IGNITE Women in STEM Panel at Sacajawea Middle School

On April 23, 2024, Sacajawea Middle School in Seattle, Washington hosted an insightful IGNITE Panel Event featuring women in STEM. The event brought together notable professionals from various tech and engineering fields. Among the Panelists were Mary Beth Thome, Principal Program Manager at Microsoft; Karen Schoen, Program Manager at Microsoft; Pat Velasquez, Software Developer at Seattle Children’s; Carrie Taylor, Senior Associate at TranSystems; and Molly McLaughlin, Senior Director of Engineering at Boeing (ret.). The event took place in-person, offering students a unique opportunity to engage directly with the industry experts.

The Panelists fielded questions from the students, shedding light on their career journeys, experiences, and challenges as women in STEM. Questions ranged from personal career preferences to addressing workplace sexism. One standout moment was when Panelists shared anecdotes about how they discovered their passion for their respective fields, emphasizing the importance of perseverance and self-belief.

Throughout the discussion, the Panelists didn’t shy away from discussing the obstacles they faced, including instances of sexism in the workplace. However, they also shared strategies for overcoming such challenges, inspiring the students with their resilience and determination.

The Panelists’ advice resonated deeply with the students. They emphasized the significance of courage and confidence, encouraging them to pursue their ambitions fearlessly. One key takeaway was the notion that readiness is subjective and that sometimes, taking the leap is the first step toward success.

The impact of the event extended beyond mere advice; it provided representation and relatability for students, particularly Hispanic/Latina attendees. Seeing successful women who share similar backgrounds helped reaffirm their belief in their own potential and the possibilities within STEM fields.

Thank you to all who contributed their time and expertise to make our event at Sacajawea Middle School a resounding success. A special thank you to Mary Beth Thome, Karen Schoen, Pat Velasquez, Carrie Taylor, and Molly McLaughlin, for sharing their stories and careers with IGNITE Students. Additional thanks to Educator Kamryn Hinrichs for encouraging and supporting IGNITE Students.

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 taught me to be brave and stand up for myself, and to be confident with the career I choose.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

I liked seeing decent men stand up for women when they were uncomfortable.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

Today’s event inspired me to be more confident in myself and understand the lives of women in STEM better. My favorite thing I learned today was about the reality of women’s lives in STEM.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

“Today’s event inspired me to pursue my career in this field with confidence. It was also inspiring to hear other STEM women talk about their journey. My favorite thing I learned today was the many difficulties they endured and how they overcame them.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

Today’s event inspired me by showing how the STEM field offers many opportunities for young women. My favorite thing I learned today was how many fields offer to pay for most of your tuition. Also, I like that you don’t have to be sure of what you’ll do and can try everything to see which ones you enjoy.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

Today’s event inspired me to look into STEM because I hadn’t considered it before.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

“I think today’s event inspired me by listening to all the stories. My favorite thing is that their stories made me more confident about going to college.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

It instilled confidence in me to pursue things without fear of being wrong.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

It inspired me because I want a good future for myself.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

It showed me that women are capable of whatever they want to do, and even if you struggle, it’s okay.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

“Today’s event inspired me by giving me more ideas on what to do in case my plan doesn’t go as well. It also helped to know we are strong.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

It inspired me to explore more careers and learn about all the jobs.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

The confidence the women in STEM had in showing their experiences inspired me.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

This event inspired me to keep going with my thought of being an orthodontist.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

This event inspired me because of scholarships and how women work in the STEM field, showing that being from any background, you can pursue what you want to be. My favorite thing I learned today was about how everything was before and how they described the working field, giving us confidence no matter what.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

I learned that although some careers have more male workers, if you’re passionate about it, go for it. Age, gender, and knowledge don’t define who you are.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

It inspired me to always have confidence in myself. I learned to fake it until you make it and always believe in yourself.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

I was just worried about my future and stressing myself, but after hearing from them, I learned that it shouldn’t be that stressful. This really inspired me to change myself from now on.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

It made me more hopeful about my future career and gave me inspiration.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

“It made me think about my future.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

It made me learn about STEM and that women are capable of doing what men can.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

“It helped me confirm that I want to pursue being a flight attendant in the future. Letting me choose to do something I think is fun.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

This event inspired me to never give up no matter how hard it gets.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

This event showed me that women can do anything.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

“It made STEM seem more realistic. It showed differences within the community. My favorite thing was how honest the volunteers were. They gave amazing advice. To the volunteers, thank you! You’ve helped open my eyes and given me so much advice to use!” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

Today’s event inspired me to see that I can just do the things I want to do in the future, and no one can change that.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

“Today’s event inspired me because I learned that some companies will have zero tolerance for harassment. I also enjoyed their attitudes. My favorite thing was learning how they put the boys in their place. Thank you!” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

Today’s event inspired me because it showed me how many opportunities I have in the future to pursue what I want.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

“It inspired me because women can do whatever they want. It inspired me to be brave and independent. My favorite things were learning about computers and the bravery and respect the women had.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

“I was inspired by how much money you can make, being independent, and doing a job that men do and that people don’t think women can or should do. My favorite thing I learned today was what their jobs are and how they got there.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

This event inspired me that as a woman I do have a chance in life and I can make a change in the world. One of my favorite things I learned today was that I could be a boss, a woman who has made it. Another thing was I could learn about money/saving money.” – 8th 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 www.igniteworldwide.org.

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