AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — According to the United States Department of Labor in 2019, women only made up 27% of workers in STEM fields. Women engineers made up 15% of engineers in 2019.

“A lot of times as a female in the engineering or STEM field you were almost made to feel that you don’t deserve to be there. That you don’t have a right to be there just because of the way you look, or because of your perspective on life and stuff,” said Jennifer Simms, Pantex program manager. “So, having that kind of background has made me stronger and me realize I do deserve to be here.”

Simms said that women who are engineers or in other parts of the STEM field, have to work harder because the field is dominated by men.

“I feel like we almost have to work harder to prove ourselves in engineering or many of the STEM fields just to prove that we need, and we deserve to be here, just as much as any other person,” she said. “It is very typical for people to think, ‘oh well she doesn’t deserve to be here,’ or ‘she got to this position due to other things,’ and that is simply not true if you just work hard then you can do whatever you want in the STEM field.”

Pantex Senior Manager Kourtney Russell said while studying aerospace engineering in school there would only be a handful of girls, but she believes this experience has made her stronger.

“Sometimes it was hard when like we were working on projects, you didn’t really have a whole lot of women to connect with, but it works out,” said Russell. “I mean you make your relationships, and you get on project times and the reality is when you come out, and you start working you are going to be around all different kinds of people. So, it prepares to be uncomfortable if you need.”

Pantex production project manager Erin Nwosu talked about her experience as a woman in the STEM field.

“I went to a science fair, and I was the person that was supposed to be working the science fair. I show up, and they were like we are looking for the biochemistry person. And I was like ‘here I am it’s me’ and it took them, even with me raising my hand to say ‘oh it’s you,'” said Nwosu. “And I’m like yes, it is me. So, some people may not expect you to be the one to walk into the room and be a biochemistry major, but you have to walk in that room with your head up. Be proud and say ‘I’m a biochemistry major. I worked hard to be here, and I deserve to be here.'”

Pantex engineer Chantal Jones said that events like “Introduce a Girl to Engineering” are important because seeing women in engineering lets young girls know that it is possible.

“I always say that representation is everything, to see engineers, women in engineering getting involved and helping with events like this. It just encourages special like with tame. To get them involved and also give them hands-on activities to initiate their idea on what STEM is,” said Jones.

Although being in a male-dominated field as a woman has its challenges, Nwosu said she still encourages girls to achieve their dreams.

“I would say if you like a challenge. Or if you like science or math or engineering go for it. Don’t let anything in the back of your head discourage you. And once you go for it stick to it. Because it’s easier to give up and it’s harder to work hard but it’s rewarding in the end,” added Nwosu.

Events like ‘Introduce a Girl to Engineering’ which is hosted by Pantex pushed West Plains High School junior Kiana Norman to begin a NASA program and complete it with a final grade of around 72%.

“I want to go to the University of Texas at Dallas, and I want to graduate from there with a chemistry degree. And then I want to go to NASA and work at NASA,” said Norman.

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