Jay Richardson, Avantor Engineer
“It’s very rare to see another female engineer—and often I’m the only black engineer in a room,” says Jay Richardson. “It’s exactly why I want to help the next generation of kids who look like me see that they can become engineers too.”
A process engineer at Avantor, Jay Richardson is a Lumity STEM Talk speaker who focuses on showing Lumity youth that they “can do this too.” As Jay explains, “I want kids who I’m working with to see that there are some of us who look like them in engineering and that engineering is the perfect place for them.”
Jay grew up in St. Thomas, USVI which she calls her “home and heart” and credits as a major influence on her life. She came to the contiguous U.S. to attend Cleveland State where she majored in Mathematics and Chemical Engineering because, in Jay’s words, “it’s all about process and how things work. I always liked to solve problems, tackle puzzles, and look for answers. It was just a good fit.” After working in the plastics and metals industries, Jay joined Avantor Sciences where her goal is to make production safe, effective, and efficient.
When it comes to her STEM Talks, Jay tells Lumity students, “Regardless of your background, go for whatever you want to go for. The opportunities are there, dig deep, and make a plan to go for it. If you think you might want to be an engineer or scientist, but don’t know what it’s really like, take the opportunities provided by Lumity to learn because you don’t know yet what you might like or not like.”
Jay also notes that she doesn’t “sugarcoat” her experience as a black female engineer when she speaks with Lumity youth. “The kids do ask me how it feels to be a woman in engineering. And I tell them that it can be difficult at times, and you have to let your work ethic speak for yourself.”
“I also highlight with students that there is great payback and satisfaction when you bring a new product to market or when you are part of an initiative to make the world a better place. That’s why I’m doing the work I’m doing and why I volunteer with Lumity,” Jay concludes.
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Lumity is a Chicagoland nonprofit whose mission is to engage students from under-resourced communities in transformational STEM experiences that prepare them for STEM careers and for life. Lumity originated when two technology-focused nonprofits, the IT Resource Center and the Nonprofit Resource Center, came together in 2007 to increase the sustainability of Chicago’s Community Technology Centers (CTC). When 323 program members gained employment after the first CTC project, Lumity recognized the power of long-term STEM education and powerful partnerships — and their STEM programs were born. Today, Lumity engages more than 600 Chicagoland youth each year and partners with more than 25 Chicagoland businesses, including Accenture, Allstate, CDW, Discover, Ferrara, UL, and USG as well as the Chicago Public Schools and Thornton School District 205.