The North American Division piloted a Women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) conference initiative in partnership with Ophelia Barizo, the STEM coordinator at the Chesapeake Conference, on April 19, 2019, at Spencerville Adventist Academy in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.
Middle and high school students were invited to participate in the conference that included a panel of women from government agencies and the private sector who are leaders in the field of STEM.
Mahmooda Saltana (National Aeronautics and Space Administration engineer), Janet Beaton (National Security Agency aerospace engineer), Sharon Koh-Fallet (U.S. Food and Drug Administration chemist), Adrienne Norwood (Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab mathematician), Danielle Krol (U.S. Food and Drug Administration scientist and George Washington University oncologist), and Ramona Swaby (Merck cancer researcher) served on a panel to explore their experiences, insights, and high points in their careers with young women hoping to follow in their footsteps.
Some of the advice from the event included working hard and being persistent, not being afraid of failure, surrounding oneself with “good people,” looking for mentors, and letting God guide one in life. One participant said that “God will do amazing things with your life if you let Him.”
Presenters highlighted the unique challenges in their fields as well as the unique contributions they make every day. They also outlined the processes and procedures for securing internships in their organizations.
The National Science Foundation reports that STEM employment continues to grow at a faster pace than other occupations, and yet not all Americans have equal access or equal representation in STEM fields. In fact, even though women make up half the population, they account for under 30 percent of participation in STEM-related careers.
Parents of the attendees were excited about the potential internship opportunities and the impact of the STEM presenters as role models for their daughters. One parent shared that their daughter “never talks about what happens at school but came home and couldn't stop talking about the Women in STEM presentation. The trajectory of her career options has totally changed,” she said.
“Students who attended the event are highly intelligent and motivated students who are looking for ideas of where and how they can best direct their talents and energy in STEM fields," said Leisa Morton-Standish, director of elementary education for Adventist Education in North America. “The objective of this event is to expose young women to potential careers in STEM fields and to provide more opportunities such as this to our students across North America.”