1 year later, Wake Tech collaboration produces more minority women in STEM careers

MORRISVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Class started early Tuesday morning on Wake Tech's RTP campus. Inside the Basic Lab Technique's course, Sandra Santillan, 21, is one of few female minority students in the room.

While the work is not easy, she expects her hard work to pay off one day.

"You get used to it, but you're always aware of your presence and what that means," she said. "I'd say right now since they are introductory courses it's not as difficult, but it's definitely rigorous."

Census data shows that women make up nearly half of the U.S. workforce but only 27% take up careers in science, technology, engineering and math. Even fewer of those women are ethnic minorities.

In 2021, Wake Tech partnered with Wake County, and public and private organizations in an effort to close gender wage and representation gaps. The pilot program is called Wake Invests In Women. It did so well that it is now a mainstay.

"It's a culture that's not only seeking diverse candidates not just to check a box, but because they know that's what they need to be successful. Diverse companies do better and earn more money," Wake Invests In Women director Dr. Kasey Ashton said.

According to Ashton, 11 companies in RTP signed on to increase female minority representation. One year later, half of those companies report promotions among women; others report hiring qualified candidates of color such as Sarah Mason, a Wake Tech graduate turned Cisco network engineer

"I got hired at Cisco through their OneTen initiative. I'm so excited," said Mason. "I did not expect my dreams to come true so quickly. So much so that I'm looking for new goals to set."

Mason recognizes that her success opens doors for female minority students in STEM like Santillan.

"Even though I know it will be a challenge, this program exists to make that a little less challenging," Santillan said.
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