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A group of girls sitting in a circle listened intently as Andrea Connell talked about her job writing software that will be used for NASA's next Mars rover mission.

"For me writing code is about solving problems and making somebody's life better," said Connel, one of the women professionals who helped encourage girls in grades 6 through 12 to explore careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics at the recent 3rd Annual Los Angeles County Engaging Girls in STEM event in Arcadia.

Connel, a software engineer with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, and 22 other women professionals from a wide array of STEM fields served as role models for about 350 girls attending the event at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens on Feb. 13.

They talked about their jobs and how they persevered and prepared for their careers.

The event was organized by LACOE in partnership with the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce/Regional STEM Hub, the UCLA Science Project, Californians Dedicated to Education and the Los Angeles County Arboretum.

"We are proud to be a partner in introducing girls and young women to STEM and encouraging them to explore career paths in these male-dominated fields," said event organizer Anthony Quan, STEM consultant in LACOE Curriculum and Instructional Services.

A government study shows that women are vastly underrepresented in STEM jobs and among STEM degree holders even though they make up nearly half of the nation's workforce and half of the college-educated workforce.

"The STEM industry is lacking in women and women of color, not because you can't do the work, but because you aren't given the chance," said LACOE Superintendent Debra Duardo in her remarks.

"This is the day to find that inspiration, or that person who can make you believe, yes I can."

Watch a short video about the event here.

For more information on Engaging Girls in STEM, click here.

Photos 1 and 2: About 350 students participated in hands-on activities designed to encourage girls and young women to explore STEM careers.

Photo 3: Superintendent Debra Duardo delivers welcome remarks at the Engaging Girls in STEM event.


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