Last week, 15 Milpitas High School girls visited the Google campus in Mountain View. The students are all members of STEMGirls, a club dedicated to encouraging young women to pursue future careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
The students toured the Google campus in Mountain View, and then had the privilege of listening to four female panelists. Not only were the panelists all female software engineers, but all of them are MHS alumni.
The trip was organized by club advisor and MHS math teacher Elena Sherbakov and coordinated onsite by Google employee Vicky Tu, an engineer with the company. Tu graduated from MHS in 2012, and earned a degree in engineering from Yale in 2016. She was hired by Google soon after.
In addition to working as an engineer with the search-engine giant, Tu coordinates and hosts tours and panels at Google for high school girls as part of Google Women in Engineering, an initiative to bring more women into tech companies.
“It’s all about opening that pipeline for women and retention,” Tu said about women in STEM. “Having four [Milpitas High] Trojans on that panel was an achievement,” she continued.
The young girls seemed impressed by the local employees’ achievements.
“They [the panelists] talked about their experiences as women in tech,” said Tran Le, an MHS junior and president of Milpitas STEMGirls. “My favorite part was hearing their inspiring stories and hearing about more girls going into the field.”
Even in the birthplace of the tech movement, women in engineering and similar fields are still a rare sight. According to a study conducted by the Society of Women Engineers, women make up only 13 percent of the engineering workforce. In higher education, the number is even smaller: just 7.9 percent of surveyed schools graduated female engineers.
When women do get into engineering and other STEM-related fields, many times they’re faced with gender discrimination and sexism in a male-dominated field. Just three weeks before the girls’ visit, a New York Times article uncovered an alleged mishandling and cover-up of sexual harassment at the company by Google executive Andy Rubin.
All of that might prevent women from giving careers in engineering a second thought. But that’s not on the minds of Tran and the Milpitas STEMGirls. Tu hopes visits like these will encourage local students to consider entering STEM fields — especially here in tech-rich Silicon Valley. As for Le, she — and many of her fellow clubmates — are already considering careers in engineering after graduation.
“It’s a field that both men and women can get into,” said Tran. “Not for anyone to shy away from.”