WACO, TX — STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Traditionally, professions in those fields are dominated by men.
Women at Texas State Technical College are breaking barriers and paving the way for more women to succeed in STEM programs and jobs.
Gladia Escobar is a first generation American. Growing up in Waco, she started her college years studying criminal justice. What she didn't realize is that criminal justice would lead her to a whole new world of STEM-focused research.
While studying criminal justice, she noticed that her favorite classes were more computer and technology driven.
"I decided to go to TSTC and ended up with three associate degrees- computer networking, digital security and network forensics," Escobar said.
She graduated in 2012 and immediately started to work for TSTC. She now manages the college's complete software and hardware system.
"It's great. I love security cameras, I love gaming. It's just changing so much that it's always something to learn," Escobar said.
She's paving the way for current TSTC students like Amanda Payne, who is getting her degree in computer networking.
"They like to give encouraging advice to the women in there because they'll tell you you're low man on the totem pole because all the men are going to think you really don't know what you're doing," Payne said.
According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, women make up half of the college educated workforce, but only 28% of women make up science and engineering professions.
Payne says as a women in this field, she feels lucky to create a more diverse STEM community.
"I had a lot of strong female instructors my first semester," Payne said.
She plans to graduate in August of this year, and says there are plenty of job openings in the world of IT. She feels she'll have no problem getting a job with the help of TSTC.
"Digital information driving all the areas of change in schools, businesses, medicine, everywhere," Payne said.
Escobar says if you're a women and looking to get into the STEM field, then do it.
"If that's what interests you, do it. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. You'll be the best at whatever you decide to do, so if that's what you want," Escobar said. "Truth is, we are able to do basically as much as a man can, and yeah, we're out there now."
For more information about women in STEM professions, visit the Women in STEM website.