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Jessye Gaines represents Alabama in Congressional Meetings

MADISON – Jessye G. Gaines took her commitment for a level playing field for women in engineering to the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C.

Gaines represented Alabama in Congressional Meetings that the Society of Women Engineers hosted. Gaines is Director of Engineering Academy at Bob Jones High School and sponsors both Patriot Racing and Society of Women Engineers.

The Society of Women Engineers led sessions for “Diversity and Inclusion Fuels Innovation in STEM.” Gaines applied to participate in these congressional meetings and was selected to represent Alabama.

Gaines founded Society of Women Engineers at Bob Jones, the second Alabama high school to organize a chapter. “When my female students are in engineering classes, they look around and there are only three or four total in a class of 30. I wanted to create a space for my female engineering students as the majority and see how many other girls are interested,” she said.   

Gaines met with congressional staff at offices of Rep. Robert Aderholt, Sen. Doug Jones and Rep. Mo Brooks. At the Hyatt Regency, the agenda included sessions in “Literature Review: State of Women in Engineering” and “From the Hill” with Sarah Barber, House STEM Committee, and Kelly Riddle with Sen. Jacky Rosen’s office.

Session topics examined sexual harassment; policies that support women engineers and their families; improvement of women’s economic security through paid sick, family and safe leave; childcare; and funding for security and infrastructure, similar to National Science Foundation guidelines.

During her week in Washington, Gaines received briefings on legislative affairs, trained for outreach strategies and networked with congressional staff. To elected officials, she emphasized the importance of diversity and inclusion in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics or STEM workforce.

“I found the congressmen and women and congressional staff very supportive, respectful and encouraging,” Gaines said. “Specifically, Rep. Robert Aderholt’s staff spent almost triple (my) allotted time. They were interested in what I had to say and asked many questions about my job, students and trends we’re seeing in female STEM interest.”

Bob Jones’ Society of Women Engineers is open to any student, male or female, who will encourage females to pursue STEM careers. Most members are female students in engineering classes.

Gaines’ husband, Luke, also a Bob Jones graduate and engineer, works for Shape Fidelity Inc. Their daughter Kay, 6, is a kindergartner at Madison Elementary School and in the STEM Club. Daughter Glenne, 4, attends preschool at the Child Development Center at First Baptist Church of Madison. 

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