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.
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.
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!
Within every girl is the power to turn the “I cans” to “I haves”. International Women’s Month may be over but we’re still here to lend some valuable ‘I CAN’ phrases to help us girls to not just bloom where you’re planted, but bloom where you belong.
The excitement and anticipation of discovering who you are and the kind of woman you want to be is one of the best parts of being a teen girl. After all, this is the moment where anything and everything can happen (No pressure, though!)
Though everyone’s journey is different, we’re here to lend some valuable ‘I CAN’ phrases to help girls not just bloom where you’re planted, but bloom where you belong.
I cancurate my social media POV
Social media may seem like a sprawling scary space, but the truth is we can have the power to curate what we actually want to see in our feeds. A timeline can become a safe space if you follow the interests you deem worthy and filter the negativities out. Who knows, you might slowly build your own advocacies and start your own initiatives!
So don’t be afraid to explore, there’s tons of communities out there that can connect girls to girls – like hey, Pinays Can STEM!
I caninvest in myself
Now more than ever is the best time to hone your skills! Whether it be in STEM or not, as a teenager, you have loads of time to try out new hobbies, find your tribe, and get to know what you really want.
Growing up is a series of trial and error anyway, so don’t be afraid to give your interests a shot! You’ll never know what can turn into a true calling.
I canbe financially aware
We get it, money’s not a particularly fun topic. People either treat it lightly or shy away from the conversation altogether. But for young girls, something as simple as learning about saving and budgeting can give you confidence for the future.
With as many as 51.2M Filipinos not having a savings account, it’s high time we start being smart with $$$, even if it’s just through being aware of where it goes right now.
P.S. Just a tip, maybe it’s time to show interest in your math subjects too! *wink*
I cantrust the process
Following your dreams will be a bumpy road, but you have to understand that nothing good ever comes easy. When in doubt, remember that there’s no need to compare your growth with others—we all have different paths at the end of the day.
As Nobel Prize-winning cytogeneticist Barbara McClintock puts it, “If you know you are on the right track, if you have this inner knowledge, then nobody can turn you off.”
I canaccomplish my dreams
As cliche as it may sound, we all know there’s a purpose inside of us just waiting to be discovered. Yet it’s not as simple as following your dreams, you have to consistently hustle and put in the work as you grow up.
Luckily, within each girl lies the dedication and determination to achieve anything they set their minds to—we just need to trust ourselves along the way.
There’s no blueprint on how to become your own person, but believing in your capabilities is the first step in finding who you are and what you’re meant to achieve. Though there may be odds stacked against women in the field now, the world is still depending on the new generation of teen girls to turn all the ‘I cans’ to ‘I haves’!
Here in Pinays Can STEM, we build every Pinay’s confidence in STEM while providing a platform for them to be the best version of themselves.
Have a story to share? Let’s celebrate together, because YOU CAN.
Submit to our A Life Well-Lived series, which is a monthly celebration of every Pinay’s journey in STEM. Grounded on UL Skin Science’s messaging “A Life Well-Lived”, we encourage women to live their best life by pursuing their dreams, no matter how big or small.
STEM doesn’t just happen in the confines of your room or inside a lab! We peek through the Field Notes of these STEM women on the field —and find out what happens right where the action is!
Through these past few months, we’ve gathered notable Pinays, (friendly) girl gangs, and SHS ates that can help us pave the way for our STEM journey. This time around, we’re sharing the spotlight with the women working right where the action is.
These longtime scientists, researchers, and everything-ists have been living the dream—and now, they’re sharing vital ‘field notes’ to us. Who knows? They could well be your mentors someday.
MPhil Textile Conservation postgraduate student, University of Glasgow
Gracile has been a longtime researcher at the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NCHP), involved in the conservation of tangible heritage in the country. Through her multidisciplinary work, she was able to recognize material and come up with conservation procedures on important artifacts like documents, books, clothes, artworks and furniture found in the 27 museums managed by NHCP. She is now a postgraduate student taking up MPhil Textile Conservation at the University of Glasgow.
Since then, cultural heritage conservation has been her calling. Besides her love for Science and Math, one of the reasons she pursued STEM was because of Philippine history! She strongly advocates for more STEM workers in the field to be able to help manage the country’s resources, address recurring problems, and eventually become truly self-sustaining.
Gracile’s Field Notes on becoming a multidisciplinary scientist
‘Conservation of tangible cultural heritage is multidisciplinary in nature—it cannot be classified as a purely artistic endeavor nor purely scientific because it considers the integrity of the material components a heritage object as well as its historic, artistic and cultural value. I get to work with people coming from different educational backgrounds and experiences, not only within NHCP but also in the communities we are serving.’
Gracile’s Field Notes on her early years
‘I realized that I should go beyond that if I really want to become a good conservation science researcher. For example, if you want to study a painting, it helps if you know how to paint and are familiar with materials used by painters. If you want to document and assess the condition of a vintage terno, you would less likely miss the most important details if you are familiar with garment construction. Until now, I have been taking every opportunity to improve my artistic skills and learn new crafting techniques that might help me in research and conservation work.’
Aiko del Rosario
Marine Scientist, UP MSI Physical Oceanography Laboratory
Aiko is a champ in the field of physical oceanography, as she analyzes the ever-changing physical attributes of the ocean (‘swirls and blobs’ she describes) using satellite data, oceanographic equipment, and high-frequency radars.
She frequently visits the Cagayan coasts for field work, maintaining two radars in monitoring the ocean currents of the Luzon Strait located between Taiwan and the Philippine islands.
Aiko’s Field Notes on being confident on the job
‘I did my first fieldwork [in] February 2018. [We] had to scour the coasts of Cagayan to find a good spot for our ocean monitoring site. Rain or shine, we walked along the coasts of different barangays. I used to fear talking to people I do not know.’
‘These days, I now have a go-bag with a week’s worth of fieldwork clothes in case we need to go to the field to troubleshoot our sites. I am also already used to the locals now and I love every chance I get to talk to them about the science behind the work we do. I also now have a mental map of the place, most of it are places where we get to taste local delicacies!’
Aiko’s Field Notes on the best part of being on the field
‘Doing fieldwork means you have to think on your toes and be present most of the time. We had to make decisions and think of solutions on the spot. One time, we had to lay 500 meters of heavy electrical cable under muddy soil. We did not have a vehicle to pull all of that, so we made a “Pajero”. Basically, we used a carabao with a cart at the back to lay the cables. We also have to be weatherproof. Rain or shine. Day or night.’
Sarah is a Geophysicist who achieved her PhD at Tulane University in Louisiana. She pursued the field because it was a ‘marriage’ of her two favorite fields: Physics and the Earth.
Before she heads on site, Sarah first does most of her work in front of the computer, detecting and extracting earthquake waves using waveform analysis. When she is needed on the field, she’s in charge of installing and maintaining seismometers so they can accurately record incoming earthquakes. She’s since done fieldwork in Tanzania, Kenya, Ecuador, and Galápagos.
Sarah’s Field Notes on doing field work in a different country
‘I was a first year PhD student and new to the US. It all happened so fast and I had to learn most things on the spot in the field. I remember I did not even have the proper gear and they had to drive me over to Walmart to buy some gloves and an extra pair of non-jeans pants. We stayed in a small town and every morning we had to drive a few hours to the middle-of-nowhere where there was nothing but farmland for miles and miles.’
‘Within those few days, I met a lot of interesting people, including many chatty folks. Overall, those few days of fieldwork made quite an impact to me, in terms of learning actual hands-on fieldwork but also in getting to know a bit more of the country I was in. If it hadn’t been for that experience, succeeding fieldwork travels might have turned out different.’
Sarah’s Field Notes on her biggest inspiration
‘The largest contributing factors to my pursuit of STEM are my supportive parents and teachers throughout the years. Thanks to them, my environment growing up was conducive to curiosity-driven pursuits and science. I had volumes of illustrated science books and encyclopedias at home. For some time, my dad grilled me regularly with tedious, repetitive, math exercises until I could quickly do calculations in my head (I did not enjoy those, but I benefited greatly from them).’
‘This might sound trivial to some, but in the simplest sense, one important contributing factor to my pursuit of STEM is that nobody told me I couldn’t.’
She adds, ‘Surround yourself with supportive like-minded people. Reach out to local STEM people that inspire you, they might become your mentor and guide you through your own career. Approach us. We were once novices like you and most of us would jump at an opportunity to help you make an informed decision on whether or not to pursue our field as a career. Ask. Ask questions. Ask for help. Communicate.’
Dr. Aimee Dupo
Entomologist & professor at the Institute of Biological Science, UPLB
Dr. Aimee is an entomologist who graduated in Agriculture, majoring in Entomology, from UPLB back in 1999. She now serves as professor at UPLB, as her work in the classification of insect life earned her the 2015 NAST Outstanding Young Scientist award and the 2017 Bato Balani Many Faces of a Teacher Award.
She started her fieldwork when she served as the University Extension Associate of the UPLB Museum of Natural History, curating samples of spiders and moths for the gallery. With fieldwork being her position’s norm, she shares that there were quite a few days when I was not out on the field.’
Dr. Aimee’s Field Notes on the freedom of field work
‘Going on field always feels like an adventure. You would never know what you are going to discover next. All of your senses are exposed to so many stimuli but at the same time you are also worried about what would happen in case of an accident. Fieldwork tends to bring you to places where hospitals are far away.’
Dr. Aimee’s Field Notes on the power of mentors
‘I had a lot of mentors and colleagues who helped create and enable [the] environment for me to pursue STEM. They pushed and encouraged me to do more because they were that supportive. There were no words like, “You can’t do that,” only, “Try and see what you can learn from it.” More importantly, there was no mention of the concept, “You’re just a girl.”’
Noreen “Kubi” Follosco
Coastal Systems researcher, Marine Environment & Resources Foundation, UP Diliman
Noreen is a researcher working on the resilience of local coastal adaptation, marine protected areas, and ecosystem services in the Philippines. She mostly works as a trainer, developing resources and building capacity on climate change adaptation for coastal communities.
She studied Biology at the University of the Philippines Baguio for her undergraduate degree, and Environmental Science at the Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology at the University of the Philippines Diliman for her master’s.
Noreen’s Field Notes on changing roles on site
‘When I began doing fieldwork, it was mostly for biophysical surveys. For example, I’ve joined surveys for both upland, as well as mangrove, forests. The surveys in mangroves were to better understand how they stabilize the coast, and protect coastal communities.’
‘Over the years, my work transformed into communicating, and finding ways to apply science meaningfully in conservation & management. So, I found myself interacting more with local governments and communities, rather than being in the water (or the mud, as is often the case in mangroves).’
‘I always look forward to what I can learn in the field. Spending time in coastal and fisher communities is an instructive and humbling experience—I’m reminded that I actually know so little. We have much to learn from indigenous and local knowledge.’
Noreen’s Field Notes on the goal of the job
‘In my work, one of the challenges is effectively translating technical information for practical use. A key aim of our work is to transfer knowledge generated through scientific research to settings where people are directly interacting with their environment. My ultimate goal is to build capacity so effectively that the coastal communities (we’ve worked with) can self-sustain, and are empowered to continue sharing the knowledge forward themselves.’
Irene is a jill of all trades in the STEM world, as she’s hailed from the different fields of Physics, Geology, then Geoecology. While attending a workshop on weather radars, she said to herself: “This is it! This is what I want to do.”
Since then, Irene has been in the US focusing on studying the rainfall-measuring instruments called weather radars. She researches the data that weather radars collect, and develops possibilities to reduce errors in measurement and interpretation. Her postdoctoral project involves looking at strong winter storms in the West Coast.
Irene’s Field Notes on the rush of being on site
‘Doing a masters in Geology introduced me to doing fieldworks. It was incredibly exciting, going to different places and being able to physically touch the things I’m studying in their natural location. As a young student then, the added bonus of traveling to obscure locations that I would not have otherwise reached gave a big sense of adventure.’
‘On top of that, I had good company with my labmates. Doing fieldwork with other people forms bonds with them, as you see each other in various modes of being human—from the work mode in planning and coordinating, to seeing each other exhausted from walking all day and carrying rocks or water samples, to knowing what they are like when you’re all hungry and stinky after a long day of work.’
Irene’s Field Notes on fieldwork’s little learnings
‘No two fieldworks are the same. Even if you’re going to the same location twice, to collect the same data (whether it’s rocks, soil, water, temperature), the environment is always changing because nature is unpredictable. But all these challenges also teach you how to adapt to different situations. It teaches you how to be flexible, and to think fast and make quick decisions, and knowing the priority of the group (for example, safety).’
Dr. Deborah is an experienced Geologist with expertise in micropaleontology, biogeochemistry, and paleoclimatology. Her work literally goes way back, as she studies the tiniest of Earth’s fossils to get history’s answers on today’s climate crisis.
Under the University of the Philippine’s National Institute of Geological Sciences, most of her fieldwork happened on land. Later on, she focused on studying marine sediment cores in places like Bohol, Sulu, the Sibuyan sea, and even the Pacific Ocean. With a geologist’s laboratory essentially being “the Earth”, Deborah has literally done her work across the border.
Deborah’s Field Notes on the country’s STEM challenges
‘Of course, there’s always the problem of limited funding allotted for research, or science in general—in the Philippines. When I went abroad for my Ph.D. and eventually for Post Docs, there were a lot of funding grants and opportunities but competition is too high. It’s difficult when you are just beginning to establish a “home” in one place and then realize that you have to move out again. Well, with a lot of opportunities for scientists here, I was never afraid to try anything.’
Deborah’s Field Notes on the thrill of exploring
‘There are a number of exciting parts to being a geologist, especially with my field of specialization: I get to travel to places I never imagine I could ever go to. I have travelled to many Philippine provinces, a number of countries, and oceans. A memorable one was the equator crossing when we were sailing in the Pacific Ocean. Research expeditions at sea for several weeks or months have allowed me to meet and work with fantastic people and scientists onboard, some of them became my mentors and collaborators in my future research endeavors.’
She adds, ‘One example is how I got my Ph.D. position in Germany. I was half-way down my MS degree program when I met this scientist whose papers I’ve been reading for a while. Several months past and I was set that I wanted him to be my Ph.D. supervisor so I wrote an email asking him if by any chance, there will be an open Ph.D. position in his university. He gave me advice and reminded me that even if he already “wanted” me for the position, I still need to convince the other members of the panel that I deserve the position. I got the position.
You cannot work alone. Collaboration and networking are key components of doing science.’
It’s not everyday that we can take a peek into the field notes of our idols, but if their notes could talk, they’d likely say that though every field of work will be difficult, following your passion requires love and passion that just comes easy.
Throughout history, women have long been cast in the shadows of their male counterparts—and the same can be said for our Filipina STEM pioneers. Even though we might not know them by name (yet), they’ve undoubtedly paved the way in introducing women in spaces that were once taken up by the men.
Like any worthy superhero, we’re here to get to know their awe-inspiring origin stories—and what we can learn from our STEM founding mothers.
Fe del Mundo, PhD
You might have heard of Fe from her 107th birthday Google Doodle back in 2019. Aside from that, Fe left behind a groundbreaking legacy as the first woman student in Harvard Medical School and first Filipina awarded as a National Scientist.
Also known as ‘The Angel of Santo Tomas’, Dr. Del Mundo spent her life taking care of children, as she founded the first pediatric hospital in the country and established the Institute of Maternal and Child Health.
Dr. Angelita Castro-Kelly
Angelita was first NASA’s first woman physicist—proudly called as MOM, for Missions Operations Manager. She worked in the bureau’s Earth Observing System (EOS) project back in the 1990’s, where she developed overall mission concepts and worked with spacecraft and ground system developers to successfully accomplish NASA missions from Earth.
“I’m the first woman MOM, so I cracked the glass ceiling. Before me, all the MOMs were men,’ she once said. Talk about being everyone’s MOM.
Fritzie Arce-McShane, PhD
Fritzie is a systems neuroscientist and was one of the first Filipina to be granted with not one, but two National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants. She was granted almost $9 billion to enhance human life with her two projects “The neural basis of touch and proprioception in the orofacial sensorimotor cortex”and“The disambiguating natural aging from Alzheimer’s disease through changes in oral neuromechanics”.
An academic through and through, she now serves as a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago, where she also achieved her fellowship back in 2015.
Jenny Anne Barretto, PhD
In 2019, Jenny and two other scientists discovered the largest caldera (volcanic crater) in the world located in the Philippine Rise. With a diameter of 150 km, the newly-discovered Caldera countered USA’s 60 km Yellowstone Caldera.
Taking to her Pinoy roots, Jenny and her fellow researchers dubbed their discovery as “Apolaki Caldera” after Apolaki, the Filipino mythical god of the sun and war.
Dr. Carla Dimalanta
Carla is the country’s sole woman Exploration Geophysicist with a Doctoral Degree. Her contributions in climate change and disaster risk reduction have been implemented in the UP General Education curriculum, with all of the university’s students learning about her and her life’s work.
She was also one of the ten recipients of 2019’s Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Filipinos. She now serves as an Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs (Research) at the UP System.
Aletta Yñiguez, PhD
Aletta is a marine biologist who spearheaded the development of the first integrated biophysical models for harmful algal blooms (HAB) in the Philippines. Her research aimed to make computer models to help local communities avoid red tide.
Aletta’s long-term goal is to introduce automated oceanography techniques and real-time models for decision-support systems to create sustainable fisheries in the Philippines. She now works at the UP Marine Science Institute to do just that.
Although their journey might sound daunting, their STEM journeys likely weren’t so different from the rest of us. Thanks to their dedication, grit, and perseverance, we likely wouldn’t be where we are now without these superheroes. And just like them, we too can achieve anything we put our minds to.
With the holidays fast approaching, the “new year, new me” mentality is getting stronger each day. Though this Christmas season being a clear change from the past, the goals we’ve kept throughout the year still remain.
One of the most vital ongoing objectives for STEM girls comes from the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to achieve gender equality and women empowerment—a long-time plan that has yet to come to fruition for worldwide girls in academia.
Despite gender gaps being an ever-present problem in and out of school, what we need is a cultural shift to get the ball rolling—a change that doesn’t just happen overnight.
We took some notes from theconversation.com‘s 5-part ‘S.T.A.R.T.’ plan in achieving STEM media diversity and adapted the cause to start the movement on fighting gender norms in our own schools.
First and foremost, we need to be active in introducing the idea of a stable support system at home. Even if we aren’t in the educational field, being supportive of the girls in our own family will instill the idea that they have control of what career they want.
Being actively aware of gender bias is no easy task! More often than not, internalized misogyny has made most see girls as lesser than boys. We shouldn’t be afraid not just to call out, but more so correct when these stereotypes appear—for all genders and ages.
After looking out for each other, we can then maximize the impact of STEM girl empowerment by learning laws and initiatives in place that empower them. One of these ongoing jurisdictions is the Magna Carta of Women (Republic Act No. 9710), which seeks to eliminate gender discrimination by protecting, fulfilling, and promoting the rights of Filipino women. Yes, we have actual laws for our progress!
With the schools serving as one of the first breeding grounds of creating stereotypes among genders, the European Institute of Gender Equality proposes schools to develop a Gender Equality Plan (GEP) to identify and remove gender bias in their curricula. Though this may sound like a pipe dream in the Philippines, we can reinforce our own GEPs by being proactive in school board discussions and opening the topic with those in power.
Lastly, we have to remember that anyone fighting for gender equality is in it for the long haul. No matter how progressive or prepared we are, bias tends to accidentally infiltrate some forms of thinking —and that’s normal. We need to check up on ourselves and remember that though we have no choice in how we were raised, we have the power now to shift the conversation for the future.
As we enjoy the holidays to reboot, let’s not forget how the next years will go once we START the changes we want to see now. There’s no better present than the gift of access, by giving STEM girls a future where they’re given the same opportunities and moral support as boys. So we can finally say through each year: “New year, stronger us.”
Let’s face it, school is hard enough right now. As the pandemic adds more pressure to students, it can be extra challenging to pursue one’s dream course and path. With boys still outnumbering girls in STEM courses, this doubles the legitimate threat of a lack of female representation in the future of STEM.
We paired up with some study buddies from non-profit org Kababaihan Para Sa Siyénsiyá (@siyensiya.ph) to take us through their personal STEM syllabus—and their testimonies for the students today, scientists tomorrow.
‘You don’t have to always be 100% sure’
As early as Grade 7, Bree knew she wanted to take up STEM. Aside from focusing on school, the idea that STEM can be used to better the lives of so many people keeps Bree going. Her ultimate goal is to make STEM “for the people”.
Bree in Action
‘Nothing is challenging when you’re passionate’
Denabea started her love for STEM through Mathematics. The decisiveness of computations and numbers has always been ‘satisfying’ to the young Thomasian. Now beginning to take a keen interest in Biology, Denabea plans to be a doctor in the future.
Dena in Action
‘Do not let that fear take over you’
On the cusp of her STEM journey, Feaid has taken a multitude of electives (from Agriculture to Computer Science) to prepare herself for her dream course of Agricultural Chemistry. She understands that everything happening in the world such as the African Swine Fever, Taal Volcano eruption, and COVID-19 pandemic require more people up for the challenge.
Feaid in Action
‘Always make sure you create for good’
Jammy is lucky enough to be surrounded by family who are in the STEM field. With an inkling for Mathematics, she decided to join after-school classes and various competitions to prepare herself for high school STEM subjects. After landing an internship with a local pharmaceutical company, Jammy now wants to take up chemical engineering to improve the country’s healthcare industry and bring accessible healthcare to all Filipinos.
Jammy in Action
‘In STEM, learning does not stop’
As a Medical Laboratory student, Kyla’s first memory of STEM was back in 6th Grade when they learned about the different body systems. Skipping ahead to the future lessons, she soon filled her textbook with her own notes and highlights. A turning point in Kyla’s journey was actually seeing a specimen slide during one of her Biology classes, where she realized that there’s more to life (and STEM) than visible to the naked eye.
Sofia in Action
‘There will be a sense of fulfilment’
As a current Physical Therapy student, Laysa has always wanted to be a doctor. Even though the end goal has always been clear, Laysa has discovered lessons about the world that’s gone beyond her expectations. If she could describe her STEM journey in one word, it would be ’electrifying’.
Laysa in Action
‘Open your eyes to reality’
Before taking up BS Biology major in Medical Biology, the STEM ‘adventures’ sparked Katrina’s interest in the field. From 8th grade science investigatory projects (SIPs) to representing her region in Marikina and Baguio during DepEd science fairs, stepping outside of her comfort zone continues to push Katrina to her goals.
Katrina in Action
Even with the differentiating curricula in each school and year level, it’s clear that learning about STEM extends well beyond the classroom walls. Though SHS only serves as a stepping stone in a woman’s STEM journey, this initial impact undoubtedly sets the tone for the Class of 2020 and beyond!