business and management side of STEM.

“Women should be in STEM because we’re naturally very strong technically,” Ms. Zhu-Hill said.  “I told a lady that technical skill is very important, but also soft skills are very important. A lot of times holding us back is the confidence level; take the ownership, the leadership,  the responsibility and make decisions.”

Ms. Zhu-Hill also shares her wishes about the representation of women in white-collar jobs.

“I notice that even at companies there are not that many women in the data part, also in the leadership role,” Ms. Zhu-Hill said. “So I think this is important.”

Brown brings attention to attendees of the connection of a pilot to STEM, showing the loose restrictions on the definition of STEM.

“Aviation ties into many parts of STEM. We have science, technology, engineering and math, [but] specifically engineering,” Brown said. “We have to know and understand the systems on the airplane; so that in the event of any sort of malfunction or abnormality, we can take appropriate action to correct.”

Many young girls enjoyed the event by asking questions and learning more about the field.  

“I enjoyed learning about different occupations and how engineering, mathematics is opening the doors to future stem experts,” Inaganti said. “I’ve always had an interest in STEM and this kind of boosted me to open my mind.”

From engaging efforts from STEM professionals to the younger generation; the mentality of male dominance in the field lessens.

“You need to know where you stand; to know everything in order to pursue something in STEM,” Inaganti said. “Unless you have that, I think there is no difference between whether you’re male or female; especially in STEM. If you deserve a position, then you’re probably offered that.”

Likewise with attendees, Alice also learned about the field of STEM from this experience. 

“It helped me learn that the STEM career isn’t just limited to what you think of, like pilots or engineers and there’s more to it,” Zhu-Hill said. “I learned that like there’s different careers out there that you don’t normally think of.”

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