The Sandia Women’s Connection last month recognized the academic achievements of 35 girls from area high schools at its annual Math and Science Awards program in a ceremony held at the California site.
Connecting with female mentors
Before the program began, the young women were paired with Sandia mentors to discuss academic plans and careers in STEM. At the ceremony, students said their mentorships inspired them and increased their interest in STEM fields.
Heidi Ammerlahn, director of homeland security and defense systems, spoke of the importance of the Math and Science Awards at Sandia.
“These awards allow young women to engage with a community of their peers as well as make connections with Sandia women who have chosen STEM fields for their careers,” Heidi said. “We receive feedback from their parents and teachers that this experience has helped these high school juniors have the confidence to select STEM majors in college and recognize that they have a community supporting their success and impact.”
Associate Labs Director Dori Ellis told award recipients and their families that the awards program helps introduce young women to the many available careers in math and science and to future internship opportunities at Sandia.
“As a woman engineer, I am especially thrilled that Sandia Women’s Connection sponsors these Math and Science Awards,” Dori said. “At Sandia, we are committed to increasing our leadership and overall diversity as we move forward. One pathway for supporting diversity and inclusion at Sandia Labs is through our educational opportunities.”
Although more women are pursuing careers in the biological sciences, a significant gap remains in the number of women working in chemical and mechanical engineering, mathematics, physics and computer science compared to men, particularly in senior positions. The Math and Science Awards program helps provide area students with female mentors in these fields.
Dori encouraged award recipients to pursue future education and careers in math and science.
“I hope that each of you tonight will continue on your journey in math and science. I commend each of you for your hard work and achievement so far,” she said. “Everyone in this auditorium — including your parents and teachers — are rooting for you, and the women scientists and engineers here at Sandia will always be a resource for you.”
Encouraging girls in technical careers
Sandia systems analyst Eva Uribe also spoke to awardees, sharing personal experiences and imparting words of encouragement.
“You are in the middle of the journey of your education, and you are about to enter the most wonderful and terrifying part — the part where you take control, where you decide how you will impact this world and where you take responsibility for those decisions,” Eva said. “These next few years will be pivotal in developing your adaptability and your resilience for the rest of your life. So relax, and enjoy it, and make the most of it.”
Eva further encouraged attendees to surround themselves with mentors, advisers and peers who believe in them and encourage them, and to ignore those who make them feel like they aren’t good enough.
Nominated by their teachers, award winners received a certificate from the Sandia SWC and from state officials.
“We all have a role in making this world a better place, and with your help, we will solve some of our biggest challenges like stopping and reversing climate change,” said State Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan. “I commend Sandia for their commitment to increasing the representation of women in STEM, because women often bring a different perspective to their work, and we all benefit from that.”
Representatives were also on hand from the offices of other state legislators, including Reps. Rob Bonta, Buffy Wicks, Susan Eggman and Heath Flora.
The awards event is organized each year by a group of volunteers. Those interested in helping or being a host for next year’s ceremony should contact Rachael Gutierrez or Myra Blaylock, SWC co-chairs.