Luz Rivas works to interest girls in science and technology

Full Frame

Luz Rivars works to interest girls in science and technology

While women hold nearly half of all jobs in the United States economy, they are employed in less than 25 percent of STEM-related jobs. Luz Rivas is working to change that number.

Rivas is one of only a few Latina women to have pursued and worked in the male-dominated engineering field. After attending MIT and Harvard, Rivas was employed as a hardware engineer for Motorola. Rivas believes being introduced to computer programming in fifth grade was the experience that sparked her interest in science and technology.

She thinks the main problem for female students today is that they are not exposed to enough STEM learning experiences that could lead them to pursue science and technological careers early in their education.

Luz Rivas works to interest girls in science and technology

Luz Rivas works to interest girls in science and technology

While women hold nearly half of all jobs in the United States economy, they are employed in less than 25 percent of STEM-related jobs. Luz Rivas is working to change that number.

“Not enough girls are encouraged to pursue those fields and don’t have early experiences like I did,” Rivas said. “When I was in fifth grade, in the mid-80s, my teacher had an Apple II E computer, one of those old big computers, and she taught us to program. So, I was about 9 or 10 years old when I started programming a computer and that led me to continue looking for similar experiences that were related to technology and computer science.”

Rivas is now working to become part of the solution. In 2011, she returned to Pacoima, the high-poverty California community where she grew up, to start a program called DIYgirls. The program partners with local schools to supply young girls with hands-on learning opportunities that teach them about technology and creative problem solving and inspires them to create their own technical inventions.

Through the program, Rivas hopes to prepare female students to pursue – and excel – in STEM careers.
“I don’t believe that just hearing about a career is what’s going to get you excited about it. What I like to provide the girls is actual experience with building things so that they develop their own interests and have real skills,” Rivas said.

Rivas joined Full Frame to reflect on her own experiences as a Latina woman in a male-dominated field. Along with her DIY GIRLS member Sophia Caloca, she also discussed the vital impact and community-driven influence of her innovative learning program.

Follow Luz Rivas on Twitter: @LuzRivas and learn more about DIYgirls at diygirls.org