THE BLOG

Designing Our Solutions: The Need for Women and Minorities in STEM

09/27/2013 03:49 pm ET | Updated Nov 27, 2013

Editor's Note: This post is part of a series produced by HuffPost's Girls In STEM Mentorship Program. Join the community as we discuss issues affecting women in science, technology, engineering and math.

I was recently reminded why I chose to be an engineer in the first place by the Smithsonian infographic on "Where a STEM Education Can Take You." The infographic cites, "49% of female STEM college students say they chose their field because of a desire to make a difference." I definitely fell in that 49%.

In high school, I aspired to become a civil engineer because I wanted to help people through sustainable and affordable infrastructures. My focus changed a bit when I got to Stanford and learned about Product Design Engineering. I fell in love with the power design has to change the world. In essence, Product Design trained me to solve problems using design thinking methodology, and it gave me a wonderful set of skills unlike any other engineering major.

My current job as a Product Manager for a mobile health non-profit, called Anjna, allows me to combine my passion for helping others with my skills as a designer and engineer. Our platform enables healthcare providers in low-income settings to better connect with their patients through text messaging. These providers are serving a growing, predominantly Hispanic, population facing chronic illnesses like diabetes and hypertension.

Approaching this problem from a design thinking perspective has been very interesting. I have done what any other user experience or product designer would do. I spent countless hours interviewing everyone and anyone who would talk to me about the issues faced when trying to help these patients, as well as interview with the patients themselves.

From this experience, I have gained a new perspective on what it means to empathize with and design for your user when the user looks like you. More importantly it has made me realize why, now more than ever, we need more females and minorities in engineering.

Truth is, a 4 to 6 year education or even 10 years of experience as a designer can not replace growing up in the community you are trying to design for. When looking at similar interventions or companies trying to solve needs similar to Anjna's, I can tell which have actually taken the time to involve their users in the process. When I read some of their educational content in Spanish, I catch on to that Google translation.

When people don't understand why women and minorities are important in engineering and technology, I tell them this: You cannot solve a problem when more than half of the world is not represented at the table. Simple as that.

What does this say about our society and who we are letting design our lives?

Girls and minorities out there, it is time we start working together to solve the problems our communities are facing and make a difference. Here is my hope that we don't get another non-culturally or linguistically tailored message! (Because translating something to Spanish does not necessarily mean it will resonate with Hispanic users.)