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Speed dating for science

Six of Denver Water’s female leaders met with Denver-area high school young women, providing insights into STEM careers.

In October, dozens of tables filled the St. Cajetans Building on the Denver Auraria Campus for a "speed dating" event that six women from Denver Water couldn’t miss.

But they weren’t looking for romance. This matchmaking event was all about science — designed to motivate and develop women in non-traditional fields.

At the Bringing STEM to Life event, women working in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields met with more than 75 metro-area junior and senior high school young women to empower and encourage them to pursue STEM careers.

Denver Water women mentored high school young women pursuing careers in STEM fields. (Left to right) Nicole Babyak, Marston Treatment Plant maintenance supervisor; Diana Benedict, senior applications developer; Paula Daukas, manager of environmental planning; Christine Martinez, senior software developer; Jessica Alexander, environmental engineer; and Cindy Marshall, manager of hydraulics engineering.

Cindy Marshall, an engineering manager who’s been with Denver Water for 14 years, gathered five other Denver Water women to join dozens of Denver-area professionals to inspire the leaders of tomorrow.

“I know there is a lack of female STEM role models, which is why this event is so important,” said Marshall.

In an educational event sponsored by the American Heart Association that resembled speed dating, young women were introduced to female professionals working in STEM fields.

It’s an opportunity Christine Martinez, senior software engineer at Denver Water, wishes she had when she was in school.

Martinez was the only female in her college engineering and computer science courses, and one of only a handful of women in her master’s program.

“I didn’t know any women working in software engineering when I was younger; those role models just weren’t there,” Martinez said. “I believe it’s important for girls to understand they should put aside stereotypes and gender roles and try whatever interests them.”

Marshall agreed.

Young women from Denver-area high schools met with women working in science, technology, engineering and math to learn more about the various opportunities and professions in those fields at the Bringing STEM to Life event.

“Some of the students were afraid of choosing the wrong careers; a few asked if professors were harder on women; and many wondered how to balance a demanding career with the desire to have a family,” Marshall said.

Denver’s water experts not only answered questions and squashed stereotypes, they also addressed the importance of diversity to Denver Water.

“Having a diverse workforce — whether it’s gender, race, religion, culture or any other difference — is vital to the success of every organization, including Denver Water,” Marshall said. “It’s been shown that men and women think differently. Diversity builds an environment that allows more creative problem-solving that leads to better solutions and, ultimately, a stronger organization.”

At the end of the day, the women of Denver Water were optimistic that their conversations provided the young women with some insights and direction to help them with their plans for college and beyond.

“Who knows, maybe one day some of these young women will find themselves at Denver Water, working on designing vital infrastructure projects, tackling innovations in technology, or contributing to the science of water treatment,” Marshall said.