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Representation Matters: Creating breakthroughs in engineering

Published: January 4, 2022 Author: Staff reports

For Ohio University alumna Paige Love, BSISE ’16, seeing women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) was a catalytic moment in her journey to becoming an engineer. Her own experience as a woman in technology — influenced by other women in technology — initiated her mission to increase the representation and visibility of diverse populations in STEM. 

“Growing up, I wasn’t interested in tech,” Love said. “My mom found a free engineering camp for young women at Ohio University. It opened my eyes to the possibilities of careers in engineering. It was a great experience, which kicked off my exposure to engineering. If I didn’t have that representation and experience, I probably would not have been an engineer.” 

Today, Love is a Senior Associate Software Engineer at JPMorgan Chase. She joined the company immediately after graduating from the industrial and systems engineering program at OHIO. When she joined, she came with a big idea — to create a program that exposes girls to career and education opportunities in STEM. 

Love pitched Breakthrough, a STEM program for eighth grade girls in central Ohio-area schools. Since 2018, this program has focused on creating opportunities for young girls to envision their futures as STEM professionals. Eighth grade is a key moment to spark this curiosity because participants can strategically schedule their high school courses to continue to foster their curiosity.

Over the years, Love’s efforts have not only expanded, but have also earned her praise across the state. Most recently, Love won the “Diversity & Inclusion: Positive Impact in Technology” award at the ComSpark 2021 Center Ohio Power Player Awards. ComSpark is a media company that brings awareness to community development efforts led by innovative leaders in technology. This award validated Love’s efforts to improve diversity and inclusion in STEM.  

Paige Love holding an award plaque
Paige Love receives ComSpark’s “Diversity & Inclusion: Positive Impact in Technology” award. Photo provided by JPMorgan Chase.

“There were many days I wanted to quit, but JPMorgan Chase supported this program from the beginning,” Love said. 

While Love has experienced setbacks, her hope for the future has never faltered. She believes the Breakthrough program is one of the many pipelines to improving diversity and inclusion. However, expanding and developing the pipelines is imperative. 

Love reflected on the pathways in her own life that influenced her trajectory in the tech industry. Her career began in JPMorgan Chase’s Software Engineering Program (SEP), which focuses on hiring new college graduates. Each year, graduates are hired in cohorts, building a network of support for students who are new to the workforce. The SEP program is one of the many pathways that Love believes increases diversity in STEM. 

“Cohorts are important when you are starting your job as an engineer. It is important to have that support with peers who are going through the same experience as you,” Love said.

Love has always believed in the value of peer support. When she was an undergraduate student at OHIO, Love served as an engineering ambassador which allowed her to connect with parents and new students at the Russ College. This opportunity taught her the soft skills to be a great engineer, such as communication and leadership. It also taught her how to embrace her role as a woman in the field to increase visibility for future students. 

Love returned to OHIO a few years after graduation to lead a talk — yet another opportunity to increase visibility in the field — and she was greeted by a female student who had been on one of her tours when she was an ambassador. According to the student, Love convinced her to join the industrial and systems engineering program during the tour. 

“You don’t realize you could be making an impact,” Love said when reflecting on this moment. 

As opportunities arise, Love continues to embrace moments in which she or other diverse leaders in STEM can boost representation. Her goal is to create more opportunities to improve equality and equity and foster the growth of communities that are welcoming to diverse populations.

“I would like to see 50% women in tech and engineering,” Love said. “Representation matters. Students need to see someone who looks like them.”

As the Breakthrough program continues to expand in Central Ohio and soon to Florida, Love is confident that this program has already allowed young girls and women to imagine their futures in engineering and technology. The inaugural class of Breakthrough students are now juniors in high school and Love is waiting in anticipation to see if these students will declare their college majors in STEM. 

As someone who recently finished her degree at Ohio University, Love acknowledged that engineering and technology can sometimes be challenging. Love wants future female leaders in STEM to know that hurdles are a given, but breakthroughs are too.

“It is okay if you fail and hit roadblocks. I failed Calculus 2 the first time I took it. Just because I had a failure doesn’t mean I won’t be a successful engineer in the field,” Love said. “Engineering is hard. Engineering is fun too.”