Our team at Mission Systems took the opportunity of a NASA visit
to encourage local female high school students to pursue careers in
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). According
to the National Girls Collaborative Project, only 8.3% of
electrical and electronic engineers are female. And research by
Women into Science and Engineering says that only 13% of employees
in STEM careers are women. The Nasa visit was seen as a great
opportunity to inspire more young women to pursue a STEM career and
to help close the gender gap in our industry.
This initiative was supported by our North American Diversity
and Inclusion Council, which is committed to closing the gender gap
in innovation throughout the entire industry, especially since the
number of people graduating with science and engineering
qualifications in the countries where Cobham operates is in
Cobham challenged local female high school students to answer
the question, 'What would you do if you were the first human
explorer to visit Mars?' Six winners of the Launch your Imagination
to Mars challenge were honoured during the NASA visit with cash
prizes and the chance to meet Drs. Thomas and Cobb, as well as
female STEM employees at the Orchard Park site.
Dreaming of Mars
NASA's Space Launch System Education and Public Outreach lead,
Shannon Raleigh, was full of praise for the initiative. 'It was
very inspiring to encourage the 'next generation',' she told those
present. Dr. Cobb pointed out that, 'It is opportunities like
this that provide a future workforce that has the skills and
diversity we need to build and fly the vehicles that will take the
next generation of explorers on the journey to Mars.'
Strengthening the industry
Orchard Park Senior HR Director, Elizabeth Cipolla, identified
the current STEM trend as not just a lost opportunity for young
female graduates, but also a danger for established industries,
saying, 'The pursuit of more diversity within our talent pool of
STEM professionals is necessary for our company to stay
competitive, and push the boundaries of innovation. Since 2010,
Cobham has been developing young STEM talent in our Graduate
Development Programme. Now, we are focusing on programmes aimed at
developing diverse talent during children's first years at
For the high school competition winners, the day provided a
variety of benefits.
Mairead Farrell of Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart said, 'I
found the Cobham Women in STEM panel discussion to be really
beneficial because it allowed me to hear women's opinions about
STEM fields; the opportunities as well as the real world obstacles.
The entire experience solidified my desire to work in a STEM
Samantha Zilliox, from the same high school, said, 'The Cobham
STEM Challenge helped me understand what opportunities exist for
Aerospace and Mechanical Engineers right here in the Buffalo area,
as well opened my eyes to the broader picture of space travel that
so many people around the country are involved in.'
City Honors School student Eden Donelli 'enjoyed the experience
very much', adding that it was exciting 'to meet a former astronaut
and it made the journey to space seem much more achievable. It was
interesting to see the facilities at Cobham and also find out about
the procedures the company uses to do what it does.'