Rosie the Riveter must be proud.
On Saturday, five female executives from Chevron met with 16 local middle school girls for a bonding session at Kennedy High. Multiple generations of women collaborated on various technical and leadership projects at the high school’s state-of-the-art Fabrication Laboratory, such as using laser and vinyl cutters and exploring structural engineering, fabrication and prototyping concepts.
The so-called STEM Party was hosted by the Chevron’s Women’s Executive Group at the Richmond Fab Lab, which was funded by Chevron Richmond as part of a broad goal by the company to attract young people to careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). These lucrative careers are rapidly increasing in demand and women are underrepresented, according to Andrea Bailey, Chevron community engagement manager.
The STEM Party achieved the primary goals of sparking inspiration and innovation, said Tiffany Harris, executive director of Girls Inc. of West Contra Costa County, the nonprofit providing programs and resources for girls in the community.
“They loved it,” Harris said. “One girl said, ‘I’ve taken science all my life but this is the first time I’ve really seen it come to life and what it really means.'”
While some of the girls expected to feel intimidated by the adult executives, they felt instantly comfortable with the women, Harris said.
“On the flip side, middle school and high school girls can intimidate us too,” said Chevron executive Josetta Jones, a 15-year veteran with Chevron whose chemical engineering background led to a career as a patent attorney for the company.
But Jones said she had a ball at Saturday’s STEM Party. She noted that the executives who volunteered their time to mentor the youth did not leave empty-handed. They felt refreshed and inspired.
“I was looking forward to the day, and then I got there and saw the Fab Lab and all the possibilities and creativity…” Jones said.
And by possibilities, she wasn’t referring to the Fab Lab’s technology, but the girls.
“The fresh ideas and the fresh perspective; they didn’t seem to have any fears,” Jones said.
Jones was most inspired when meeting in groups of four girls for a roundtable discussion on career aspirations, among other subjects.
“One wants to be an artist, another wants to be a prison psychologist after seeing the award-winning Netflix movie 13th and another wants to be a pediatrician,” Jones said. “They showed such wonder and excitement, especially when they were talking about what they wanted to do.”
The Chevron Women’s Executive Group’s members volunteer their time for various mentoring events throughout the year, but not all are professional or technical in their setting. Their mission to empower and uplift local girls has recently included field trips to the San Francisco Symphony and the movie Hidden Figures.
Jones says volunteering in the community is both invaluable and mutually beneficial. After Saturday’s event, she said she returned to her office with fresh ideas and perspectives.
“It was a really great event to bond with women of that caliber,” Harris said. “The atmosphere was set for us. They had our name badges carved and made out of wood. The school district staff was also wonderful and helpful and really let the girls be hands on in the projects, working very patiently with us.”