Hispanic Heritage Month: Engineering Mentors

NBC 5 is proud to celebrate Hispanic Heritage month by sharing important and courageous profiles of Latinos living in North Texas.

Martha Gonzales is a proud mother of three women who all grew up to be successful engineers, fulfilling a dream she herself could never realize.

Gonzales left Mexico as a young women, leaving behind her family to immigrate to America and fight for a better life, even though she didn't speak English.

"It’s huge sacrifice being here by yourself, starting all over," she said. "Not having the language is a huge roadblock."

She took community college classes and learned the language, and eventually became an executive assistant at Texas Instruments, a position she's held for nearly 20 years.

Gonzales asked engineers within her company to help mentor her three young daughters and encourage them to pursue careers in math and science. The three sisters also attended math summer camps as kids, with financial support from TI.

Martha Gonzales' commitment to her children’s' education paid off.

Kristine Gonzales attended Northeastern University on a full scholarship, graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in mechanical engineering, and is working towards her Master's Degree. She lives in Boston and works for a prominent engineering and technology firm, BAE Systems.

Kimberly Gonzales attended MIT as an undergraduate and earned her Master's at UT-Austin. She now works at TI, in an office a few feet away from her mother's desk.

Martha's youngest daughter, Karen, is currently in the electrical engineering program at The University of Texas-Austin, and said she'd love to one day work with her sister and mother at Texas Instruments as an engineer.

"It’s a dream come true. They have achieved all my dreams," said Martha, fighting tears.

All three women say they are proud to be so successful in careers usually dominated by men.

"The three of us are very, very close and always have been," said Kristine. "And we've always pushed each other to succeed."

She said her mom always expected them to succeed in school and not take their education for granted.

"When we were younger, we had some friends who’d actually get paid if they got A's on their report card. We thought that was a great idea! So we’d come back and ask mom for $5 for an A, and she said no, that’s expected. She said 'Are you crazy?'"

The women understand it’s a male-dominated industry. As a close-knit Hispanic family, they’ve decided to mentor other young women who dream of careers in math or science.

Last weekend, the family volunteered at the "Latinas in STEM 101" conference at Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas. They spoke with middle and high school students and encouraged them to pursue STEM fields in college.

"It’s important for us to keep it going. To know that engineers can look like us, too," said Kimberly Gonzales. "We need to keep meeting with girls in high school, and talk to them about engineering, know that they can do it, too."

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