Charlene de la Paz, 19 – FUNDED

Charlene de la Paz is a mechanical engineering major at Rice University in Houston, Texas. Her dream is to use her education to work in the engineering field, and winning New Face of Tech gave her the boost she needed to help feel confident about pursuing her degree (and her dreams!)

What does being the New Face of Tech mean to you?

It means giving kids who were like me the feeling that “Hey, I could do that, too.” Whether they are queer, a girl, or anyone else, everyone has a place in STEM.

Women are underrepresented in STEAM. How can we change this?

We can positively engage women in STEAM by using bias-eliminating hiring practices and by supporting women in the workplace and listening to them.

What are some of the challenges you have faced along the way?

I feel that I’ve had to fight a lot harder to “prove” that I am qualified for all my engineering activities, especially in leadership roles. I have felt ignored by my male peers — and what was worse was that these instances mostly occurred when I was younger, which was really discouraging. I also had never seen much representation of women who looked like me in engineering, so I didn’t see it as a possibility.

How do you stay motivated and focused on your goals?

I remember how much of a “girlboss” it makes me to be a #steminist.

I also think about how the things I learn in class can be used to make cools things! Participating in engineering teams with likeminded peers has helped me stay motivated, too, because it helps show me what engineering can do!

How will funding from the 1,000 Dreams Fund and HARMAN help you reach your goals?

I feel really excited about the win. It’s helping me pay for a high-quality education in engineering that I couldn’t otherwise afford so I can feel more confident about pursuing my engineering degree.