Women in Industry Summit convenes Downtown

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Christina Koch and Jessica Meir made history Oct. 18 with the first all-female space walk to replace a power controller on the International Space Station.

Local female industry and STEM leaders gather as a panel for the Women in Industry summit Oct. 18 at the Downtown Campus. The event highlighted the challenges and successes of women in the field.

Some 254 miles below at the Downtown Campus, Pima Community College hosted its first Women in Industry Summit.

The goal of the event was to promote women in STEM fields and in fields that have been historically male-dominated. 

The event was organized by Pima program adviser Anthony Hinckley. He had several female students inform him of difficulties they’ve faced and their concerns about entering into these types of fields. 

“It all kind of boiled down to ‘Am I going to be OK in a male-dominated industry?’ ”

The students’ issues were not so much about breaking into these fields. Instead, they were about staying in the STEM fields. 

One of the concerns raised to Hinckley was professional fatigue. 

“It’s different for a man than it is for a woman who works 40 hours a week,” Hinckley said. “A woman who works 40 hours a week and still goes home and takes care of the house.”

Other issues that were raised included male chauvinism; sexual harassment; bullying; sexualization; having to act like one of the boys; overcoming stigmas and stereotypes; lower incomes and lack of voice.

For example, women are half of the U.S. college-educated workforce, but represent only 28 percent of the engineering and science workforce, according to the National Science Foundation in 2018. 

The event started with Executive Vice Chancellor Dolores Duran-Cerda explaining that the purpose of the summit was to empower participants to have continuous conversations with others about the role of women in industry. 

“We want to use our voices and skills to create positive change in industry,” she said.   

Duran-Cerda shared a story of how her grandfather was a migrant worker who only received a third-grade education.

“Eight years old, he was selling firewood to buy a pencil for his school,” she said.

When one of his wealthier classmates forgot to bring a writing utensil to class, the classmate lied to the teacher that the pencil was his. This forced her grandfather to forfeit it … he never returned to continue his education.      

“When we talk about the equity agenda for our students and for our community, we have to keep that in mind about bringing access to our students in a fair way,” she said.

The keynote speaker of the summit was T. VanHook, CEO of Habitat for Humanity Tucson, who shared her stories of being a woman in the construction field. She discussed one of the major things she has noticed.

“Women always share what their degrees is, their area expertise or their licensure,” VanHook said. “And that’s not because we want to brag, it’s because we come from a system where it’s not expected for them to do that.”

The event later had a guest panel featuring Pima Machine Tool Technology Program alumus Ana Ochoa; field engineers; executives of local engineering firms; and entrepreneurs.