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!
Today, October 11, gather your tribe and celebrate the International Day of the Girl. With young Pinays being taught that STEM is ‘for boys’ or worse, girls are ‘less smart’ than their male counterparts as early as 10 years old, we need the next generation of girls to own their voices now more than ever.
With this year’s theme of “My Voice, Our Equal Future”, a change of narrative has never been more vital—and it starts with shining the spotlight on homegrown girls turned STEM Women. We caught up with 6 Pinays carving their own path—and their message to girls today and for every day.
Chiara Ledesma, The Tech Wiz
Chiara (@chiaraled) is a Machine Learning Researcher at Thinking Machines. She graduated from Ateneo de Manila University with a degree in Computer Science, where she was one of the 73 chosen students for the Google Women in Tech scholarship and beat out 25,000 applicants across South East Asia.
STEM SPARK: Chiara’s STEM turning point was from talking to a fellow STEM girl during a retreat. A Vietnamese grad student shared with Chiara her passion for machine learning after finishing just one online course. Numerous sources of inspiration had come to her since then, but simply discussing plans with a fellow STEM girl served as the biggest push forward.
How do you envision the future of women in STEM in the Philippines? When I was in high school, no one in my batch was including technology courses in their career discernment. We had very little opportunities to get exposed and to develop relevant skills, so in the future I hope that STEM-related courses will get as much attention as other courses without it seeming too intimidating.
What is your message for our young Pinays in STEM? Don’t let yourself believe that you have to be naturally gifted at math or science to excel at STEM. Nobody is born knowing how to multiply matrices. It won’t be a smooth ride, but you’ll find that a bumpy one has much more learning to offer.
Audrey Pe, The Teen CEO
Audrey (@audreyisabelpe) is the CEO and Founder of the nonprofit organization WiTech (Women in Tech) which she started at only 15. The initiative has since impacted over 1,200 young Filipinos through the first women in tech conference back in 2018, tech literacy programs in public schools, a career roadshow on closing the gender gap, blog stories on women in tech role models, and more.
STEM SPARK: Audrey got fascinated with tech when her elementary Computer teacher strayed from the syllabus and taught them simple coding. This was the first time that she learned that websites were made of lines of code—as just a slight tweak from the country’s typical curriculum could leave a massive impact in a STEM girl’s journey.
How do you envision the future of women in STEM in the Philippines? I am motivated by a future where all youth, especially in developing countries like the Philippines, have access to technology and can use it to help solve problems within their own communities. Now more than ever, we are seeing how the digital divide limits students’ access to educate in light of school closures. The inability for many schools to not transition online due to not having access to the internet is a barrier for many students reaching their full academic potential. I work towards a future where tech isn’t a barrier, but instead a tool to help contribute to one’s society and achieve an education that everyone has a right to.
What is your message for our young Pinays in STEM? At WiTech, we believe that helping eliminate gender inequality and tech inaccessibility work hand-in-hand. To us, equality in the tech industry isn’t just 50/50 representation but also ensuring that those in tech represent more than just the upper class. We believe that diversity should come in the form of increased opportunities for all gender and socioeconomic strands so that tech turns into a right instead of a privilege.
Bee Leung, The Forecaster
Bee (@thegobidesert) is pursuing her Master’s degree in Atmospheric Sciences at Colorado State University. Her course uses computer models, field campaigns, and satellites to better understand how clouds are formed. Bee plans to bring her studies to the local scale by discovering how pollution and human-made changes affect the Philippines’ humid environment.
STEM SPARK: Bee’s love for STEM blossomed when she started focusing on improving the lives of the marginalized sector through her work. She first executed projects measuring the exposure of jeepney drivers to air pollution and quantifying how Filipino farmers will become more vulnerable to heat stroke.
How do you envision the future of women in STEM in the Philippines? I think a lot of it comes down to the details of how we run our organizations and research labs: making sure that people can have enough time to care for their families and other people in their lives, that the workplace and the laboratory are safe places with accommodations for people’s differing needs, that work is being distributed equally and equitably, that everyone is getting the chance to share their ideas and learn from one another.
And of course, I hope that by looking out for one another as we build that kind of positive scientific community, I also hope that Filipina scientists (and all scientists, really) can remember to look out for others and let our compassion fuel the work that we do.
What is your message for our young Pinays in STEM? I hope you know that you belong here as much as anyone else! Honestly, that’s still something that I have to tell myself too, so it’s okay to feel insecure or like an impostor. I don’t know if that feeling ever goes away, but based on conversations with mentors and other scientists over the years, I don’t think it does, and that’s okay. If you want to go into STEM and you love what you do, then go for it! Science is for everyone.
Hillary Diane Andales, The Space Explorer
Hillary (hillaron.com) started on the map after she won the Breakthrough Junior Challenge in 2017. She soon founded the regional science camp Science Innovations Bootcamp. Now at 21, Hillary studies physics (with minors in astronomy and philosophy) at MIT and regularly holds talks as a science communicator. She has a personal mission to make students ‘excited – instead of intimidated’ of STEM.
STEM SPARK: Hillary’s started out when she was just 5 years old after reading an astronomy book that was as tall as she was and completely ‘blew her mind.’ Hillary became even more fascinated with space through the years: jumping from her dream of becoming an astronomer to a now-budding astrophysicist.
How do you envision the future of women in STEM in the Philippines? I envision a future where women scientists can just be scientists — period. I hope for a future without a gender gap, a future where it’s no longer news when a woman wins a Nobel Prize. For the Philippines specifically, I just hope that the government provides enough support (more research funding, less delay due to bureaucracy, better leadership, and so on) for our Filipino scientists.
What is your message for our young Pinays in STEM? For young Pinays in STEM, keep dreaming big! Do not let anything limit your dreams. Use the internet and social media to find inspiration, and then take those as fuel for your dreams. Also, as I always say, do not be afraid of failure. When you fail, you don’t really fail. You only learn.
Anne Brigitte Lim, Solar Energy Extraordinaire
Brigitte is a solar energy engineer who completed her masters from Arizona State University. She won the UN’s 2017 Geneva Challenge competition for her team’s Solar N3E invention that aimed to boost employment in the country by training workers in the solar energy field.
She’s currently working with the UN on the project “DREAMS” (Development for Renewable Energy Application Mainstreaming and Market Sustainability.) Due to the pandemic, Brigitte is also taking online classes for her Master’s program in Environment and Sustainability at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada. STEM SPARK: Bridgette gained further interest in the renewable energy industry when she realized that almost everything in society, from food production to vehicle power, relies on a stable and longstanding energy supply.
How do you envision the future of women in STEM in the Philippines? Right now, most jobs in STEM in the country pay very little, so I would like women in STEM not only to show authorities and the public what they can do to solve societies’ problems (to make life more convenient), but I would also like women in STEM to advocate for more government support in funding innovation, and for public and private institutions to give better pay and benefits.
What is your message for our young Pinays in STEM? If you are passionate about STEM but don’t find the right opportunities to pursue STEM in the Philippines, don’t give up on your passion. There are opportunities everywhere in the world, find it and go for it, because STEM has a way of benefitting all of humanity, no matter where you do it.
Tara Abrina, The Little Mermaid
Tara (@taraabrina) is an environmental economic researcher and founder of the Kapit Sisid project for marine conservation. After graduating from University of the Philippines’ with a Master’s in Development Economics, Tara now works with UP CIDS in studying marine conservation and development trajectory of the country’s coastal communities.
STEM SPARK: As a diver, Tara first fell in love with the ocean. She then dived into STEM after discovering that marine conservation is more about engaging and encouraging people than it is about ‘counting fish’.
How do you envision the future of women in STEM in the Philippines? I know there’s still much to be done for feminism in our society, but in terms of rankings, we have consistently been in the World Economic Forum’s top ten list of most gender-equal countries in the world for the past decade. If only the same support system privileged to me were available to every young woman in every STEM field out there, I’d say we’d most likely be the most gender-equal STEM sector in the world.
What is your message for our young Pinays in STEM? The Philippines is and always has been a rich, diverse, and multicultural country. To limit our view of what we consider as science discredits much of our peers and ninúno. Fishers who read tides and currents, women who adjust their marketing strategies according to the suki visiting them that day, and indigenous engineering practices—these are all STEM. Even art and design for me is an important aspect of STEM, for example with data visualization or functional aesthetics, and the reason why STEAM to include the arts is a widely accepted and evolved version of STEM.
There are always going to be questions and problems, and many of them can be answered with methods that we apply from STEAM. Learn from everyone and everything, and then use what you learn to always, always serve the people.
From 15-year old founders to long-time environmental advocates, these girls prove that we don’t need a separate holiday to empower ourselves—we just have to be consistent in empowering our girls.
The UN predicts that there are now over 1.1 billion girls all over the world. If given the right kind of access and support—that’s 1.1 billion new ways to change the world.
As we celebrate every girl’s skills, capabilities, and dreams, we continue to bridge the STEM gender gap and provide platforms that could inform, inspire, and motivate young girls to pursue STEM. The lack of female role models, prevailing gender stereotypes, and the underrepresentation of women professionals in STEM discourage young Pinays to pursue the STEM track.
With only ¼ of our national scientists as females, and a declining number of female STEM graduates in the country, we put to spotlight notable Pinays and their breakthroughs in the field of STEM.
For our first Pinay of the Month, we feature Ea Tulin, a first year PhD student in Applied Biological Chemistry at the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology. Her research is focused on investigating glycan formation in the central nervous system. She is also a faculty of the Department of Biotechnology in the Visayas State University.
Growing up in Leyte province, Ea did not have many opportunities to be exposed to other Filipino scientists and programs. At a young age, she understood the reality that the media and private companies would invest more and prioritize Manila-based programs. It was only with her parents’ influence and support from high school and elementary teachers that she grew to love science. This also cultivated her fascination with medical research, biology, diseases, and the brain.
From falling in love with the word “molecular biology” to eventually pursuing biological chemistry in her doctoral degree, Ea shares with us her journey in STEM.
What made you decide to pursue science in particular?
Both my parents are scientists. My dad is a biochemist while my mom is a soil scientist. My first experiment was making antibacterial soap with my dad using flowers near my school for an elementary science fair. We won first place. It was definitely a way for me and my dad to bond and my mom was also very supportive, so it wasn’t hard to fall in love with the field. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always loved working in the lab and doing research. This, along with growing up with the influence of my parents within the (Visayas State) University are the reasons why I decided to pursue STEM.
Why do you think that confidence in STEM is important for our Pinays?
Confidence is important to give us a head start and visibility. I believe a lot of Filipino women are confident, yet they still seem to burn out. I think confidence combined with focus, grit, and kindness, are important and will help us move forward as Pinays in STEM. Collaboration is key, and in a field where everyone is smart, we stand-out by having a good attitude.
How can we get Pinay students interested in STEM while at home?
Social media is a good way to attract Pinay students! There are many pages that feature women from all over the world doing STEM: Pinoy Scientists (for Filipinos in STEM), Women Doing Science, Women Transforming Science, 1MWIS (1 million women in STEM), and similarly pages of women scientists talking about their lab lives online. Instagram was a great avenue for me to meet all these women (virtually) while at home!
How do you envision the future of women in STEM in the Philippines?
There is a lot of untapped potential in the Philippines and this can be harnessed with proper support from the government, collaboration between universities, and a joint effort between private companies and universities. This is the goal. With movements that push women to be empowered in STEM and Philippines being one of the highest in Asia when it comes to gender equality, I believe women in STEM will continue to rise in number, assume higher institutional positions, and be a key contributor to the realization of this goal.
“If you feel like STEM is something you would like to pursue, go for it! Find a role model or be your own.”
– Ea Tulin
Diversity broadens the pool of knowledge and expertise in STEM and other related fields. Past generations have worked towards creating platforms and increasing visibility for more women in STEM, and even until today, we strive to break barriers to encourage more young Pinays to pursue STEM tracks and careers.
Tune in as we continue to build a community of STEM Pinays. Next month, we feature STEM Pinays in the fields of mathematics, technology, astrophysics, and marine sciences.
With the major shift to online classes, teachers and students alike have been finding ways to adapt to distance learning. This setup offers a wide range of teaching modalities, but online education in the Philippines is not without its limitations. From unreliable internet connectivity to the lack of digital resources, the task of teachers and educators has become more challenging as they strive to provide meaningful learning experiences for their students amidst the pandemic.
While online education could be overwhelming, teaching in a virtual classroom allows educational institutions to re-examine and innovate ways to transform the Philippine educational system. In more ways than one, teachers address educational challenges through creative solutions and systems innovation which, at its core, is the very nature of STEM education. From incorporating synchronous and asynchronous modules into online activities to designing digital-based laboratory or experiential learning, STEM educators are continuously exploring new teaching methods.
Here are some the ways you can effectively teach STEM even during the pandemic and some inspiring words for our Pinays:
Reinvent the way you teach STEM
Doc Sher Monterola of Center for Integrated STEM Education (CISTEM) shared how STEM teaches us to stay curious, to understand patterns, and to recover from failed experiments. Beyond just the knowledge, the multidimensionality of STEM molds learners’ skills, literacies, and socio-emotional intelligence towards lifelong holistic education. In the UP College of Education, teachers have been offered webinars or capacity-building sessions and innovation workshops to become better equipped to teach STEM online. As part of the college’s Education Resilience and Learning Continuity plan, educators gain various insights and perspectives on remote distance learning.
Introduce your students to STEM Role Models
Filipina role models and supportive educators pave the way for young girls to gain confidence and conviction in their chosen study and career paths. Teacher Winnie Diola talked about the importance of transforming lessons into relevant and meaningful content that allows for students to relate their lessons to their current contexts. By sharing stories of success and allowing students to experience hands-on activities that involve the work of successful Pinays in STEM, young girls feel a sense of belonging and gain more interest in STEM.
Provide your students with STEM opportunities
Teacher Milet Estidola believes that exposing young girls to STEM contributes greatly to their aspirations. As a Physics teacher, she ensures that online class activities are designed to encourage student-to-student and teacher-to-student interaction, but more so, to develop young girls’ problem solving skills that put to light the significance of STEM in addressing society’s problems in the areas of Medicine, Research, Engineering, and even in Economics.
Build and nurture STEM learning spaces
At Culiat Elementary School, Teacher Sabs Ongkiko shared that the free Facebook messenger feature has become a viable option to converse with students and maintain close relationships with their students’ families. Strengthening faculty and student support with the help of local government agencies and organizations has proven to be effective in aiding educators as they provide a holistic learning experience for their students, but also in fostering students’ learning support systems. Young girls appreciate STEM best when it is meaningful to them, and starting this experience at home is vital to their STEM journey.
In the new normal, the role of STEM educators and fellow STEM Pinays is ever-amplified as they inspire young girls not only to pursue STEM but also to be more confident in their chosen study and career paths. Teachers have a crucial role in building a community of learners and this entails cultivating curiosity and an innovation mindset and encouraging students to inquire and brainstorm ideas as they eventually learn to contribute in addressing problems of today.
Dr. Sher Monterola is the Executive Director of the Center for Integrated STEM Education (CISTEM, Inc.) and is currently a professor in the UP Diliman College of Education. Ms. Sabs Ongkiko is a Science teacher in the Culiat Elementary School. Ms. Winnie Diola and Ms. Milet Estidola are both Science teachers at the De La Salle Santiago Zobel school.
To celebrate every Pinay’s skills, capabilities, and dreams.
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.
The lack of female role models, prevailing gender stereotypes, and the underrepresentation of women professionals in STEM discourage young Pinays to pursue the STEM track. In fact, only about 1/3 of STEM graduates in the country are females, and studies show that even less work in the STEM field.
Founded on the belief that all Pinays are able to create life-changing breakthroughs while reimagining a better life for the nation, it is the campaign’s vision to build a community of STEM Pinays believing in their own capabilities by featuring Filipinas in the fields of medicine, technology, engineering, psychology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, astronomy, and marine sciences to name a few.
Within just a month of its launch, Pinays Can STEM has reached over 50,000 audiences on their site and envisions to engage more students to pursue the STEM track. Breaking barriers and defying gender perceptions, the campaign provides insightful infographics, interactive quizzes, local and international inventions and achievements, and opportunities for all young Pinays.