Chemistry: My First Love


When I was in in high school, I discovered that I really loved math and science. I excelled in my physics, chemistry and advanced math classes (I was also a cheerleader and a member of the volleyball team but that is a topic for another blog). After my junior year, my high school math teacher, Mr. Vangor, recommended me for a summer enrichment program at UCLA called, Minority Introduction to Engineering (MITE). This program opened my eyes to STEM careers and set me on my path to my future career.

Chemistry was my first love; therefore, I chose Chemical Engineering for my undergraduate major. I found myself to be the only African American student in the chemical engineering program at UCLA and one of only two women. This experience taught me that young girls were and are somehow not encouraged to pursue STEM education in the way I was. Careers in the sciences are extremely lucrative, intellectually stimulating, and downright fun! I want to be a role model for young women to show them what an engineer looks like.

This month, I am giving a presentation on the persistent wage gap that exists between women and men in the United States economy. What I learned in my research on this topic is that women who choose STEM-based careers are doing the best in terms of keeping pace with their male peers on total compensation for the same work. Women with technical educations are also doing better at climbing corporate ladders and reaching the C-suite (CEO, COO, CIO, etc.). Since women are increasingly heads of households and/or primary bread-winners in their homes, STEM education provides a pathway for financial security and stability for families at all socio-economic levels.

I hope by participating in the YWCA’s upcoming STEM event for young girls I will inspire others to follow their hearts and pursue their own love of math and science.  The rewards are rich!!!

Lisa D. Cagnolatti-Daniel
Retired Vice President, Customer Service, Southern California Edison
Executive-in-Residence, ASU W.P. Carey School of Business
Board Member, YWCA Metropolitan Phoenix