On April 20, 2023, IGNITE Worldwide hosted a Virtual Women in STEAM Panel Event on the intersection of STEM and the arts for students from Horizon Science Academy, Marysville Pilchuck High School, and Getchell High School.
The event included Panelists Becki Tower, Jackie Anderson, Linda White, Lizz Kupfer, and Mukami Kinoti Kimotho; Tech Hosts Rebekah Luce, Dayele Barry, and Stephanie Vaughn; Event Recorder Lucia Vina Patino; and the Facilitators Kimberly Williams and Kristen Oshiro.
To kick off the event, Kimberly gave the panel and students a great introduction to fields in STEAM. After the introductions, Kimberly facilitated the conversation with the Panelists.
Lizz Kupfer is an Animator at Evil Eye Pictures; some of her work includes contributing to Fortnite shorts. When she was young, she liked computers and art. These passions translated into a career in animation. One of her career highlights was getting to go to the Emmys and winning an Emmy for one of her projects.
Mukami Kinoti is the CEO of Royelles, a gaming company. Mukami is from Kenya and was first exposed to STEAM through her parents, who were a pharmacist and a doctor. She encouraged students at the panel to embrace being unconventional and to be disruptors in their communities!
Jackie Anderson is a Program Manager at Disney. When she was in school, she never had women talking about STEM careers, so she was inspired to work with IGNITE. Jackie wants young girls to know pursuing a career in these fields is possible. She also shared the fun fact that she won a technical Emmy for a project she worked on.
Linda White is a Senior Program Manager at Disney. While in school, Linda was tech curious and was exposed to the tech industry, being from Silicon Valley. She pursued these interests in university, getting a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. Her experience has taught her to have a resilient spirit.
Becki Tower is a Senior Character Animator at Pixar. Growing up, Becki loved art and always knew she wanted to pursue the intersection of technology and art. She followed these interests to college, and once she graduated, she began her career in animation. Becki has worked on films like Toy Story 4, Coco, and Finding Dory.
The Q&A portion of the event included the following:
Was Toy Story your favorite (question to Becki)?
- Becki said yes, Toy Story was her favorite because she got to redesign Bo Peep to make her more independent.
Do you get stereotyped in your career?
- Lizz gets asked to animate female characters more often than her male coworkers. She has learned to speak up about this.
- Mukami said yes, and it’s something almost every woman will experience.
What classes did you take to learn what you were good at?
- Linda mentioned that any classes related to programming can be really beneficial.
How do you build confidence in your job?
- Mukami said confidence comes from doing things that you’re passionate about.
- Linda suggested leaning into your support system for advice.
What do you like about your job the most?
- Becki said bringing things to life and tying her personal story into her performances are her favorite parts of her job.
What do you wish you knew when you were the student’s age?
- Lizz said: life is challenging and hard, and that’s okay.
- Linda said, “Life is a marathon and not a sprint.”
- Mukami said it’s okay to be different; it can be someone’s superpower.
- Becki wished her younger self knew that if you are curious and passionate, you can learn anything.
- Jackie wishes she knew not to be afraid to try something new.
Thank you to all the IGNITE volunteers and attendees of the event. Thank you to the Facilitators, Kimberly Williams and Kristen Oshiro, and the Tech Hosts, Rebekah Luce, Dayele Barry, and Stephanie Vaughn, who ensured the panel ran smoothly. Finally, thank you to our Panelists, Becki Tower, Jackie Anderson, Linda White, Lizz Kupfer, and Mukami Kinoti Kimotho, for sharing their stories.
After attending this event:
Here’s what the students thought of the event:
“This event helped me understand more about STEM and it changed my perspective on STEM. I thank all the people who were at the event – you helped me feel comfortable about pursuing STEM.” – 6th grade
“This experience helped me discover more career paths that can open up more options for my future. We don’t always have to be drawing to work in animation. It was cool to learn about all the different projects the volunteers have worked on. Thank you to all of the volunteers! Our class loved it.” – 11th grade
“Today taught me that I should never give up and to not let anything get in my way. I want to thank everybody who came to share what they have learned. I also want to say thank you for giving us advice on how to overcome life.” – 8th grade
“This inspired me because I got to see people enjoy their jobs and show it. I also feel inspired because I got to see different jobs and know more about them.” – 6th grade
“It was good to see that men are not the only people who are successful. It was nice to see the women explain their jobs and inspirations. Thank you for taking your time to encourage us. I hope your day is bright and happy.” – 8th grade
“This event inspired me because it taught me that I should be myself and to never let anyone stop me. My big takeaways are you can be anything you want to be and girls can do anything.” – 6th grade
“I really enjoyed the panel answering and responding to questions.” – 6th grade
“It felt nice to see people of different backgrounds being successful. It makes me feel as if I have a chance at being successful too. The volunteers were all very nice people. They make me feel inspired to dive into STEM based careers myself. – 8th grade
“I got to meet a lot of inspiring women today! I’m thankful for the women I saw today and for them sharing their stories. They made me very invested in STEM!” – 6th grade
“Today’s event inspired because it made me feel like I can do many things if I try my best. I am thankful that the volunteers took their time to speak to us.” – 6th grade
“This event taught me about getting a job and how to do things in STEM. The big takeaway is how one day maybe I can do this.” – 6th grade
“Today showed me I can be trans and still get a job. I have rights and I do not have to worry about hiding.” – 9th grade