On May 2, students at Cascade High School in Everett, WA had the opportunity to meet women from various STEM fields and hear about their experiences. The Panelists spoke about why we need more people from under-represented genders in STEM: they bring a unique perspective, they act as role models, they create a supportive environment, and it’s a good job that pays well, and why everyone should have access to that.
The Panelists shared their stories about entering the world of STEM.
Sunayana Singh, Senior Product Manager at Microsoft, was always good at math and problem-solving. The first time she saw a computer in high school, it looked intimidating, but she knew she could learn to use it by breaking the process into small steps. The first thing she worked on as an engineer was a printer. Seeing it in action for the first time was exciting, and she was hooked.
Eva Tseng, Sr Commercial Marketing Manager at T-Mobile, studied sociology and advertising in college and started her career in marketing. Speaking English as a second language and navigating cultural differences brought unique challenges to her career. She got her start in tech when someone was needed to evaluate the existing marketing technology. She enjoys connecting people and making sure that their feedback is represented in tech development.
Parul Manek, Partner Director of Program Management at Microsoft, was a terrible student when she was young, but loved to see how things worked. Her teachers predicted that she would fail at life. At 16, she moved to England but could not speak English, and realized that math was a universal language and that she could excel at it. She now leads a team of over one hundred people at Microsoft and has many patents. She enjoys visiting the old teachers who predicted that she would fail.
Pat Valasquez, Senior Sharepoint Developer at Seattle Children’s Hospital, struggled as a student, but when her dad bought her a computer, and she taught herself to program, she knew she had found her passion. She loves solving puzzles. Her job gives her the chance to do that every day, and also help people at the same time.
Annika Salmi, Simulation Engineer at Starfish Space, always loved science fiction and thought that space was cool, but was intimidated and thought it couldn’t be for her. But now, her job allows her to think about space every day and be on the cutting edge of research.
The students asked many interesting questions, such as:
- Do you have advice for transgender women?
- Do you have advice for going through the military?
- What about someone who wants to work in aerospace or chemistry internationally?
- How has discrimination encouraged you to move further into the industry?
- If you didn’t work in STEM, what career would you have?
The panelists spoke about finding identity-oriented groups and supportive communities within in the industry. Managers and coworkers can be allies in fighting discrimination against transwomen and ciswomen. The military can be a good path to take because it shows strong aptitude and ability to follow orders. Exchange programs are one path to working internationally; another is to work locally for a multinational company, and then ask to move to another country.
We would like to thank Stephen Sibley for hosting this event, and Danielle Deluca and Shelly Ellis for facilitating it. We would also like to thank our Panelists, Sunayana Singh, Eva Tseng, Parul Manek, Pat Valasquez, and Annika Salmi, for making this a great and informative event!
After attending this event:
Here’s what the students thought of the event:
“It was inspiring to see women of color in STEM. I learned to ask for help from mentors.” – 11th grade
“Although there’s not a particular career I am interested in, the message that every woman in STEM we met had was important for each of the people in the room today. Perseverance and self-advocacy is not limited to computer science girls. There are many STEM careers slowly filling with the underrepresented. Thanks to the panel!” – 11th grade
“Seeing successful women in STEM makes it seem more possible for myself to be successful. Also, hearing the stories of women who are from racially diverse backgrounds was great because technological fields are stereotypically dominated by white men. Thank you for coming to our school! It was really fun to hear the stories of women becoming successful, and I really loved the patent cubes that one of the volunteers brought.” – 9th grade
“Seeing what is possible despite struggles (some I relate to) made me feel as though I wasn’t so likely to fail. I’ve always had an interest in the field I want to enter, but it wasn’t an interest fostered by my environment or something I felt confident enough to speak on. Because of this, I’ve been told by those around me this is a pipe dream, but the panel made me feel different. Thank you to all of the volunteers and speakers! I can’t wait to volunteer for IGNITE on the 17th, thanks to you all.” – 11th grade
“Everyone was so inspirational and I feel so much more excited for my future. Thank you everyone for reminding me to believe in myself and follow my passion!” – 12th grade
“Hearing the volunteers speak about having transgender coworkers made me feel less alone.” – 11th grade
“I learned a lot about how it isn’t just science in STEM. A lot of the panelists were really relatable and I learned why we need more women in STEM.” – 9th grade
“This event inspired me to pursue a career I want no matter what and to follow my dreams.” – 9th grade
“Today made me understand where I could be and get to while still enjoying my life. Everything was so good and cool.” – 9th grade
“This experience inspired me to have a better relationship with many people. The panelists gave out really great advice for the future.” – 9th grade
“This event inspired me because of the stories the panelists shared and the information they also gave.” – 12th grade
“Today showed me that I should not give up, even if it feels hard. It doesn’t matter what people say because it’s just words. Keep going after what you want and/or believe in.” – 9th grade
“I’ve learned a lot from the volunteers and this experience will help me decide what I really want to do. Thank you for helping me!” – 12th grade
“Seeing women like me with similar situations/circumstances discussing how they got through obstacles was definitely inspiring. The parts about how some men were disrespectful to them, or even how some of the panelists weren’t the best students in school, but they still made it to a great position is pretty cool. It was an incredible experience hearing everyone’s point of view and listening to the stories they had to tell. I was able to listen in on some stuff I’m interested in, for instance aerospace engineering. I’m grateful to all the powerful women who spoke to us today.” – 11th grade
“Today inspired me to do better in school so I don’t close any opportunities. It inspired me to be mindful about the options I could have in the future. Regardless of who you are or where you’re from, you can do more than you expected yourself to do. Don’t let someone tell you can’t do something; instead, prove them wrong.” – 9th grade
“I feel more supported in being myself. As an introvert, knowing there are women supporting me gives me the confidence to continue.” – 9th grade
“This event positively affected everyone, not only STEM people. It really inspired me to do what I want to do, not what others tell me to do. I loved the speakers and their different points of view. I love how they all came from different backgrounds. I think the biggest takeaways I got were to experiment, live life, and do what you’re good at and you will find what really interests you.” – 11th grade
“This event has inspired me to go out and chase my dreams no matter what people say. The women on the panel that shared their stories and experiences in a male-dominated world were amazing and I am happy to have been there. Thank you to the panelists and the volunteers that made this happen.” – 12th grade
“The panelists talked a lot about how women in STEM are really accepting of each other and I think it’s a great thing. I learned that there is help in the field and people are rooting for you.” – 9th grade
“I liked seeing how the panelists didn’t care what the men thought about their feelings and/or opinions and ideas. It was a great event and I loved the positivity!” – 12th grade
“I was inspired to pursue a career in a male-dominated field. Women have the intelligence and strength to really do anything. If you put your mind to it, no matter who you are, you can change things.” – 11th grade
“Hearing the stories of all the women saying that they struggled in school and had no support, yet they pursued amazing jobs in STEM helped me believe that maybe I could do it too. Anything is possible as long as you follow your passion for what you love.” – 9th grade
“It was good to see others’ perspectives, especially with the diversity on the panel itself. The panel was interesting and informative, with a lot of student questions. The STE(A)M program is in need of more diversity, and minorities who are women are especially underrepresented. I was really inspired by all the volunteers.” – 12th grade
“This event inspired me to go on with my college plans of running a business. I feel like I’m capable of it now. I want to say thank you to the volunteers for inspiring me to make my own path.” – 12th grade
“I thought it was interesting to hear about the different career paths in STEM/STEAMand to hear how panelists started out before their jobs. I feel like the big takeaway was that there are so many career paths in STEM. Thank you to the volunteers for sharing their stories.” – 10th grade