Women and minorities are still underrepresented in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) professions. According to data from Change the Equation, a coalition of Fortune 500 companies focused on increasing STEM education, the STEM workforce is no more diverse now than in 2001.
However, one U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville professional – an African-American female – was recently recognized for her achievements.
Huntsville, Alabama native and electrical engineer, Porscha Porter, received a Technology Rising Star award at the 20th Women of Color STEM conference in Detroit, Michigan, Oct. 15-17.
“To be at the conference and see the level of women within the STEM field was just amazing,” Porter said. “To be recognized was just incredible. It was definitely a humbling experience to be in company like that and to say ‘I am in the field with these types of women who are doing these great things.’”
Porter attributes her success as an engineer to her robust career experiences and perseverance, but her motivation to be considered for the Technology Rising Star award came from her mentor, she said.
While on a developmental assignment earlier this year at U.S. Army Corps of Engineer (USACE) Headquarters, Porter met the deputy chief of staff.
“During my tenure as deputy chief of staff, I served as a mentor to those individuals selected to this assignment,” said Cheryl Partee, chief financial officer for USACE’s Southwestern Division. “After reading her bio and my initial conversation with her about career goals and aspirations, I knew Ms. Porter was something special.”
Partee described Porter as the future of USACE, and an up and coming professional engineer with great leadership potential.
“I felt she needed to be exposed to the Women of Color conference, which is an outstanding diversity outreach program dedicated to Women of Color in (STEM) fields,” Partee said. “As a former winner of the Professional Achievement award in 2010, I felt this would be a great opportunity for her to network and be in the company of other great women of color.”
Porter was one of 30 women, in both the private and government sectors, recognized for her accomplishments in scientific and technical fields during the conference.
“One of the things they were talking about in the conference is that the number of women interested in this field has declined in recent years,” she said. “If you recognize women for their accomplishments, people notice that and hopefully more women will be interested in entering a STEM field. It’s great to have that motivation.”
Partee said Porter’s participation at the conference was indicative of her character.
“She actively engaged with the students that were interested in a career with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” Partee said. “There is no better advocate to talk to engineering students than Porscha. Student feedback clearly indicated that they were surprised and happy to see someone that looks like them and has experienced some of the same challenges they face. Her passion for her work in the STEM field is phenomenal.”
American Association of University Women research shows that while women make up approximately half of the U.S. workforce, they hold less than 25 percent of STEM jobs. Women make up 20 percent of STEM graduates, but only 11 percent are practicing engineers.
“It’s important for women to be recognized for their accomplishments, not only because women are a minority in STEM fields but because it highlights these professions and hopefully encourages other women to be a part of them,” Porter said.
Porter has a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University and a Master of Science in Information Systems from Florida Institute of Technology. She is a Certified Acquisition Professional at Level III in Systems, Planning, Research, Development and Engineering, Level II in Program Management, Level II in Facilities Engineering and Level I in Test and Evaluation. Porter is a Project Management Professional, and a member of the Huntsville Project Management Institute and Society of American Military Engineers.