In-Person Women in STEM Panel at Burton High School

Burton High School played host to an engaging IGNITE Program Event on Thursday, October 26, 2023. The Women in Stem Panel Event saw enthusiastic participation from an impressive 178 students spanning grades 9-12, providing a unique opportunity for them to hear from and interact with accomplished STEM professionals from leading tech companies. The impressive lineup of Panelists included Siyuan Zhou, Senior Software Engineer at Google; Candice Quadros, Director of Program Management & Productivity at Roku; Karen Stackpole, Senior Audio Systems Engineer at Dolby Laboratories; Fleurette Tapado, Senior Manager, Quality Assurance & Quality Control at Cruise; Claudia Santana, Senior Software Engineer at Aurora Innovation; and Bianca Luna-Acosta, Security Consultant at Bishop Fox. The event was a combination of insightful discussions, engaging stories, and valuable advice.

Students actively participated in the event by attentively listening to the speakers and jotting down questions for the Panelists. The students demonstrated genuine curiosity, seeking advice on various aspects of pursuing a career in STEM. Questions ranged from the practical – such as the time it took to establish themselves in their respective fields and the challenges faced as the only women in their groups or clubs – to the more personal, asking about the downsides of their jobs and advice they would give to their high school selves.

The Panelists’ responses resonated well with the students, offering a mix of practical insights and encouraging words. A prevailing theme was the importance of following one’s passion and persevering, even when faced with challenges or the absence of representation. The advice to not be discouraged by the initial lack of diversity in the industry struck a chord with the students, emphasizing the historic significance of being the “first” in any field.

What stood out as particularly impactful were the Panelists’ descriptive stories about navigating high school and college while still pursuing their dreams. Several shared their experiences of changing careers multiple times before finding their true calling, showcasing the resilience and adaptability required in the professional world.

The Women in STEM Panel Event at Burton High School not only brought together remarkable professionals but also created a vibrant and interactive platform that left a lasting impression on the young minds present.

Thank you to all the incredible individuals who made this Women in STEM Panel Event a resounding success. Special gratitude goes to our esteemed Panelists – Siyuan Zhou, Candice Quadros, Karen Stackpole, Fleurette Tapado, Claudia Santana, Bianca Luna-Acosta – for generously sharing their time, expertise, and inspiring stories with the eager students. The event was made possible by the dedication and guidance of Educator Audrey Portley-Bernstein, whose commitment to empowering students is truly commendable.

After attending this event:


of students are interested in STEM

Take STEM Class


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

Ask Teacher about Additional STEM Activities


of students feel more confident in pursuing STEM


of students gained perspective and feel more hopeful about the future

Here’s what the students thought of the event:

This event helped inspire me to get more involved in the STEM field. It motivated me to pursue a career related to STEM, and the speakers were really inspiring to me. Thank you for coming by and making this event possible!” – 11th Grade IGNITE Student

“From this event, I was able to see the different journeys of women in STEM careers, which showed me that there is no one path to take. I also saw that there were many outcomes, and it inspired me to look at all the opportunities there are to work in STEM. I’m glad I got to hear about everyone’s experiences. Thank you!” – 11th Grade IGNITE Student

I loved the event.” – 11th Grade IGNITE Student

I really enjoyed hearing about the experience of other women in STEM because it really gave me a perspective on how women today are experiencing the STEM field. It made me feel more hopeful about the future of women in STEM after this event. My biggest takeaway is that in the present, women in STEM are more common than it was before. There are definitely a lot of opportunities for us today to work in STEM.” – 11th Grade IGNITE Student

It is really inspiring to see women have really good jobs. It shows that there are so many different jobs in STEM too. I hopefully will go into math, and it really made me excited that I am able to get a job that I will hopefully like.” – 11th Grade IGNITE Student

“Seeing different STEM professionals from various fields inspired me to view the world from a different perspective. I regained the courage to put my whole effort into my engineering class. My big takeaway is learning about women in STEM; they can be powerful and successful too.” – 10th Grade IGNITE Student

“The event inspired me to research and learn more about careers in STEM. Previously I was unsure about my interest in STEM, but now this event has strengthened it. Some big takeaways were that I learned that I should not be intimidated about careers that are heavily male-based and that I should strive to work my hardest to achieve my dream career.” – 10th Grade IGNITE Student

“During the event, I really loved how the women expressed that it was difficult being one of the only girls in a STEM class. They all pursued really cool jobs, and I want to be like them. Women can be powerful when they start learning, even if it’s dominated by men.” – 10th Grade IGNITE Student

“This event surprised me; it was great to learn about STEM and other new stuff.” – 10th Grade IGNITE Student

“Today’s event inspired me because of the difficulty levels of STEM, and it is also interesting to learn and physically do IGNITE Events. It made me want to pursue a career in STEM because it is exciting. I appreciate the volunteers today; thank you.” – 10th Grade IGNITE Student

“I got to see women in a career field dominated by men. This was super inspiring because lots of women never get the same opportunities as men because of society. My big takeaway today was to never give up. Lots of the speakers didn’t know what they wanted to pursue, and it took them multiple years to figure it out.” – 10th Grade IGNITE Student

I learned about the different career paths each person took and what they came to be. They each went in-depth about what they do at their jobs and their college journey, which was important since there are many different fields of STEM. My biggest takeaway was to go for what you want to do and not be afraid of the challenges that come your way with STEM. I also learned that there are many different jobs and careers you can rise to after college. Thank you to everyone for telling us your experiences!” – 10th Grade IGNITE Student

The women on the stage made me understand that it takes time for a lot of people to get to where they want to be and that you can’t just be good at something. My biggest takeaway from this event was to never give up since you don’t know what you can do.” – 10th Grade IGNITE Student

“This event inspired me to work on projects of my own and to explore more about STEM careers. It also helped me be more confident in joining programs that are STEM-related and to speak out more about my thoughts and ideas.” – 12th Grade IGNITE Student

Seeing other women being able to accomplish the things I would love to do one day is so inspiring. I know I can make it to do something great in the STEM field. I hope I get to see more on how we can make a change. I wanted to thank the volunteers for helping out and coming. They took time out of their busy days to inspire young women. Thank you!” – 12th Grade IGNITE Student

“Today’s event inspired me to follow my dreams, and although most careers in STEM are filled with men, I, as a female, can make it into a STEM-related career. It made me realize that we females don’t have many choices, but we have the choice to decide if we want to go into a STEM-related field. Although it may be difficult to get into a STEM field, if we work hard enough like the women who came before, we could make it. Some of the takeaways that I managed to get were that all the women that came were from different backgrounds, and that shows that their background does not matter for them to make it into a field that is dominated by men. I loved how the volunteers shared their stories, and it was really interesting to hear because that could be us in a few years. I would like to thank the volunteers who came, and I am looking forward to next year.” – 11th Grade IGNITE Student

“This event inspired me to pursue what I want. By listening to other people’s experiences, it was very interesting and helpful to know what to expect if I majored in STEM. It helped me think more about what path I am going to take in the future and told me to pursue what I want, even if I am the odd one out in my classes or in my friend group. Overall, this was a very helpful and inspirational experience. A big takeaway from this event is that in the STEM field, you will mostly be surrounded by males rather than females, as it is a very male-dominated field. I found this a little relatable as in my engineering class there are only 2 females, and the rest are males. I admire how the volunteers were able to pursue what they love through perseverance and were able to share their experiences to help us out.” – 11th Grade IGNITE Student

Seeing so many women on the panel and talking about their experiences made me believe it would be possible for me too. Follow your dreams, and know all things are possible if you believe and work hard.” – 9th Grade IGNITE Student

About IGNITE Program Panel Events:

Virtual or In-Person IGNITE Panels empower women in STEM careers to connect directly with students by sharing their academic and professional journeys. IGNITE Students are inspired by hearing stories they can relate to, and Q&A discussions help break down stereotypes that hold them back from engaging in STEM classes and careers.

About IGNITE Worldwide:

IGNITE Worldwide is a 501(c)3 nonprofit STEM education organization that aims to change gender and racial equity in STEM permanently and systematically. We work directly with teachers during the school day to provide programming that promotes gender equity and representation in STEM academics and careers. Through our award-winning program, IGNITE provides engaging, hands-on events that connect students with STEM professionals from industry leaders from around the world. Learn more at

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