Women in STEM Panel

On October 14th, IGNITE Worldwide welcomed freshmen from Rutgers University for a virtual panel and Q&A discussion featuring Women in STEM! 

Amber Williamson, a Network and Cybersecurity Engineer at Accenture, facilitated the panel and began with an introduction to IGNITE and women in STEM.

Panel Introductions:

Angela Steffen Meyer, PhD, PE, Vice President, Client Services at Exponent, Inc.

Angela currently works in forensics, she calls it “CIS guys for engineering sciences”. She was part of the team that did the analysis of how the trade center fell! With a BS, MS and PHD in Mechanical Engineering, Angela is a force to be reckoned with! Angela recounted her journey into engineering. When she was younger, Angela wanted to be a pilot, however faced challenges at the time because not many women were being recruited into this field so switched gears to engineering and specifically forensics and is very happy today.

Hazel John, Assistant Director of Technology at Cambia Health Solutions

Hazel is an Assistant Director of Technology, she heads two software engineering teams, developing software for Identity and Event streaming. Hazel was raised in India, her parents valued education immensely and the typical path for bright students in India is engineering or medicine. She chose engineering because she loves problem solving. Hazel has been in the industry for twenty years and has BS and MS in Computer Science, she is currently working on a second Masters in Computer Science!

Viv Liao, Software Engineer at Microsoft

Viv, graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with a major in game design. This led Viv to a number of roles at different game studios. During this time she realized that she actually had more fun playing than designing, having experienced burnout Viv made a career change and joined Microsoft in the cyber security group. Currently very happy with this choice and really enjoying the shift from game design to cyber security. 

Lizzie Rice, Associate UX Designer at PitchBook Data

Lizzie is a UX designer for a financial technology company. She graduated in 2019 and has been working in the technology industry for three years. Lizzie also interned at Boeing as a UX designer. For Lizzie, UX design provides a wonderful blend of creative and analytical.

Belgin Canturk, Process Sciences Enablement Team Leader at Corteva 

Ever since Belgin was five she wanted to be a pediatrician. She graduated with a major in Biology. When she took general chemistry as part of her degree, she realised her passion for chemistry research, she also volunteered and found that being a medical doctor was not for her. This led Belgon to pursue MSc in organic chemistry and ultimately her PhD. Instead of becoming a professor in organic chemistry she chose her current career path and loves it!

Questions

  1. As a woman in the STEM field, what gender specific problems did you face in a male-dominated profession?
  2. Have you incurred any debt while pursuing the profession? What about education debt?
  3. How did you figure what you wanted to do in your profession, what detours did you take?
  4. Who was the biggest supporter when expressing interest in STEM?

Advice from Panelists

Hazel – Have self awareness, don’t allow anyone else to tell your story but you. The ability to pivot and try something new is very important – you will start patterns in the type of work you are doing and also build transferable skills. Get the basic foundation degree. After that most companies support MS and PhD support. Stipends and companies provide support too. Hazel’s parents were her biggest supporters.

Belgin – Suffering from imposter syndrome is very tough. She was fortunate to have male colleagues that supported her.  You may hear that women get hired because of their gender, don’t let that noise stand in your way. Your PhD can be paid for via stipend and once you land that great good role, you can pay off student debts. Belgin’s parents were her biggest supporters.

Viv – To help overcome imposter syndrome, put in the work and find allies (male and female).  Take a personal finance class to help you pay off loans and set up 401K. Take that leap of faith! Thought she would try cyber security for a year and go back to game design. Today she is very happy. Viv’s parents and her professor were her biggest supporters.

Angela – If you have an opportunity to do something different, take it! Early on in her consulting career, it was the norm for men to not  want to work with women. This did not stop Angela from taking opportunities to land her as the president of a marketing division. This opportunity then led Angela into sales. There are lots of STEM scholarships out there, take advantage of them.

Lizzie – Take chances – take internships, always be open to looking into something new. Find your passion. Lizzie’s parents and her professor were her biggest supporters

After attending this event:

100%

of students are interested in STEM

Take STEM Class

93%

of students know more about STEM career choices and the benefits of working in a STEM field

Ask Teacher about Additional STEM Activities

89%

of students feel more confident in pursuing STEM

93%

of students gained perspective and feel more hopeful about the future

Here’s what the freshmen women thought of the event:

“It made me appreciate how strong women are. I feel like I am able to do anything that I put my mind to.”

“I have been experiencing a lot of impostor syndrome in my base level engineering classes, so this event helped me realize that I am more capable than I realize sometimes. I just have to keep pushing forward, and everything will be alright eventually.”

“Hearing another person’s experiences allows me to believe that anything is possible for me. I feel more confident about my future after this session.”

“It was nice to hear from other women in STEM fields to know their paths weren’t just straight. I’m still not 100% sure what exactly I want to do, so it was nice to hear that other women in STEM fields had different paths before finding what they really wanted to do.”

“Thank you for sharing your stories with others. I am majoring in engineering, and will be applying the advice to help decide my discipline.”

“Thank you for sharing your story. It made me feel more comfortable as a young woman pursuing a career in STEM.”

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