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Women in STEM on Long Island

women in stem

According to the National Science Foundation, while women comprise half of the workforce, less than 30% hold STEM careers (2018). When we take a closer look, women in STEM are mainly represented in the health science and research divisions, but if we compare these findings to architecture and engineering, women are less represented.

In order to encourage our future female leaders in STEM and in honor of Women’s History Month, the STEM Hub collaborated with several industries to highlight some of their workforces to inspire and excite young women about opportunities that await them.

Below are four local Long Island female leaders in STEM. Learn what inspired each of them to select their current careers, the best part about their jobs, and what advice they offer girls currently exploring possible STEM career paths.

Meet Kendra Rivers

kendra riversKendra Rivers is a Long Island native pursuing her Associate’s degree in Engineering Science at Suffolk County Community College with plans to continue her education in Electrical Engineering.

When did you want to work in STEM? What inspired you to select your current career pathway?

It has been a dream for me to work in the STEM industry, specifically meteorology. It started when my mom bought me a weather station kit. I remember spending many days outside building and using the weather kit.

I took an engineering class in high school and my teacher at the time encouraged me to pursue engineering as a career. Although I did well in the class, I still did not feel like I belonged in that field. I completed my Bachelor’s in History and taught for a couple of years. I loved educating and inspiring students. However, it came to a point where my inspiring words, “go for your dreams,” inspired me as well. I decided to go back to school to study engineering.

What’s the best part of your field of study?

The best part of engineering is designing. I love challenges and trying to figure out how to solve problems, especially when it is hands-on. I have enjoyed creating and designing different electric circuits in class, which inspired me to go down the electrical engineering route for a career choice.

What would you tell girls interested in exploring STEM careers for their future? How can she prepare or what academic subjects are important to the field?

To go for it! Do not worry about being great in math and science, have an open mind, and be willing to learn and grow. Always ask questions and ask for help. To help prepare for a career in STEM, you should learn how to code and create or fix a project or an object as much as you can. Engineering is a vast field with many opportunities for girls and women, do not be afraid to work hard, there is a place for us in this field.

Meet Nancy Vincent

Women in STEM Nancy Vincent is a Civil Engineer with Cameron Engineering.

When did you know that you wanted to work in STEM? What inspired you to select your current career?

I have wanted to work in STEM since middle school. I have always done well in math and the sciences. In college, I had the opportunity to major in “undeclared engineering” for a few quarters. During that time, I was able to explore the various engineering disciplines. I enjoyed the design and building component of Civil Engineering and decided that it was the career for me.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is problem-solving. In designing, I enjoy finding the most feasible solution to conflicts during the pre-construction and construction phases of building a parking lot, sanitary sewer system, or apartment development. It is satisfying to come to a solution that works for all involved.

What would you tell a girl who is interested in exploring STEM careers for her future? How can she prepare or what academic subjects are important to the field?

Follow your big dream. Surround yourself with people who encourage you to explore STEM and learn to encourage yourself along the way. It is absolutely worth the work and effort to pursue STEM, if that is your desire for your future career. Prepare by strengthening your math and science skills. Practice makes perfect.

Meet Ines Jijon

Ines Jijon

Ines Jijon is the Bilingual Education Coordinator at Cradle of Aviation Museum.

When did you want to work in STEM? What inspired you to select your current career?​

Since I was a little girl, I have always been interested in science. I was especially interested in the health care field. I would dream of being a doctor.  In high school, I had the opportunity to pursue my interest in the health care field. My school offered a Nursing Assistant Program, and I was part of the program. It gave me the opportunity to explore and learn about a career in the health care field. I worked and learned from nurses in and outside hospital facilities. By the time I graduated, I had my New York State Nursing Assistant license and was able to work in any health care facility. But, I decided to attend college and major in Organism and Environmental Biology. After graduating from college, I started to teach science at a middle school. Today, I work as a Bilingual Education Coordinator at the Cradle of Aviation Museum. My love for science is part of my day-to-day life, and I can teach students my favorite subject.

What’s the best part of your job? ​

The best part of working at my job is that I can still teach students my favorite subject: SCIENCE, especially space exploration. I can also create programming for the Latinx community and in my native language, Spanish. I have also had the opportunity to meet Astronauts and NASA Engineers. The Cradle is a great place where I use my passion for science to create fun programming for families and students.

What would you tell girls interested in exploring STEM careers for their future? How can she prepare or what academic subjects are important to the field?​

If you are interested in a STEM career: Do not let anyone tell you, “you cannot do it.” Instead, run with your dream. Expose yourself to different opportunities to participate in STEM camps. Academically you want to make sure you are doing well in mathematics and science classes. In college, you want to participate in internships because they will provide you with a wealth of knowledge and experience within the STEM field you are pursuing. The experience you gain from your internship is invaluable when applying to jobs within your desired field.

Meet Jessica Rau

women in stem

Jessica Rau is a Medical Technologist and Blood Bank Supervisor at Catholic Health Services, Good Samaritan Hospital.

When did you want to work in STEM? What inspired you to select your current career?

I knew I wanted to work in STEM around the time I was in 6th grade. When I was in college, I was majoring in biochemistry and looking for a way to apply my knowledge. In the lab, you can find out so much about a patient from just a tiny sample or by looking under the microscope. That is what inspired me to select Clinical Laboratory Science.

What’s the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is helping in the treatment and diagnosis of patients. You feel like you are part of a team.

What would you tell girls interested in exploring STEM careers for their future? How can she prepare or what academic subjects are important to the field?

I would tell girls interested in STEM careers that they can always reach out to other women as mentors.  It is very important to have someone to look up to, be it a role model they research and read about, or a real-life person.  Other than physics, biology, and chemistry, keeping up with current events is important. Also, do not be discouraged if you fail at something the first time. If you read about their lives, a lot of successful people in all fields were at first told no. Read a lot, travel, and always keep an open mind.

Meet Latanya Coke

women in stem

Latanya Coke is a Research Assistant at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research.

When did you want to work in STEM? What inspired you to select your current career?

I knew I wanted to become a research scientist after I completed a research internship at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research. I enjoyed being in a fast-paced and collaborative environment that supported science and discovery. What continues to inspire me today is how scientific discoveries in the lab are used to benefit society.

What’s the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is the freedom to chase my curiosity. In my opinion, the life of a scientist never gets boring because there are always interesting questions to answer.

What would you tell girls interested in exploring STEM careers for their future? How can she prepare or what academic subjects are important to the field?

I have three pieces of advice: first, to find STEM enrichment programs and internships to gain exposure and hands-on experiences in STEM careers; secondly, to find a great mentor; and lastly, to be curious, creative, and determined.

Need more inspiration? Hear from female researchers from inside the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research at Northwell Health as they give advice on how to pursue your career goals in the video below! 

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