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Girls in Engineering

On February 23, seventy-five female students at Harmony Middle learned more about careers in information technology and engineering from women who have succeeded in those fields. The event, Pathways to Engineering Careers, was sponsored by Microsoft and featured a panel of tech experts who discussed their careers, career pathways and the obstacles they overcame.


The students were surprised to learn that despite women accounting for 47 percent of the adult workforce, only 26 percent of the jobs in the tech field are occupied by women. One panelist, Michele Thomas, spoke of her early interest in math and electronics, which she learned from her father, an electrician for General Motors. Thomas followed in her father’s footsteps and earned a degree in Electrical Engineering from Duke University. She went on to found the NOVA Datacenter Academy and encourages students to find their passion in STEM.


Another panelist, Natalie Sanchez Portillo, a 2016 Broad Run High School graduate, observed that “they didn’t have programs like this when I was here.” Portillo, a trainer for Microsoft, educates new employees at the region’s numerous data centers. Portillo shared that when she began her career in technology, she was the only woman on her team and campus. Portillo credited her LCPS teachers for giving her the tools and confidence to enter the tech field. 

The students enjoyed the hands-on labs, especially the opportunity to try HoloLens technology – mixed reality smart glasses. Each STEM lab presented an engaging way to learn and explore the numerous fields available in STEM and engineering. Presenters worked in fields such as software engineering, cloud solutions architecture and infrastructure integration.

Published March 8, 2023