Women in STEM: an alumni panel hosted by the Women’s Empowerment CCC

Women in STEM blog

This year a number of new and exciting Catholic Community Cohorts have been providing welcome extracurricular interaction for SHC students.

The Women’s Empowerment CCC, led by science teacher and Associate Director for Community Life Sherie Lo Giudice ’06, recently connected with alumni in order to host a Women in STEM panel via Zoom.

Panelists included Stacie Solt ’99, Emergency Medicine and Urgent Care Physician at San Mateo, Katherine Pasalo ’15, Data Science Engineer at Pattern ai, Maddy Lee ’13, Geospatial Analyst at Kachemak Geospatial, and Ms. Lo Giudice herself, who before returning to teach at SHC worked as Director of Clinical Research for the SF Giants.

Facilitated by student leader Adilen Klink ’20, panelists answered questions from the group on topics such as how they chose their careers, how easy it was to get a job out of college, how their choice of schools affected their careers, and any advice they may have for current high school students interested in pursuing a career in STEM.

Many panelists highlighted the importance of teachers they had had in high school. Solt credits her sophomore year biology teacher’s for planting the seed of working in medicine. Pasalo felt supported by math teachers starting in middle school, and was encouraged to pursue computer science when applying to colleges. Lee credits playing volleyball for her drive, and being president of Earth Action for opening her up to environmental science, which in turn brought her to computer science for what it could do to help achieve her goals.

On her career choice, Pasalo noted: “I’m a very logical and structured thinker, so when I apply these skills it’s like solving a puzzle.” She went on to emphasize that it was her personal motivation to find work she was passionate about that pushed her to learn to code and study data science on her own, after getting what felt like a more theoretical degree from UC Riverside, enabling her to move closer to what she truly wanted to do.

Lee implied that part of her journey was dependent on chance, and the benefit of living in the Bay Area and getting placed in a large tech company. But she also felt that choosing Colorado College, a liberal arts school that taught in longer learning blocks, worked very well for her, as it provided “lots of opportunity for applied learning and (experiential learning), literally taking binocs out and learning birds…”

Lo Giudice emphasized that gaining experience as a physician’s assistant while working towards her degree led to the realization that she wanted a different quality of life, which in turn brought her to an exciting opportunity in sports medicine with the Giants, and eventually back to her love of students, biology, sports and the rhythm and community of a teaching lifestyle at SHC.

Students were very interested to know what it was like to be a woman in male dominated fields. Solt pointed out that there are more women in medicine, even emergency medicine, than ever before, with some notable exceptions (neurosurgery). Lo Giudice spoke of working with a mentor being key to her navigating the field. Though she said she sometimes feels underappreciated by male peers, Pasalo pointed out that they “have no reason to doubt me once they see that my approach works, and it almost adds to my drive … At the end of the day when I trust myself, I can feel confident.”

Solt pointed out that staying open and evolving with the world is essential. “There are jobs that are being created that we have no concept of as the world and society and technology evolve. Over time I’m seeing what an interest in biology and interpersonal relationships could have opened the door for. It’s never too late to find your niche and figure out what you are going to do.”

All panelists emphasized the importance of connections and supporting other women, in and outside of the classroom, and provided their contact information and an open invitation to the young women who came to hear them speak.

If you would like to watch a full video of the panelist discussion, you can do so here.

Students can join the Women’s Empowerment CCC by contacting Ms. Lo Giudice or by making a request to join the group on Schoology.

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