The Story behind the Face
If there is no movement for women in engineering, the number of women in STEM positions could possibly decrease to the single digits.
Siena South-Ciero is a sophomore at the University of Washington, studying hard to apply to the Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering (HCDE). Not only is it a difficult major to get into, but she is also a woman entering the engineering field — a field in which only 13% of the workforce are women. However, instead of glossing over the issue, Siena desires to challenge the status quo and succeed regardless of the limits that are put on her gender. As a result, her ultimate dream is to inspire and lift other young women along her journey.
Siena is just like any other college student: she works at Starbucks, she commutes from home, she enjoys life outside of studying, and every Tuesday, she is an active member of the Orchestra. Siena also has a musical talent on the side — she is an avid cellist ever since she was in fourth grade; now in college, she is shifting her goals to focus on pursuing activities that better prepare for her career.
Siena also regards her education very highly and purposely leaves a lot of time to study in order to be intellectually challenged.
How It All Started
When discussing her freshman year of college, Siena faced a mishap rooted in her home: “My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer last year and it was hard for me to see her go through surgery”.
Facing both her mother’s surgery along with the usual troubles of starting as a freshman, Siena’s road to college was introduced with struggles that not many students face. However, this experience has taught her important lessons in time management that she uses to live more positively and bring impactful changes to her life and her studies.
While entering her first year, she originally wanted to go into business. Even in high school, she was involved in the Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA).
“I got first at State in my category for one year. That was really cool because Washington state was one of the hardest states. I was really proud of myself,” she says about DECA.
In this competition, she achieved first place in the Professional Selling division where she attempted to sell a drone product to a mock real estate agent. This experience really helped her actualize being a manager in the technical field.
Double the Role Models
“I have two moms who have really shaped who I am,” Talking about her family is the one thing that Siena loves telling other people.
She admits to never really having a male role model in her life. However, she considers being raised by two women has allowed her to see the potential of how strong women can be.
One of her moms is an IT manager at Boeing. In January, she took Siena to a summit hosted by Microsoft called “Women in Cloud” which focused on women in the tech industry. The event had speakers, presentations, and booths that helped attendees learn and network with people in cloud-computing. The 2019 summit held over a thousand people, most of whom were women, including a female tech leader at Microsoft, Gavriella Schuster.
Her mom and Gavriella are friends and the two are currently working on a project that studies why the number of women in engineering are decreasing at the rapid speed — this is a fact that even Siena sees in her STEM classrooms while her mom sees in her workplace. The main issue to the declining numbers is still undetermined, debating whether it starts at school or if it’s rooted in the professional field.
Siena went to another event hosted by the UW’s Foster School last month in February 2019. They had a panel of speakers who further inspired her to become even more than just a manager. While talking about about her moms, and other powerful women in the field, she feels called to be more like her role models.
“My long term goal is to be one of them one day, be a powerful person and inspire others like they did for me,” she says with a bright smile on her face.
Her end goal is to become a CTO, a chief technology officer, at a company.
The Female Narrative
One of the things she has observed in her engineering classes was that all her professors were males.
“As a woman, when you see that, you think “oh it’s a man’s field because a man is teaching it”,” she says, “but if we want to combat this, we need to change the way our girls think by getting more women teachers.”
She acknowledges that she doesn’t have the answers to the problem as to why the number of female engineers has not surpassed 50%. There are many people trying to solve this issue, but it is not something that can be done so simply.
Siena recalls that she even her general advisor did not contribute to her passion for engineering. Although she clearly tells him that she is interested in getting into majors like HCDE or Informatics, he instead suggested Biology, a degree that stereo-typically leans more towards women.
Next quarter she plans to join a Directed Research Group (DRG) that focuses on traffic around the city. As a commuter, she experiences the peak of traffic on a daily basis. Her personal experience as a commuter from Woodinville will definitely bring solid ideas to the table in which she tries to solve the heavy traffic issues in Seattle along with her peers. This project is also her first experience using the Amazon Cloud.
DRGs are 2-credit courses only offered to graduate students, but that did not stop Siena from bringing her passion to the table. The organizers were so impressed by her drive and background that they accepted her application, despite being an undergraduate .
It is impossible to know how the future of women in the technical field will go from here. But we are excited to see how the future will pan out for women like Siena leading the way.