In 2015, a dismal 11 percent of all engineers were women. As companies continue to work to boost the number of female employees, ESSENCE, People en Español and PEOPLE magazine came together to recognize the women who are making strides in the industry.

Our first ever Women Who Spark awards took place yesterday afternoon during the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Chevrolet racing program manager Alba Colon, Black Girls Code CEO Kimberly Bryant, Anita Borg Institute CEO and president Telle Whitney and visual artist Shantell Martin were all honored for their work. 

“Innovative women have always been trailblazers in science and tech, but so often they are left out of history or are missing in our day-to-day media,” United States Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith, who delivered opening remarks for the ceremony, said in a statement.

A Coding Superstar is Helping Pave the Way for Black Girls in the Tech Industry

On a press call earlier in the day, Smith pointed out that oftentimes, women are overlooked for roles in tech corporations, though it is proven that companies with more diversity tend to see more success. 

And though many of the underlying issues lie within the industry, Smith pointed out that it’s important to let girls know that they are welcome in these jobs.

“Don’t just tell her she’s pretty,” Smith said, recounting the reactions of disbelief she received when she announced that she wanted to be an engineer. “Tell her she’s pretty smart, too.”

It will take time, Smith said, but diversifying the tech industry is within reach.

“We can get everyone there,” she said. “We just have to open their minds to that.”

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