STEM+PH, a flagship program of Unilab Foundation Inc., partnered with UL Skin Sciences Inc. to launch Pinays Can STEM, an online community that aims to empower and encourage young Filipinas in STEM. UL Skin Sciences encourages women to live a life well-lived by influencing them to pursue their dreams while providing them with opportunities to lead the future and inspiring others to do the same.
Sam’s journey and fascination with the sciences started in high school when she enrolled in the Science Curriculum of Kidapawan City National High School. In Grade 10, she and her team utilized waste materials to make ethyl alcohol, and invested in making wastepaper and corn cob useful again.
Let’s hear more about what sparked here interest in STEM as well as her advocacies in the field!
My STEM Journey
I was fortunate to continue studying STEM in senior high school through a scholarship from Ateneo de Davao, granting me free education. This opportunity continued in college paired with another scholarship grant from the Department of Science and Technology to aid me with all expenses in the university. Without these scholarships, I would not be able to sustain my education in college and continue my STEM journey. I enrolled to Environmental Science program of Ateneo de Davao as suggested by my mother and friends but my interest with the course grew and my advocacy for environmental action developed.
Sparking my interest in STEM
My interest in Environmental Science started when my mother and friends convinced me to enroll in this course, given its relevance to current climate realities and local concerns. I was not sure what to pursue at the time, so I was easily convinced to follow their suggestion. However, my interest further developed few weeks into the program. I was disturbed that environmental issues are not discussed as often as they should be, considering their impact on human lives and our future. I was alarmed about environmental issues and realized the significance of greater involvement in this field because of the urgent need to provide solutions to local and global ecological problems.
In addition, in Environmental Science, we are not bound to explore natural sciences alone like chemistry and biology. Instead, we are challenged to link our core studies to social sciences and current realities that concern our society. Our chemistry, biology, and mathematics subjects became more meaningful as they were utilized to understand climate realities that threaten our safety and future. The sociopolitical factors are added to the mix, which I’m also very interested in exploring, mainly because of my student leadership involvement that grew in college and my fondness for politics and policy-making.
Bringing STEM closer to Filipinos
I am an advocate for environmental protection and sustainable development. This advocacy started in college when I enrolled in my current course, which led me to realize that my dreams and the dreams of others for the future will never be possible without livable earth. Therefore, we must find the balance between development and environmental action and protection.
There is progress in this advocacy as many people are drawn to converse about different issues and participate in endeavors aligned to them. There is a rise in the availability of online opportunities for environmental problems. Social media has aided the improvement of awareness. However, there are fewer opportunities to immerse physically with communities to conduct activities like tree growing and clean-up drives due to the pandemic. While I believe that there is progress, it is still a reality that engaging and connecting to people who have no easy access to online platforms are necessary to ensure that awareness is not limited to those who have resources.
To my fellow youth
To my fellow youth in STEM, now is the time to be on the lead in spreading awareness about issues deeply rooted in STEM. Maximize the capacity of social media but let us remember to expand awareness, especially to those not present on the web, starting to those nearest to us – our families and friends. STEM can offer so much to alleviate poverty and solve perennial problems in society, but this would take courage and hard work from us, the youth in STEM. Take heart, and may the wonders of STEM and the social realities disturb and inspire us to seek a greater purpose for the Filipino people.
I hope that we dedicate our expertise and efforts to helping this country rise and giving urgent solutions to problems that threaten our future, especially to those linked to our environment. To all women in STEM, padayon!
Even at a young age, Recca was already given the opportunity to explore the field of science through class experiments, and by enrolling in a Science High School and volunteering for the “Tulong Dunong” program, where she is greatly remembered and recognized by young students.
Let’s hear more about what sparked her interest in STEM as well as her advocacies in the field!
My STEM Journey
I can say I owe most of my STEM journey to Pisay as I was surrounded with opportunities in an environment where the people had aligned interests. In my first two years I was part of our school’s science club and was able to attend events of the Philippine Society of Youth Science Clubs (PSYSC), the organization I would be serving later in my college years. One highlight of my high school life that directed me to pursue a laboratory oriented career was our Summer Internship Program when I interned for a month at the Institute of Food Science and Technology in UP Los Banos. During our specialization years in senior high I chose to focus on Biology and Chemistry. This eventually brought me to where I am today, an incoming senior in the Biochemistry program of UP Manila. As much as I love my time in the lab (back when F2F was possible), I equally love working with my organizations, the UP Biochemistry Society and PSYSC. Currently I am interning at the Philippine Genome Center’s Core Facility for Bioinformatics. Upon graduation I plan on taking up research assistant positions as well as taking the Chemistry Licensure Examination. I hope to eventually do my Masters abroad and come back to the Philippines to finish my Return Service Agreement with DOST.
Sparking my interest in STEM
It was really in my specialization years that had brought me close to the fields of Biology and Chemistry. To be honest, most of my high school life I had my mind set on applying for the Molecular Biology and Biotechnology program in UP Diliman. During senior high however, I had found myself being drawn closer to Chemistry as we would always do experiments in the lab. It was always during lab work that I had felt the most comfortable because I loved hands on interactive learning. It was only when I was filling up my UPCAT application form that I found out the UP System also offered Biochemistry. I applied to the degree thinking it would be 50% Biology, 50% Chemistry. This belief was also held by a lot of my blockmates, to which we quickly learned in our first college days that it would be about 90% Chemistry and only 10% Biology. I don’t have any regrets with my degree though as I learned more about what it was and what our graduates were doing, I had felt more and more at home and that this is what I want to be pursuing.
Bringing STEM closer to Filipinos
After evaluating what I had been doing for the past years, I found a pattern that led me to realize all along I was actually unconsciously advocating for making science accessible and for the masses. Our organization’s thrust is PUS TE (Public Understanding of Science, Technology, and the Environment) and likewise I think we should always push for information, education, and communication of STEM, especially to those who aren’t as exposed to it. I think this particularly relevant given the pandemic as talks of RT-PCR, mRNA vaccines, and the like may seem like common topics to those in the scientific community but may seem foreign to others. It is especially critical to keep everyone knowledgeable as we rely on making informed decisions in taking collective action against a public health threat. As fun as it may be to be involved with the high technology aspect of science, we should keep in mind that science is for the masses and that it can still be understood and appreciated without needing an extensive scientific background. Being lucky enough to be surrounded by individuals inclined in STEM, sometimes it makes you forget that a good chunk of the population is not the same, likely due to the lack of opportunities and resources. As I’ve mentioned, Pisay had a large contribution on my STEM journey but actually a large selling point I had entering Pisay was the free tuition and allowance since at the time of my admission my family wasn’t as well off financially as we are now.
I think in terms of awareness and action, surely there has been progress but not as much progress as one would hope to have. A major change I’d like to see is making primary and secondary education more accessible as these are the crucial years in one’s development. I also think on ground action should be emphasized as social media campaigns could only do so much and could only reach those with devices and internet connection.
To my fellow youth
Be steadfast in what you’re pursuing. Remember why you want to do what you’re doing and who you are doing it for. Lastly, be kind to yourself and remember that you’re human and not just a machine.
It is said that one opportunity can open a lot of other doors, yet sometimes, exploring them can be quite a maze! For our featured Pinay of the Month, her journey began as an aspiring high school student, hoping for a place in the sciences. Coming from a science high school, Elgelyn Bardelosa took the admission test to enter into a Civil Engineering course, yet finances were short and she almost lost hope. “Sadly, even if I begged my mother for money, my family’s resources were very limited to even afford the fare to go to UP Los Banos. That day I cried hard because I lost hope–I would not be able to go to my dream school, or even maybe pursue college,” she recounts. Luckily for her, days later, she had found out that she was given a scholarship from the Department of Science and Technology, Science Education Institute (DOST-SEI) after passing their exam.
Although Elgelyn did not pursue the course she initially wanted due to limited course offerings by the DOST-SEI, she went on to pursue her second choice, Electrical Engineering, and has been committed to the field ever since. Currently, she is an Electrical Design Engineer by profession. “I prepare electrical plans for different establishments–from a simple house to commercial living spaces like apartments, to small offices to towers, recreational spaces to malls, and even for industrial plants.” Throughout her career, she has learned to work in different contexts, sometimes preparing plans for buildings in other countries, and work as a team player.
Although skilled in her field, her journey did not come without some setbacks. Initially, not a lot of people were accepting of her course, including her parents who thought she would have had a better career had she chosen Accountancy, a course which many girls had considered. On that note, she has faced some other challenges that came with her being a girl in the sciences. While her male peers and classmates were welcoming of her, it was during her commutes home after late-night groupworks when she felt unsafe. “Most of the time, I ask one of my guy classmates to send me home early!” To this day, she still has her fair share of discrimination. During her stint as the youngest in the project team, it was difficult for her teammates to take her seriously, and she was also sometimes bullied on the project site for being a young, skinny woman. Resilient, Elgelyn still persevered. She bravely states, “I did not let these chances define me as a person, and I took them as chances to strengthen my character. I chose to nurture my technical and people skills to be able to handle those kinds of situations.”
Even though these tough experiences can build character, one doesn’t need to put themselves in these situations to give them strength. Instead. Elgelyn suggests that young Pinays look for opportunities empowering content online. “It is a very interesting time to pursue STEM in general,” she says due to limitations imposed by the community quarantine. While it is hard to spark physical teamwork and collaboration, something ever-present in the field of Electrical Engineering, the internet is still a powerful tool for experts and learners alike, making resources available, even from mentors who are out of the country. In fact, during the quarantine, Elgelyn was able to attend many seminars available online to enhance her engineering knowledge. Aside from educational content, she also mentions looking for motivational words online. “I personally go to TEDx talks of women in STEM on YouTube for a source of inspiration.”
That being said, Elgelyn also offers her own words of wisdom to young aspiring Pinays. “The reason why the STEM field is dominated by men is because mostly known scientists and innovators known before are men. However, we live now in a world that offers a better opportunity for us young women to shine. Choose what battles to fight and what not to. If you don’t believe in yourself, remember that I believe in you!”
Elgelyn Bardelosa is an Electric Design Engineer based in Imus, Cavite. She graduated from the Technological University of the Philippines-Manila with a degree in BS Electrical Engineering, with a scholarship granted by DOST-SEI.
As a continuation of our Girl Gang blog back in October for International Day of the Girl, we’re rounding up another group of special STEM boss babes for your summer club consideration.
Further proving that STEM doesn’t just exist within the labs, these women are also making their way up the ladder with their own brand of leadership, driven by purpose and passion. Hard sciences not for you? Check out the different branches where fellow great women are in charge!
Beng is the CEO and President Of Pointwest Technologies, an Information Technology (IT) firm dedicated to utilizing digital technology at its best. She graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering in the University of Santo Tomas back in 1974, and she’s been dedicated to introducing world-class tech software to the country ever since.
Envisioning a gender-equal future for all, Beng is now also a member of the Board of Trustees for the Center for Integrated STEM Education, or CISTEM.
Clarissa is the current Education Program Lead for a small tech company called, well, Microsoft. Jokes aside, Clarissa has been with Microsoft for a whopping ten years, where she started out as a Partner Development Manager in 2011.
Through her role as Education Program Lead, she focuses on providing an impact for the PH academic sector through specific education technology programs.
COMMAND-HER IN CHIEF
Julia is the current Executive Director of FEU Public Policy Center (FPPC), a private research foundation making a change in policy-making through thorough research and community discussions. She’s been working for the cause almost all her life, as she was even the Head of the Presidential Management Staff from 2010 to 2016, among other government jobs.
Julia achieved her Masters in Public Policy with a concentration in Political and Economic Development at Harvard University.
Linartes is the country’s National Project Coordinator for the Women in STEM Workforce Readiness and Development Program by the International Labour Organization (ILO). Through data-driven research like skills upgrading, job placement, skills gap identification, and more, the program aims to give women a leg up in finding (and thriving) the STEM career field.
In a 2019 interview with ABS-CBN, she stressed that there’s more work to be done in convincing women to join STEM careers “especially now, when we’re moving to the future of work when we’re requiring more STEM-related skills that will be needed to compete in the workplace,” she explained.
Through her work, Linartes ensures that the projects implemented by the ILO are inclusive for all Filipina women to reach their STEM goals.
HOMEGROWN IBM BOSS
Serving as the current President and Country General Manager of IBM Philippines, Aileen is the first Filipina leader of the popular BPO company. As a woman in power, Aileen is dedicated to introducing Filipino talents to not just the international scale, but also to make them stay and serve our home country.
Through IBM’s growing projects in the field, Aileen hopes for a reverse brain drain in the country, or “Brain Gain”. Speaking to ANC’s ‘The Boss’, she explains. “Really, my dream is that [skilled Filipinos] come back. It’s kind of like a reverse brain drain.”
Cara is the co-founder and Executive Director for the For the Women (FTW) Foundation, a non-profit organization that aims to change women’s lives by offering free data science and AI training for future leaders, like herself. She graduated as a cum laude in History at Harvard College, and went on to first work in advertising in New York .
Cara’s dream for FTW started during a trip to Milan, where she realized that “there was a lack of promising job opportunities in the Philippines and [women] had to work abroad in order to send money home and support families.” With FTW now helping numerous women all over the country, her dreams have undoubtedly come into fruition.
ACCENTURE’S LEADING WOMAN
Ambe has been a thought leader in Accenture for 30 astounding years, working her way from Senior Managing Director to leading the Accenture Advanced Technology Centers in the Philippines (ATCP). She’s worked on many large-scale systems integration programs and outsourcing engagements, as she also played a key role in driving the company’s delivery innovations.
In an inspiring video titled “Career advice for my 25-year old self”, Ambe shares sage advice for young workers such as creating your own destiny, trying not to please everybody, and more.
Anna is a marine conservationist and the self-proclaimed Chief Mermaid/Executive Director of Save Philippine Seas, a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of Philippine marine life. At 23 years old, she was recognized as one of the seven modern Filipino heroes by Yahoo! Southeast Asia. She’s also the first and youngest awardee of the Netherland’s Future for Nature Award.
A steady advocate for oceanic protection, Anna has also co-authored a workbook to teach young Filipinos about the grave impacts of climate change.
MANILA OBSERVATORY EXEC
Gemma is the Executive Director of the Ateneo de Manila University’s (ADMU) Manila Observatory, which aims to expand scientific research in environmental and pre-disaster science through sustainable development. Before heading the Manila Observatory, she was an Associate Director for Research and the Head of the Regional Climate Systems Program of the Observatory at ADMU.
Equipped with her lifelong expertise in climate change research, Gemma aids communities to prepare for natural disasters.
These women prove that the Philippines isn’t in short supply of STEM women ready to take charge! Aside from taking the lead in their own fields, it’s vital to note that their advocacies don’t stop there, as they’ve taken it upon themselves to give fellow women the opportunity to thrive just like them.
According to the Youth in STEM report, 59% of females are inclined to taking STEM in university, with engineering being the top course uptake (16%). There is a lot more work that needs to be done, but showcasing role models in engineering is a great start, especially for our young girls. We must continue to celebrate those making great strides towards creating a more diverse and gender equal industry.
This International Day of Women in Engineering, it is important for girls to be given the opportunity to explore the field as well as expose them to role models that inspire them to pursue STEM. Let’s hear it for our Pinays in Engineering!
Maria Kathrine Co, Supply Chain Commercial Lead
Maria is currently the Supply Chain Commercial Lead in Shell Business Operations, Manila where she supports the Manufacturing site in Singapore. She is responsible for overseeing the operational and tactical contracts for the Engineering, Maintenance, Services, and Disposal Categories. Prior to this, Maria earned her bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Santo Tomas (UST), and eventually passed the certification exam last 2013 commissioned by the Philippine Institute of Industrial Engineers (PIIE).
My STEM spark
Maria: I was fortunate enough to study in a Chinese school, Hope Christian High School, when I was growing up – I am half Chinese, by the way. As you know, Chinese schools are very well known in terms of their focus in Mathematics since we have more learning time – one in English, the other in Chinese, compared to regular schools. The concept is the same; it’s just that we are also taught to calculate it using the Chinese method and language.
Having this educational background, I looked for a course where math will be more dominant and will represent a good balance in the supply chain. That led me to take up Industrial Engineering. Truth be told, the phrase “be careful what you wish for” was really true! I remember we had one semester where we need to take up four (4) different math subjects. That was one of the most challenging moments of my college life because I had to memorize all the formulas and methods all at the same time. Going through this course was not an easy journey for me, but definitely one will achieve its goal if you have the will and positive outlook. Every course has its challenges and difficulties; you just have to choose what path you want to pursue… mine was Engineering.
“Apart from the continuous learnings, what keeps me going with this line of work are the people I interact with. Not once in my career that I have felt that I was incapable because of my gender. I work with different fields of engineers- mostly men, and I never felt intimated. What is important is the value that I bring to the company. I’ve been with Shell for seven (7) years, and I must say that I am blessed to be part of an organization where diversity and inclusion are highly encouraged.”
It starts with you
Maria:I am not the first engineer in the family, but I am the first female. Many doubted my choice when I was starting to create my path in Engineering – even myself. I wasn’t one of those top students nor a studious one. My General Weighted Average (GWA) was just good enough to get me my college diploma. Yes, your academic grades will increase your probability of getting accepted into a prestigious company. Nonetheless, the concepts that you learn in class will need to reflect in your performance. What I want to say is that your grades will not define your future. Engineering is not an easy path. There will be stumbling blocks along the way but as long as you pick up the pieces and learn from it, you should be in a very good space.
Engineering is a male-dominated field, but this should not stop you from pursuing this line of career. The moment you think that you can’t do it, you are starting to limit yourself from your great potential.
Cleo Credo, Software Engineer
Cleo is currently the Chief Technology Officer of Startechup, a software development company. She explores different technologies to leverage the company’s technical prowess, conducts technical assessments on software systems, comes up with project development timeline estimates and perform code reviews with the engineering team. She acts as the head of engineering where she leads teams to project execution.
My STEM spark
Cleo: My journey to tech is very unconventional. I took Computer Science in college out of scholarship reasons and had no idea what programming is. As years passed, I still can’t seem to love it, not until my third year where I joined Startup Weekend. That’s the time I saw the meaning of my craft.
Over the weekend, our team came up with an idea and turned it into a minimum viable product (MVP), in our case, a web application. We also provided the business model canvas, market validation and marketing strategies. This experience opened my eyes to the possibilities of tech in improving people’s lives and ultimately, solving some of the world’s biggest problems. It gave me a purpose.
Having an idea, building that idea into something, seeing it take form with the work of your hands and having it used by many people made me excited. I was able to get a glimpse of what it’s like to be in the software engineering field. I chose to pursue it as a career and here I am now.
“Having an idea, building that idea into something, seeing it take form with the work of your hands and having it used by many people made me excited. I was able to get a glimpse of what it’s like to be in the software engineering field. I chose to pursue it as a career and here I am now.”
A role model for yourself and for future generations
Cleo: Even though the Philippines ranked first overall in gender diversity in the workforce among 10 Asian countries based on the 2019 Gender Diversity Benchmark for Asia, the gender gap is still obvious between male and female workers especially in STEM related industries. Few women are getting into engineering careers because they don’t see many women in it. The lack of visible female role models in engineering and STEM causes the disparities.
Being well represented in an industry means breaking stereotypes. It promotes equal opportunities and career growth for everyone, safer working environments, well-thought products and services as it takes the perspective, ideas, points of view of everyone, all types of users/consumers are considered and ultimately make the world a better place.
Women should be represented in all industries even more in the technology field. Because technology is something that will shape our future and women should be a part of it. There’s a place for us in the engineering field. It’s important to tell our story and that’s how we would inspire younger generations to be involved in technology building.
Claire Pascua, Structural and Earthquake Engineering
Claire is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Auckland (New Zealand), where she specializes in structural and earthquake engineering. Her PhD thesis is focused on the seismic performance of buildings with combined concrete walls and steel frames. Her research involves numerical modelling of such buildings and experimental tests on connection details to understand how they will perform during earthquakes.
My STEM spark
Claire: I have always liked math and science as a kid. When I was choosing what to do for my Bachelors, I thought I wanted to do something tangible—something that would have more direct impacts to society. Hence, I chose engineering. Toward the end of my Bachelor studies, the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and the 2011 Christchurch earthquake occurred. Watching the impacts of those earthquakes on society made me want to focus on earthquake engineering and earthquake resilience.
“I think that if we engineers could learn how to communicate our work in a way that is exciting and easy to understand, and if we could show them in simple terms the importance of our work in creating resilient infrastructures for a resilient society, we could foster people’s interest in engineering.”
Reimagining the way we look at engineering
Claire: I noticed that some young people are discouraged from studying engineering because they think it is too difficult. To be fair, engineering is not easy. There are many concepts we need to learn before we can practice engineering. Moreover, engineering mistakes can cost people’s lives (and they have in the past). However, I think it is precisely the challenge that makes it interesting and fulfilling. That said, I think that if we engineers could learn how to communicate our work in a way that is exciting and easy to understand, and if we could show them in simple terms the importance of our work in creating resilient infrastructures for a resilient society, we could foster people’s interest in engineering.
Even with this increasing interest among women when it comes to engineering, there are still challenges that contribute to gender inequality. From the lack of female role models in the field to better opportunities, it can be difficult for new generations of female engineers to find mentors they can relate and look up to. Through initiatives that empower women while being proactive in breaking the stigma that engineering is a masculine profession, and offering female-friendly policies in the workplace, employers can cultivate a culture for women to reach their full potential.
“My journey in Science started as a fortunate stroke of serendipity.”
Although our Pinay of the Month wanted to be a scientist when she was little, her run of luck began when she was offered a scholarship by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). A recipient of the DOST-merit scholarship, Erika Legara originally wanted to take on a different career growing up. “I had always wanted to be an engineer because both my parents are civil engineers,” she recalls, but due to the limited course offerings covered by the scholarship, Erika chose Physics since it was the closest science to civil engineering.
Even then, choosing a science course is totally different from staying in it. Erika reveals what keeps her committed to the field of Physics. “What made me really want to continue pursuing the field were my research mentors,” referring to her instructors at the National Institute of Physics and her days at the Instrumentation Physics Laboratory. It was then she found joy in research and collaboration.
Currently a data scientist, Erika’s days as a Physics student led her to her pursuit of knowledge, specifically writing simulations and algorithms to explore some what-ifs of day-to-day living. In particular, she has quite a number of interesting research projects under her belt. Not a fan of traffic? Data can solve that! Erika has done research on cities and transportation systems to find ways to make them smarter, more efficient, and more reliable. Bothered by the trolls that plague the internet? Data can offer some perspective on that, too! She has also done some work in Computational Social Science, describing how bots and trolls behave online. “With the right information, the right lens, and the right tools, I, together with our research team, get to help enterprises make better decisions that improve both their business processes and products.”
While a successful, self-made Pinay in science, Erika would not be where she is today without a little help from some people. “The four biggest contributing factors in my pursuit of STEM are my parents, the DOST, my research mentors, and the field of Science itself.” It was the first which exposed her to career options related to civil engineering, the second which opened doors for her, and the third which kept her committed to Physics. But at the end of the day, it’s science itself that makes her stay. “Even if we have the most inspiring parents and mentors, if the field of Science were not as interesting and as mind-blowing as it is, I really wouldn’t have stayed in STEM and continued this pursuit. There’s this deep sense of fulfillment in discovering and creating things, and this is what keeps me in the field and in my profession as a scientist and a professor.”
As for young Pinays who would want to explore the same path, Erika mentions that the road doesn’t come without any challenges. In particular, she mentions that the country doesn’t have a deep appreciation for the sciences, which is reflected in how little scientists and researchers get paid here, relative to the years of studying and investment. That being said, while outside factors may be to blame, Pinays themselves have the guts to pursue their dreams. With a little exposure, aspiring scientists can go a long way! Erika hopefully says. “I am not that worried about building the confidence of our young Pinays. We just really need to expose them to the wonders of STEM.” Nowadays, in the midst of a health crisis, there are still opportunities to be found indoors, such as online internships and webinars which Erika recommends. Some examples include gathering scientists to volunteer or take part in mentoring activities and project-based programs where they can guide young girls in building AI models to perform classification tasks or teach them how to write cellular-automata models in order for them to learn more about segregation and/or land-use design, or to figure out how to best represent social interactions through complex networks. With all this excitement and enthusiasm, she hopes to bring STEM closer to the public, especially the Filipino youth.
Her final motivational words for us are about STEM Pinays as more than just inspirational figures. “We are aware that as women in science, we have the responsibility to inspire more women to get into science. But more than information disseminators, we are also very much capable of becoming discoverers and generators of ideas and knowledge—something that I would really love to see more of. Just keep on pushing and persevering. STEM is gender-neutral. Keep on learning, exploring, and creating!”
Knowing the stories of others can truly give us a better look at what options we have, but Herdeline also conversely says that our journeys could help others make sense of theirs as well. “There is no single, best path for girls who want to pursue a career in STEM. It is up to you to find and follow the path where you’ll be most excited. This is not an easy career path, but it is your enthusiasm towards small steps that will lift you towards bigger successes. Always remember that those successes will not only serve you but can also open the doors for the next generation of girls behind you.”
Erika Legara is a data scientist who completed her bachelor’s, master’s, and postgraduate degrees in Physics under the University of the Philippines. Currently, she is the Associate Professor, Aboitiz Chair in Data Science, and the Program Director of MSc Data Science in the Asian Institute of Management.
In case you didn’t know: STEM is pretty much everywhere! Anywhere we turn, some facet of Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math have made our lives the way it is now. But in fact, there’s more to the field than the usual jobs that come to mind.
In case being a scientist or a doctor isn’t for you, we’re here to list down some of not-so-common STEM careers that may just be your unsung calling.
Ever wonder who gave the green light to your fave makeup? Look no further than Cosmetic Scientists! These specific types of scientistsdevelop and perform trials on the makeup products, toiletries, perfumes, and beauty products we use on a regular basis. One such example in the country is Unilab’s UL Skin Sciences, Inc. (ULSSI), who’s in charge of everyday hygiene products like pH Care, Myra, and more.
Though they may not be part of our vocabulary now, the number of cosmetic chemists is expected to grow in the workforce between 2016 and 2026.
How can I start?
Cosmetic scientists/chemists are likely working on R&D teams of cosmetic companies. If you’re looking for a specific course, Centro Escolar University in Manila is the first and the only university that offers BS Cosmetic Science in the PH.
With food security in the country turning into a food insecurity, the art of learning how to grow food in the modern world is a must. Food technologists combine modern tech and food science to the process of selection, preservation, packaging, and distribution of safe food for everyone!
With the Philippines being abundant with natural resources, food technology can be a key process in helping our farmers bring sustainable food to the table.
How can I start?
Food technologists’ related fields include analytical chemistry, biotechnology, engineering, nutrition, quality control, and food safety management. The University of the Philippines also has a 4-year program in BS Food Technology.
Forestry & Agriculture
Just like with Food Tech, you don’t have to look far to find STEM’s benefits in agriculture and our natural resources.
Remember the typhoons Rolly and Ulysses? It’s widely debated that a thriving Sierra Madre mountain range would haveprevented the extreme floodings. That’s where the role of STEM comes in, as the country’s forestry and agriculture need scientific data to shift public attention to what’s really happening.
How can I start?
The Department of Environmental Resources has its own Forest Management Bureau (FMB), with positions like Forest Management Specialists, Information Analysts, and more. There are also numerous universities offering programs with BS in Forestry.
Did you know that fast fashion is hurting our environment everyday? In exchange for fast and cheap clothes churned out by trendy brands, the Earth is paying the price through the process’ harmful carbon footprint.
That’s where the role of smart clothing technologists/designers comes in, as their job is to introduce innovative advancements in clothing to make the industry sustainable, durable, and of course, still fashionable.
How can I start?
A number of schools offer BS in Clothing Technology, such as SoFA Design Institute, University of the Philippines Diliman, and the Technological University of the Philippines.
Yes, there are archaeologists in the country! With the Philippines having a rich culture taking back thousands of years, our own archaeologists have been discovering artifacts that have made the country a vital research ground on human evolution!
University of the Philippines Diliman offers a complete Archaeological Studies Program, where you can attain your Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorate in the field.
Forensic science, also known as criminalistics, is the role of science during criminal investigations. It isn’t as simple as watching crime shows though, as forensics is a broad field that can range from Forensic anthropologists, Digital forensic examiners, Forensic engineers, Forensic pathologists, and Forensic document examiners.
How can I start?
Most forensic science careers can start from any bachelor’s degree, though a program in Criminology could get you a leg up on working in the scene. The Philippine College of Criminology in Manila offers a wide array of courses, while there are some universities that also offer the course alone.
The future is now! Being a Robotics Engineer is essentially an interdisciplinary research area between computer science and engineering. The goal of the job is to design intelligent machines that can make human lives easier and safe – more on Sophia the Robot, less ‘I, Robot’.
With the growing need for advanced AI in the future, the field of robotics engineering is also on its way up.
How can I start?
Most forensic science careers can start from any bachelor’s degree, though robotiq.com says that Electrical engineering is one of the best majors to pursue to help a career in robotics, though you can get started through any related course like Mechanical Engineering, Computer science, Mathematics, or Programming.
Carnivore ecologists study, you guessed it, carnivores! The ecologist part of the job description involves exploring how carnivorous animal and plant species affect each other and their environment. They also research how human-modified landscapes can affect carnivores’ behaviour patterns.
One of the most prominent Carnivore Biologists in the world is Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant. She’s currently studying the ecological and social drivers of human-carnivore conflict.
How can I start?
Since the job is still a rare one in the country, it’s best to start with learning about Ecology as a whole through STEM-related courses and research.
The world moves at a fast pace – and so does the demand for more nuanced workers in pretty much any field.
We can’t predict what’s to come in the next 10 or twenty years, but with today’s new callings like gamer, vlogger, and streamer bringing in new talents and opening new doors, it’s high time for the non-traditional and unusual passions to bloom in STEM too!
It’s not just girls needing each other’s support! Here’s 5 ways men can stand in solidarity with women – because gender equality extends to STEM and beyond.
It’s not just girls that need each other’s support! Men need to have a stand with us in the fight for women empowerment too. While equality and equal representation being the goal, this can’t happen while we live in a patriarchal society that gives men more access than their women counterparts – and men need to realize this too.
With an equal world in mind, here’s how men can become allies.
Start them young!
As much as we hate to admit it, the undermining of women starts out way too young. Seemingly innocent sayings like ‘boys will be boys’ can inflict harmful gender stereotypes on kids and cause them to carry it out until adulthood.
We can change the pattern by introducing little kids to gender-equal forms of media that don’t inflict gender stereotypes or something as simple as explaining these mediums to them at a young age. After all, toxic masculinity isn’t just taught, but honed at home.
Check your privilege
To heal the roots of patriarchy, men also have to be aware of the privilege they have. Though being privileged differs between context and situation, one can’t argue that men have long been given excuses that just won’t slide for women.
leanin.org says that ‘men will apply for jobs when they meet 60 percent of the hiring criteria, while women wait until they meet 100 percent.’ This gap alone shows how male entitlement hurts women in the field – whether men realize it or not.
Hold other men accountable
It’s not enough to keep yourself in check, men have to keep their circle well-aware too. Psychology Today says that most men know that there’s something wrong about speaking about women degradingly, but the pressure to succumb to so-called “locker room talk” makes them incapable of challenging their peers in fear of being shunned.
When in doubt, consider this: you don’t defend women just because they’re wives, girlfriend, mothers, or sisters, but because they’re individual human beings who are worthy of respect.
Join feminist causes
Being an ally doesn’t end with being kind to the girl next to you, men ought to call for equality for women of all walks of life! With that, it’s only fair that allies be informed on the kind of issues women are dealing with – like harassment, unfair wages, misogyny, and more.
Men getting engaged and lending their voice to women advocacies doesn’t just make them better well-rounded allies, it’s also a way to know what they’re standing up for.
Give girls the mic
Lo and behold, the final step that some just can’t seem to overcome: actually giving space to women. With patriarchy being the unspoken cultural norm, it can be a challenge to lend your space for others.
Giving girls the mic also extends to little things like ‘mansplaining’, or talking to women in a degrading way about something they’re actually knowledgeable about. It’s also a huge leap to actually give women credit where the credit is due.
After everything, men have to realize that being an ally is not about them.
Achieving a gender-equal world can only work once we all start getting involved for the better. What we mentioned is only the bare minimum in giving fair wages, opportunities, and removing the longstanding systemic sexism against women – but it can be a start.
Because the truth is: women don’t need anyone to be their saving grace in the fight for equality, men just have to stand back and make it possible for women to shine. It’s about time, anyway.
Crossing over doesn’t only happen in our chromosomes. Lecturer of Genetics Gracetine Magpantay recounts her journey in the sciences–from selecting a course in university because of a Taiwanovela to her teaching career today, with a few detours into the arts along the way!
One thing she was certain of was that she was good at math. The rest, although riddled with uncertainty, led her to her career today.
Like some commitments in life, people may join for the wrong reasons but stay for the right ones. While there’s nothing exactly wrong with choosing a path because of a television series, it is quite an unusual beginning to a long-term pursuit, much like that of Gracetine Magpantay, a biologist specializing in the field of genetics. She recalls, “Because of a Taiwanovela, I chose Biology when I took the UPCAT. I passed not knowing what the course is really about.” Although a seemingly funny anecdote, this is evidence of a lack of proper career orientations for high school youths in the country, especially those who reside outside of Metro Manila.
Candidly, Gracetine admits to other times she half-heartedly trudged on. “I also did not like Biology in [high school] because it was not taught properly. I was planning to shift to either BS Mathematics or BA Communication Arts when I was in [my second year of university], but I did not want my parents’ money to go to waste, so I pushed through.” Fortunately, she eventually studied Genetics and grew to have an interest in it. Having always been intrigued by life’s mysteries, Gracetine says that studying the building blocks of life made her want to know even more.
Feeding her curiosity, Gracetine made a career out of the Biology degree she, at first, reluctantly chose. Following her undergraduate degree, she pursued further studies and completed her MS in Genetics, Genetics cognate in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology. She has also contributed to the International Rice Research Institute’s gene editing team, particularly at their C4 Rice Center.
An advocate for women’s representation in the sciences, Gracetine also cannot deny the pull arts has on people’s decisions. After all, it was a show that got her into Biology in the first place, but beyond the level of fascination, shows can also be used to empower women. As Gracetine puts it, to encourage women to get into STEM, we must “publicize success stories of women in science and create shows about these stories” She also hopes to participate in the production of these shows.
No stranger to this, Gracetine also has equally impressive credentials in the field of theater. With years of experience under her belt as an actor and, occasionally as a stage manager, costume designer, and makeup artist, she is what one might consider a Renaissance woman, a clever person skilled at many things. Currently, she is balancing studying Theatre Studies with her job teaching Genetics.
She has also found a way for her passion in the sciences and the arts to intersect. One work co-written by her is Agra, a musical which tackles issues on Philippine agriculture. Centered on the fictitious Siporia, an enhanced rice species, and with a strong female protagonist named Agra, the ethno-fantasy play makes it clear that agriculture is inseparable from the greater society.
In general, she has high hopes for interdisciplinary projects such as Agra. “My dream is to remarry science and arts as how polymaths did in the Renaissance period. Times are hard, and this is the time to join forces and empower STEAM,” referring to the integration of Arts into STEM. While not everyone can write a play and, at the same time, teach Genetics, anyone can enter the field of STEM. As Gracetine puts it, “We must empower each other and believe in each other’s capabilities. We must build each other up.”
Her advice to girls who doubt themselves is simple: “You can!”
Gracetine Magpantay teaches Genetics at Lyceum of the Philippines University in Laguna. She is also the Secretary General for Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD). Currently, she is pursuing her Masters of Arts in Theatre Arts (Theatre Studies) in University of the Philippines Diliman.
It’s true when people say that parents are the first roles of support that kids need. Even when we haven’t realized it yet as kids, it’s through our moms and dads that we see the best versions of ourselves.
For all moms’ special day today, we’re doubling up our STEM stories with these inspiring mother-daughter pairs in STEM. They share how they started out in the field, how to raise a daughter in STEM, and of course, their own Mother’s Day dedication cards to celebrate the season!
MD Duo: Missy & Mia Santiago
Mama Missy is a registered Dermatology consultant and Medical Director, while daughter Mia is a 4th year Med Student at UST. As two women in the medical field, Missy and Mia love sharing stories with each other and relating in terms of being on the field.
Through her mom’s love and support, Mia hopes to someday practice her craft in rural areas and make medical care accessible in the country’s far flung areas.
MISSY: During my time, there was no STEM strand, and no SHS. But my interest in the field of science began very early in life through my role model, my Godparent who was a doctor. As early as 4, I envisioned myself to be a doctor and held on to this vision until it was fulfilled.
MIA:Both of my parents are medical doctors and they brought me and my siblings with them to work, conventions, and medical missions when we were younger so I had an idea what it was like to be a doctor. During college, I attended a community service project in Samar where I met our fellow kababayans who needed medical services. I felt helpless not knowing how I could help, and that encounter sparked my interest in STEM. I wanted to help out in the future as a medical doctor.
Supporting STEM daughters
MISSY: Getting her involved in our activities helped. We brought her and our other children (3 boys) to our conventions so that they get to realize that it’s not all work but a balance of career advancement, lifelong learning, work, and fellowship.
We allow our daughter to witness the work that goes into preparations, and allow her to help in composing her dad’s online virtual messages and powerpoint presentations. Our children grew up interacting with doctors. We also encouraged them to attend the hospital Christmas parties, important milestone events like anniversaries, and some departmental meetings to make them have a feel of management and administrative issues.
MIA:Mom was there for me in all of my ups and downs in medical school, but I think allowing me to openly talk about my options and giving me the freedom to decide if I wanted to pursue medicine played a vital role in the pursuit of my STEM dreams. Both of my parents are medical doctors, but I didn’t want that to be the reason for me to enter medical school. By giving me the space and freedom to see if I really wanted to be a doctor, I was able to find my “why” for wanting to pursue medicine which has helped me power through several times. After more than 3 years of saying “Ayoko na” and then remembering my “why” this medical student is now a clerk and is hoping to graduate this 2021 in pursuit of her STEM dream.
Mother’s Day Card
My mom, my compass: Winnie & Kaia Diola
Sometimes, all we need is a little push—and the Mother-Daughter tandem of Mommy Winnie and Kaia Diola prove just that. As an Education Technology Coordinator and Science Teacher from De La Salle Santiago Zobel School, Mommy Winnie always knew that Kaia had something STEM-cial in her.
After pushing her daughter to try out different fields through the years, a keen interest to join the DLSZ Robotics Club inspired Kaia to opportunities she never thought possible, as the 8th grader has now represented the Philippines in numerous competitions in China, Japan, and more. Kaia was even dubbed as one of 2018’s ‘Wyeth Kid Innovators’.
Aside from being the loving mother-daughter team they are, their relationship is also like a ‘tour guide and tourist’, as Winnie has always let Kaia freely explore her path and see the possible paths before her. “Just like how a tour guide brings you places and guides you all the way, my mom has brought me in STEM and continues to watch over me as time goes by,” Kaia shares.
WINNIE: I think that growing up on the farm is what started my interest in STEM. The environment made me discover the joy of experimenting and inventing different things with whatever materials I could find. When I was 9, I learned how to cook “sinigang” by gathering ingredients found in our backyard and using collected twigs to create fire and light up my family’s make-shift stove made up of 3 big stones.
Testing out stuff and experimenting like that truly filled me with joy. While I may not be making “bahay-kubos” or scarecrows anymore, the fun I had while growing up on a farm is what led me to becoming interested in creation and experimentation or what otherwise is the foundation of STEM.
KAIA: When I enrolled into DLS-Zobel at the age of 5, my mom was teaching Grade 5 Science classes and Beginner Robotics classes. Over the years, I got used to being surrounded by science, math, and robotics. However, my first true exposure to really learning robotics was when my mom held a summer workshop for programming and building NX3 kits. My mom making me sit in the class is what gave me the opportunity to learn robotics for the first time. I came to love programming over the course of the week-long workshop. The rush of joy I would get when I was able to finish all the tasks without the help of anyone else felt amazing. From then on, I continued to follow robotics so I could feel the same happiness.
Supporting STEM daughters
WINNIE: I always wanted my daughter to find her passion. I wanted to be able to support her so that she could enjoy herself to the fullest. Even when she seemed uninterested in anything in particular, I pushed her to try out new things. When I saw she started taking interest in STEM and robotics, I did everything I could to teach her and show her more about it. I invited her to join robotics clubs and convinced her to try out for the robotics team.
KAIA:My mother motivated and pushed me to do things outside of my comfort zone. She would always try and make me experiment with new things from a young age so that I would find something I would be able to pour my passion into. At first, I didn’t even like STEM or programming or anything of the sort. I just wanted to play with Legos and video games. But she gave me that push I needed that let me try something I never thought I could do.
Mother’s Day Card
The doctor & the marine biologist: Dr. Regina & Mia Berba
Regina and Mia aren’t just similar because of their rhyming names, as this mother-daughter duo are on the same boat when it comes to their STEM aspirations.
Dr. Regina is an Infectious Disease specialist and head of Philippine General Hospital’s Infection Control Unit. Meanwhile, Mia is currently finishing her undergraduate degree in Biology at the University of the Philippines Diliman, where she’s planning to become a marine biologist.
DR. REGINA: I finished high school at the Philippine Science High School so it felt like there was no other choice in life but to be in a Science track. As a student, I was always awed when I stumble onto understanding some concepts within the mysteries of life sciences- they seem to put everything else into perspective of life and just how beautifully they intertwine into the mysteries of God’s creations. So even when there was a choice- like when I was applying for UPCAT, there was no other course that interested me other than the science courses.
MIA: We had a lot of encyclopedias and Science books growing up. One literary series I remember fondly was “A Child’s First Library of Learning” by Time-Life Books. The series had books focusing on many topics in science but I would always go for the ones about the natural environment, especially animals. As I learned how to read better, I started to go through these books more thoroughly to understand exactly what those pictures and drawings represent. I believe I was naturally curious at a very young age, but it was through reading these kinds of books as a child that first sparked my interest in STEM, particularly in Life Sciences.
Supporting STEM daughters
DR. REGINA:When the kids were growing up, we parents naturally tried to expose them to as many things to see what would interest them—so things like musical instruments (piano), dancing (ballet), sports (football). I am glad she took into liking and loving the ocean when we signed them up to be junior divers and all the way to advanced divers. We try to support things she would like to try out for- like when she thought studying abroad would be something she wanted to do—then yes my dear child- you have my blessing!
MIA: While my mom has always done her best to support me, I think the most significant role she has played in my pursuit to becoming a scientist has been setting herself as an example on how to break the stereotype on women in STEM. To be honest, growing up with my mom as a physician, I never thought of my gender as a hindrance to achieving my STEM dreams, even when I was a child. STEM has always been a part of my life and in my family, I was never told to choose a career that was “more suitable” for women. Instead of gender, I grew up learning that the more important things to consider in choosing and pursuing a career in STEM is what I am passionate about, what my goals and plans are, and how much effort I’m willing to put to achieve my dreams. In fact, with passion and determination, women can not only pursue STEM but thrive in it as well.
Mother’s Day Card
The student and the master: Dra. Paulette & Sophia Villegas
Another entry in our inspiring mother-daughter MD tandem is Dra. Paulette Villegas, an obstetrician & gynecologist and her daughter, Sophia, a third year medical student in the UST Faculty of Medicine and Surgery.
Despite their professions being a pretty serious one, the duo both describe their own relationship as fun as they’re more of shopping buddies (sharing the same size clothes too) rather than study buddies! Nevertheless, Sophia took inspiration from her mom likewise following her passion and not pressuring her daughter to do the same, as it simply coincidentally led her to the same path.
Right now, Sophia aims to finish her studies and succeed in every doctor’s goal: “to help people and to save lives”—with her best friend/mom right by her side.
DRA. PAULETTE: I grew up with my father as a surgeon, and I saw how he was curing sick people and helping the poor. He inspired me to do likewise.
SOPHIA: My mom said so. Kidding! Science was always my favorite subject growing up, and it was something I was good at. Add that to the fact that my mom is a doctor too, so I saw a way to put my love for science to good use.
Supporting STEM daughters
DRA. PAULETTE:When [Sophia] was in high school, because she was always doing well in her science subjects, and she seemed to be enjoying it! If truth be told, I may have sparked the interest in her, but unlike other children of doctors, she did not need any convincing. She just did things by herself. It came naturally.
SOPHIA : I think for the most part, it was just watching her go about her job as a doctor. I would go to work with her as a kid and she would explain different cases and procedures to me, but aside from that, she just let me pursue this path on my own. She never really tutored me or helped me academically, she kinda just let me figure out what I was interested in–and it just so happened to be science, and ultimately, medicine.
Mother’s Day Card
Sister goals: Mama Madel & Joanna and Jella Carillo
Mama Madel is a member of the Research & Development team at the UL Skin Sciences, Inc. (ULSSI) group, as she’s been continuously expanding her role to a bigger Technical Team in the company.
Like their mother, Joanna and Jella Carillo (nope, they’re not twins!) are the cream of the crop in their own right. Joanna is studying to be a doctor as she’s currently a 6th year INTARMED student at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine (UPCM). The 7-year course is a special program exclusive for the top 20 UPCAT passers in the country. After finishing medicine proper, Joanna has her eyes on specializing in Surgery and Otorhinolaryngology (study of the ear, nose, and throat).
Jella is a Category Manager for food delivery app Foodpanda. She finished her Masters in Data Science and Business Analytics at ESSEC Business School in France. Equipped with her STEM skills, she hopes to be a leader in the Data Analytics field one day
MADEL:A big influence to my inclination in STEM was my grandma. She hung her children’s grad photos in our old family library and repeatedly told stories about how they were able to establish successful technical careers overseas from their humble beginnings. So as a kid, I said to myself that maybe someday, I can be like them, too.
JOANNA: I think we breathe math and science in the family. My parents taught me at an early age. Even before entering grade school, my older siblings were great role models for me, too. As the youngest, I witnessed them ace Math and Science contests, so I also studied hard in those subjects. When I got invited to join competitions as well, I felt so happy. My love for science was cultivated even more when I entered Philippine Science High School. During my stay there, I initially wanted to take up the same course as my mom’s, which is Chemical Engineering, but I later realized that my real love is the field of medicine.
JELLA: My interest in STEM started when I was in grade school. My parents were really hands-on with helping us study. That gave me and my siblings the boost we needed to excel in science and math and be further interested in these subjects. Encouragement from my family and from my teachers I believe, played a key part in sparking my interest in STEM. It also helped that my talents were nurtured from a very young age. Eventually, when I started working, my work involved more and more numbers, which I grew to be very comfortable handling.
Supporting STEM daughters
MADEL:Learning stimulates greater hunger for learning. What my husband and I did with our kids was to start the learning early. We started tickling their imagination when each of them turned 1 year old. As toddlers, we surrounded them with books and posters that stimulated their imagination on how things work. We had math games at home.
This eventually allowed them to join competitions that further increased their interest in Math and Science. Win or lose, we congratulated them for doing their best. In the case of my children, they were fortunate to get into Pisay. Aside from the scholarship, Pisay really nurtured their inclination in Science and Math. One thing we were careful about was not to compare our kids with each other. Although they are all good in Math and Science, every person is unique and we value that uniqueness. Now that they are mature enough (both in their early 20s), it is the other way around. I learn a lot from them more than they learn from me. It’s normal to hear medical jargons and show medical ebook photos over dinner.
JOANNA:My mom has been supportive of my dreams since day 1. I remember that she would tutor me almost everyday when I was in grade school—she was very hands-on during my formative years, and I believe that made a huge impact on me.
JELLA: [Mom] played a driving role. Without her, I would not have taken an interest in STEM in grade school. If not for her, I would not have gone to Philippine Science High School, which is also a pivotal point in my life that helped me pursue a STEM career path. She also sets a great example in her career, as my siblings and I have seen that the path that Mom has taken is a viable one and can lead to success with the right attitude and mindset.
Mother’s Day Card
Parents just aren’t our first teachers, they’re also our lifelong support systems when it comes to learning the ropes in the world—and there’s just something refreshing about seeing not one, but two women of STEM in a single family. Role models also have a huge impact in a girl’s STEM dreams—and it pays to have a mom who’s always one call away!
Whether or not you choose to carve out your own path or take inspiration from her, let’s all give our moms a big hug today for molding us into the women we are now!