Million Girls Moonshot is on a mission to get more Black and Latinx women in STEM
Intel Foundation Deputy Director Gabriela Gonzalez believes more women on the whole need to make the meaningful connection to the industry to get involved.
It’s no secret that there is a gender gap within STEM (science, technology, engineering,math) fields. Although women comprise half of the total U.S college-educated workforce, only 16% of engineers are women. Black and Latina women are represented even less, with only about 2%each.
According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is an economic need for 1 million more STEM professionals, so engaging more girls in STEM pursuits is absolutely crucial to solve many of our nation’s most pressing challenges.
This is exactly what Million Girls Moonshot is doing for girls around the country. The Intel Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation have joined the STEM Next Opportunity Fund and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation to launch the movement.
It is designed to immerse 1 million school-age girls in the U.S into STEM learning opportunities over the next five years.
Gabriela Gonzalez, deputy director of the Intel Foundation, believes that every girl deserves access to “high-quality education to achieve their dream career, regardless of their ZIP code or family’s socioeconomic status.”
AL DÍA spoke to Gonzales to learn more about her background and what Million Girls Moonshot is all about.
Gonzales was born in Mexico and immigrated to the U.S at age 13, not knowing any English at the time. Despite the initial language barrier, she managed to go on quite an impressive academic journey.
She graduated college with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, a Master’s in manufacturing engineering, and is now working on her Ph.D.
Gonzalez did not deliberately seek out engineering; instead it simply fell into her lap.
In high school, many of her teachers were biased and not very supportive of her going to college, as she was one of only three Mexican girls in the whole school. Luckily, she found a community outside of school that encouraged her to pursue higher education.
Gonzales “found comfort” in attending church at a local Native American reservation, home of the Lummi tribe.
The youth leader happened to be the first Native American to graduate from the University of Washington with a degree in mechanical engineering. He asked her the questions that no one at her school bothered to ask her, like what she wanted to do after high school, and whether or not she wanted to attend college.
Gonzalez explained that she had desires to further her education, but did not have the means to do so. So, the youth leader took her on a drive to the University of Washington, and she met a woman who told her about scholarships available for women who want to enter the engineering field. Gonzalez felt like it was fate that this chance opened up for her, and she embraced it with open arms.
While her journey was rewarding, it did not come without discrimination. Gonzales said she experienced sexism and racism “at every turn.”
In her first job, her supervisor told her flat out that she was “not his first choice.” He said that he didn't want a Hispanic, as everything he knew about them is that “they’re lazy, tend to come in late, leave early and don’t get their work done.”
She wasn’t phased, and was determined to prove him wrong.
Gonzales started working at Intel 20 years ago, and has worked in the engineering field for 25 years before the opportunity presented itself for her to put her skills to use in the social realm.
According to Gonzalez, Million Girls Moonshot is not just a program, or an initiative, it is a movement.
“It’s a movement that’s really focusing on the representation, inclusion and access for girls in areas where we haven’t quite been as successful as we would like to be to really leverage the full range of talent that this country has to offer,” she explained.
Gonzalez does not feel that being outnumbered holds girls back from entering the field. She believes that today’s girls are bold and brave and are more than willing to face a challenge and affirm their worth and capabilities. She feels the true problem is that not enough girls have been able to make a meaningful enough connection with what it means to enter the STEM field.
“It’s saving lives, it’s making a difference, it’s changing the narrative of what an engineer can do. A doctor can save one life at a time, an engineer can save millions of lives at a time, by creating the next prosthetic or artificial organ. Think of the thing you hate the most, and there’s an engineering solution for it,” Gonzales said.