A senior associate dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Science and mathematics professor at the University of Texas at Arlington is also an ambassador of the If/Then initiative.
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. While women make up about half of the general workforce, they fill only 26% of STEM positions.
Cordero says she became aware of the shortage of women in STEM-related careers early on in her career. Her advocacy mission stemmed from her own childhood, having grown up in a large family where neither parent received a college or high school education.
“The value of an education was brought to us at a very early age,” she says.
Throughout her career, she has championed women in STEM by working with various philanthropies and advocacy groups. One of those organizations is If/Then, a branch of the Lyda Hill Philanthropies, that focuses on activating and empowering young girls to pursue STEM-related careers.
Hill, the nonprofit’s founder, says her goal is for girls everywhere to see STEM as exciting, relevant and cool. And seeding the visual landscape with images — like statues — of relatable and diverse women is key to making that goal a reality.
Cordero is one of the more than 120 women in STEM highlighted in #IfThenSheCan — The Exhibit, a collection of statues of female STEM innovators on display at NorthPark Center.
The exhibition represents the endless professional possibilities awaiting young girls who pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It is the largest 3D printing project of its kind and the largest collection of women statues assembled in one place at one time in history.
The ambassadors are from 40 states across the U.S., and 14 of them are from Texas.
Fourteen of the statues are located inside NorthPark Center on level 1, and the rest stand in the CenterPark Garden, taking up about 8,000 square feet. Cordero describes seeing herself as part of the exhibition as "fantastic."
“It’s very impressive to see 121 statues of women — scientists, engineers, mathematicians — that have done amazing work, and here is your own statue, life-sized and just like you are,” she says.
All the statues, which each weigh about 20 to 30 pounds, are colored orange because the organization didn’t want to distinguish color or race, and orange is a “neutral and happy color.”
Cordero says she hopes the energy involved in this project continues long-term and that each ambassador will be able to continue participating in activities, doing presentations, visiting classrooms and inspiring young girls.
She plans to stay busy, pushing girls from all levels of education to pursue careers in STEM.
In the College of Science at UTA, Cordero created the Distinguished Women in Science Speaker Series, where every year she brings distinguished women in science to talk to the college’s students, faculty and staff and show the important contributions of women to science.
She also partners with middle and high schools from across the state to spotlight women in STEM-related careers.
As an added perk, careers in STEM are often well-paid. This is one factor Cordero is sure to tell her students.
“STEM is for everyone. You don’t have to come from a wealthy background. You don’t have to come from educated people,” she says. “Anyone can do STEM. Anyone can get into this field, get a degree and have an amazing job that makes great contributions to society.”
The exhibition is free to the public and will be on display at NorthPark Center (8687 Park Lane) until October 2021.