ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE AND STEM EDUCATION
Engineer Kaela Mainsah works to improve the environment in undereducated communities for the largest state public electric utility in the country.
As the environmental justice manager for New York Power Authority (NYPA), she develops energy education, energy efficiency, clean energy and electric transportation programs and projects that benefit disadvantaged communities. A key component of the environmental justice initiatives is closing the STEM achievement gap for underrepresented groups.
NYPA’S STEM programs are free at state public schools near NYPA facilities. They address where and how electricity is created and transmitted, energy conservation and alternative energy concepts with the goal of educating children on STEM pathways.
A native of Zambia, Mainsah has a passion for empowering communities through education and volunteers for literacy programs, and she has sponsored elementary school children in Africa through a family educational trust. She is active with the company’s Women in Power employee resource group. It champions a diverse and inclusive workplace, supports professional and personal development, and provides opportunities for mentorship, networking and coaching.
In the words of Kaela Mainsah:
How can the world increase diversity in STEM fields?
“Despite the fact that women have significantly improved their educational prospects, surpassing males in college degree attainment, these gains are accompanied by a persistent underrepresentation of women in STEM college majors. I believe the fractures in the STEM gender gap begin early, as little girls are shaped to play with dolls while little boys play with cars and bricks, these stereotypes are cemented as girls pursue the humanities in high school whilst boys are encouraged to pursue the sciences.”
What barriers are in the way to closing the gender gap in STEM?
“I believe that even more work needs to be done to encourage young girls to pursue careers in science and technology. While there are still too few identifiable role models, this will change in the years to come.”
How is the world changing with respect to STEM?
“In the international development field, there is an increased spotlight in the participation of girls in education. Global corporations compete to attract and retain a values focused workforce, and so I am confident that market forces will spur and increase the contribution of women in the STEM workforce.”
Where do you see women in STEM in five years?
“Because there will be many more women engineers in the workforce over the next five years, their contributions to STEM programs will increase commensurately.”
Words I live by:
“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”