Newport-Mesa Unified, city of Costa Mesa host ‘Women in Engineering’ event Wednesday

Costa Mesa Middle School students collaborate with high schoolers enrolled in an Engineering Design pathway.
Costa Mesa Middle School students taking a Career Techical Education exploratory engineering course collaborate with high schoolers enrolled in an Engineering Design pathway.
(Courtesy of Newport-Mesa Unified School District)

Engineers are not born, they’re made — powered by curiosity, a willingness to learn and a passion for problem solving — and yet even in the 21st century the United States is producing far fewer women engineers than men.

The U.S. Census reported that, in 2021, women made up just 18% of employees working in the field of chemical engineering. In aerospace engineering, they represented 13% of workers, and in careers involving mechanical engineering, women accounted for just 9% of the workforce.

That’s a trend Costa Mesa City Councilwoman Arlis Reynolds, who earned her mechanical engineering degree from MIT in 2007 and works as a principal consultant for a majority woman-owned energy efficiency company, would like to change.

Costa Mesa City Councilwoman Arlis Reynolds is one of nine panelists appearing at a "Women in Engineering" event Wednesday.
(Courtesy of Arlis Reynolds)

“I think we need more women engineers in this world,” Reynolds said Friday.” In my career, I’ve seen women engineers be some of the most thoughtful and creative problem solvers. [But] women are traditionally steered toward other areas.”

On Wednesday evening, Newport-Mesa Unified and the city of Costa Mesa will host “Women in Engineering” at Costa Mesa’s Hertzog Community Center, an event designed to give girls and young women in grades 7 through 12 the opportunity to meet and talk to local women working in a wide range of engineering professions.

Students will have a chance to speak with panelists directly to learn more about their interests, studies and how they made it into their careers of choice. The event will also feature demonstrations of tools and instruments used by engineers, including a robotic arm, medical devices, augmented and virtual-reality goggles and a drone.

“There aren’t enough women and girls in these fields, so we want them to see and interact with, hear and learn from women who are doing it that it is possible,” Lisa Snowden, a career counseling coordinator with NMUSD coordinating the event.

Newport-Mesa Unified students participate in a secondary level robotics competition at Costa Mesa High School.
(Courtesy of Newport-Mesa Unified School District)

“We’ve got biomedical, mechanical, aerospace, nuclear and civil engineers and materials engineers — that’s the breadth of the type of engineers who will be there.”

Newport-Mesa Unified currently offers engineering career pathways at three of its high schools. A program at Estancia High School focuses on computer-integrated manufacturing, while Costa Mesa High School’s pathway has an aerospace concentration and a similar program at Corona del Mar centers around robotic engineering and artificial intelligence.

Costa Mesa City Councilwoman Andrea Marr, a former Navy nuclear engineer and vice president at engineering company Willdan.
Costa Mesa City Councilwoman Andrea Marr, a former Navy nuclear engineer and a vice president at engineering company Willdan, will participate in a “Women in Engineering” event on Wednesday.
(Brandy Young)

Additionally, electives and courses in Career Technical Education help students learn valuable job skills or earn professional certifications they can use after graduation, whether they decide to enroll in a community or four-year college or enter the workforce directly from high school.

“We’re truly encouraging students to take that next step, whatever that may be for them,” Snowden said Thursday.

Reynolds, an Estancia High graduate who will appear Wednesday as a panelist alongside fellow Councilwoman Andrea Marr and Jennifer Rosales, Costa Mesa’s transportation services director, said she hopes students see firsthand what a dynamic profession engineering can be.

“We’re not dull Dilbert types,” she said Friday, referencing a comic strip character who works as an engineer in a micromanaged office. “What engineering looks like in the real world is so different from the stereotypes — it’s fun and exciting and interesting.”

“Women in Engineering” takes place Wednesday, from 6:15 to 8:30 p.m., at the Norma Hertzog Community Center, 1845 Park Ave., in Costa Mesa. For more, visit

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