A Q&A to Celebrate International Women and Girls in Science Day


DWR celebrates women and girls in science.

DWR celebrates women and girls in science.

Each year, International Day of Women and Girls in Science is celebrated on Feb. 11. This day is meant to recognize the significance of women and girls in science, promote the possibilities of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) careers to future generations of women, and educate men on their role in encouraging and mentoring women and girls in schools and the workplace to pursue their technical and scientific interests.

In celebration of this day and as an inclusive workplace that uplifts a variety of voices, DWR interviewed three women who work as either scientists or engineers to share their thoughts, experience, and advice for pursuing a STEM career. Get to know them below.

Sarah Stinson has been with DWR for one year and is an environmental scientist in the Collaborative Ecological Studies unit and the new Genetic Monitoring Lab. She received her B.S. in Evolution and Ecology and Ph.D. in Ecology from UC Davis.

Aviva Fiske is an environmental scientist and a recent addition to DWR’s Division of Integrated Science and Engineering but has worked in the field for 10 years. She received her master’s degree from UC Davis where she is currently completing her Ph.D.

Alena Misaghi has worked with DWR for 4.5 years and is a senior water resources engineer in DWR’s Division of Regional Assistance. Prior to joining DWR, Alena worked in the field of civil engineering for over 10 years. She received her B.S. in Civil Engineering and master’s degree in Business Administration from Fresno State University.

Pictured left: Sarah Stinson, center: Aviva Fiske, right: Alena Misaghi

Pictured left: Sarah Stinson, center: Aviva Fiske, right: Alena Misaghi,

1. What do you love about your role with DWR?

[Sarah] “My job brings new scientific challenges, opportunities for innovation, and the chance to collaborate with amazing people on a daily basis. There is never a dull moment! I love knowing that what I do has a direct, positive impact on sustaining and conserving California's natural resources.”

[Aviva] “I love that I get to work on projects that are directly applicable to real world conservation needs, and I feel like I’m making a difference in helping to protect California’s unique wildlife. I also love developing and applying new genetic technologies to conservation. In my day-to-day, I really like that no two weeks are the same and that I have a wide variety of tasks ranging from lab work, to field work, to data analysis and administrative work.”

[Alena] “I love that I can help communities all over California have access to safe and clean potable water. Advocating for the human right to water is one of my passions and I am able to do just that through the work I do at DWR.”

2. What does being a woman in science mean to you or why do you think having women in science is important?

[Sarah] “It is absolutely critical that we actively work to improve the inclusion of women and other excluded/marginalized groups of people in science. Science is for everyone!”

[Aviva] “I think it’s important to have women in science because women bring a unique perspective to the field and have the ability to ask questions in a different way. Diverse ideas and methods of inquiry make our field stronger and more effective.”

[Alena] “I am so grateful for all the pioneering women who paved the road for our generation of women in science and engineering. It is so important to have women in science so that hopefully one day, we won’t be labeled as women in science, but we’ll be scientists or engineers, without the gender labels.”

3.  Is there a message you’d like to give to any women or girls looking to pursue a career in science?

[Sarah] “To all the aspiring scientists out there, I see you and I appreciate you. Don't be afraid of the challenges and the failures, because that's where real growth happens. Don't listen to anyone who tries to define your limitations, because you are capable of more than you know. The world needs you now more than ever.”

[Aviva] “Science can sometimes feel like an intimidating field, but don’t be afraid to reach out to someone and ask to speak with them about their work and find out more. Try to get some hands-on experience to see if you will enjoy the day-to-day work of being a scientist. If you don’t like the first project you work on, don’t be discouraged! There are so many opportunities, from ecology to chemistry to physics and engineering.”

[Alena] “Becoming an engineer was no easy task. It took a lot of hard work and sacrifices and, unfortunately, women have to make sacrifices when pursuing a career in science and engineering. But I would do it a thousand times over to be where I am today. So, my message is, ‘If you want to pursue a career in science or engineering, do it! I guarantee that you will not regret it.’"