Meet a local leader in engineering supporting STEM education for Houston girls

“It’s not about what girls need to do, it’s about what we need to do for them.”

HOUSTON – Texas ranks as the second state in the country for the number of women graduating with engineering degrees.

However, there is still a great need to have more minority females in this field.

But local civil engineer, Julia Clarke, is not only paving the way for girls to embrace STEM, she’s also investing in their future.

“The roads that you drive, the buildings that you enter, the water that you drink, civil engineering is behind all types of structure that we use on a daily basis, that’s why I’m so passionate about it, " said Clarke, a civil engineer that lives in Katy and works as senior geotechnical manager for Raba Kistner consultants. “My focus is on transportation. I work primarily on transportation projects throughout the state,” she said.

Clarke decided to pursue her professional career in this field, after being approached by one of her physics teachers in high school to participate in an after-school program.

Julia Clarke's graduation
Julia Clarke's graduation (Julia Clarke)

“When I did, I saw how doing math and science on paper translated into making physical projects that I can touch like a bridge or a rocket launcher,” said Clarke, who has paid it forward by creating in 2017 the Ivy Blake Memorial Scholarship for female students pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering in the state of Texas.

Julia Clarke at the ASCE
Julia Clarke at the ASCE (Julia Clarke)

“It’s being administered through the Society of Women Engineers Houston-Area Section. I created that scholarship in mind of my grandmother because I want other girls to feel the same way I’ve felt when she taught me that I can try anything. And If it works, it works, and if it doesn’t it doesn’t, but I tried it. And I try to do the best that I can with the situation that I’m dealt,” said Clarke, who was selected to receive the 2019 Women of Excellence Award by the Federation of Houston Professional Women.

Julia Clarke awarded by the Federation of Houston Professional Women
Julia Clarke awarded by the Federation of Houston Professional Women (Julia Clarke)

“To get more underrepresented or minority girls in STEM we have to have individuals that are already doing those jobs that look like those girls to inspire them to do that. We have to have more women that look like Naima Owens (her physics teacher), who look like me,” she said.

“I don’t see it as something that girls need to work on, they already have that innate skills and ability within themselves. They need encouragement. They need other individuals that are very interested in them succeeding to tell them: Hey, ‘you can do this,”’ said Clarke, who combines her work as the President of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Houston Branch, with her job as the Senior Project Manager on state-wide transportation-related geotechnical engineering projects for Raba Kistner.

Julia Clarke and her team in 2019
Julia Clarke and her team in 2019 (Julia Clarke)

“One thing that my company is really striving for is the upcoming women in the organization. They’re doing all that they can to get them to the next level,” she said.

To see Clarke’s complete interview, watch the video above.

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