For Aileen Iniguez, the hook was the promise of free pizza. It’s been more than a decade, however, since she participated in STEM sessions offered by Techbridge Girls. But she remembers it like yesterday and still has the robotic dog she built—plus memories and knowledge gained—as evidence of experiences come full circle.
“There really weren’t any STEM offerings,” Iniguez recalled, flashing back to her time as a middle schooler in Oakland, Calif. “For me, growing up in an urban community—I was raised low-income as well—those opportunities didn’t exist. Actually, you know, at that moment, I had no idea what it meant to be an engineer or to have a STEM career. So this was really one of a kind for that area in that neighborhood.”
The offering of pizza during an informational session for the nonprofit organization grabbed her attention. Now a data scientist for Chevron Corp., Iniguez credits Techbridge Girls, which develops STEM curricula for girls and educators, for piquing her curiosity in STEM. She also gives credit to Chevron, a longtime partner with Techbridge Girls, for building lasting relationships through mentorship and career guidance.
“The presence of these companies matters. Going in and speaking to students one on one [even virtually] is what’s going to make the most impact,” Iniguez said, noting she’s given a few talks to middle and high school students. “Sometimes it looks like they’re not engaging but really these students take away what speakers are sharing with them. … It really does make a difference. They are listening. They are curious, and they do have a lot of questions.”
Her words were spoken as the industry tries to keep its workforce pipeline filled with qualified young people amid increasing competition for talent from non-energy industries.