Woman of Color, Engineer, Writer Speaks of Women’s Obstacles in STEM Fields

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Woman of Color, Engineer, Writer Speaks of Women’s Obstacles in STEM Fields

Aly Fosbury ‘21, Associate Life & Style Editor

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Latina activist, writer, engineer and project manager Patricia Valoy shared her experiences as a woman of color in engineering as well as the reality of women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) today.

Valoy received her B.S. in Civil Engineering from Columbia University, specifying in “construction management and structural engineering,” according to her website and began writing as a response to the isolation and bias she felt as a woman of color in STEM.  She uses her story to inspire other women to pursue a career in science, engineering or math. “I hope that [women] know that they are part of an amazing community of STEM professionals that care for them, that value them and that want to see them succeed and to know that there are a lot of people out there that are really fighting to make it a better working environment for them,” she said.

Valoy’s presentation began with a discussion about the presence of gender bias in our everyday society, from baby’s clothing to children’s toys and how that translates to a lower confidence level in girls and women in general. In addition, Valoy referenced personal experiences that made her consider leaving STEM altogether, deeming it impossible and too difficult. One particular event that struck a chord occurred in the women’s bathroom where a fellow employee claimed that she didn’t “look like an engineer.” While that statement effected Valoy negatively, it also propelled her to work even harder and achieve more as a woman of color engineer.

Savannah Woods ’21, a math and physics double major, identified with Valoy’s experience of not being recognized as a STEM major. “I can really sympathize with what it is like to be told that I don’t look like a math major or I don’t look like a physics major…and to be doubted over and over again…and it’s unfortunately a lot of pressure put on women in STEM,” she continued, “…even amongst women STEM majors a lot of times more physics and engineering is underrepresented, so it was really nice to hear somebody who has been through the same thing [as me].”

The presentation continued with a series of facts and statistics. According to a report, 100% of women of color in STEM reported gender bias and 48% of black women and 47% of Latinas were mistaken in their workplace as an administrative assistant or custodian. In response to the racial and gender bias women face in the workplace, Valoy proposed a series of potential solutions: recognize bias and implement training, support equal pay and paternal leave, refuse to sit at non-diverse panels, reconsider gendered wording and know your Title IX.

Biology major Valerie Kuppek ’21 found Valoy’s message of perseverance and determination inspirational. “It was empowering to hear a female STEM professional talking so candidly about her own experiences; it definitely has affected my drive to succeed as a future woman in STEM, making me feel like I should believe in my own abilities and ambitions, even if others in the same field may not believe in me to the same degree,” she said.

Valoy ended with her own writing, reading, “I hope that by the time I have kids they have a Barbie that knows how to use a crane and build walls.”

The presentation was held on March 6 at 7 p.m. in Stern Great Room.

To learn more about Valoy and her accomplishments, you can visit her website patriciavaloy.com or follow her on Instagram (@patriciavaloy), Twitter (@PatriciaValoy) or  Facebook.