How to get more Pinays to pursue STEM careers

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THE recent #STEMSisterhood forum tackled issues facing women in the science and tech fields. — COMPANY HANDOUT

YOUNG WOMEN entering the field of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) face many challenges, given the prejudice against their gender.

But this should not dissuade women from following their dreams, according to several Filipina advocates at the first #STEMSisterhood: She Talks Asia x L’Oreal Philippines Tribe Meet Up for Women in Science in Makati City on Feb. 11 (International Day of Women and Girls in Science).

“If it’s something that’s of interest to you… start from a problem solving mindset, and bring that to your career. Establish what you are going for… whether it’s taking an online class, whether it’s having a coffee chat with someone who’s in the field that you are interested in,” Alexandra Suarez, country head of Bumble Philippines, said.

For Dr. Geraldine Zamora, who received the Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) Award for Medicine in 2016, women should grab opportunities given to them and focus on achieving one’s goal.

“Just go for it. Do everything that you can do. Achieve it… There will always be opportunities and you just get them… It’s really more of accepting the opportunities that have been presented to you… looking at your goal and working hard,” she said.

Despite the number of opportunities available in STEM fields, there is a decline in women engagement in the sciences.

Eleanor Rosa Pinugu, co-founder and chief operating officer of She Talks Asia, cited data from the Commission on Higher Education that showed women enrollment in STEM courses decreased to about 43% in 2017.

While this figure is better than other countries like the United Kingdom where it is just 17%, Ms. Pinugu said there still needs to be more effort in encouraging women to pursue STEM careers.

“Actually, entry is not an issue, and sustaining a career is not an issue. It’s really more of encouraging more people to get into it that we should focus on,” she said.

To encourage more women in the STEM fields, having role models is important.

“One suggestion here is perhaps you should have more role models of their dream job… The thing is, if we can expose more role models in the media… if we have something like that, more kids, more girls who would go to sciences and engineering,” Dr. Maricor Soriano, a physicist in the National Institute of Physics in the University of the Philippines Diliman, said.

While not everyone can succeed in these fields, Ms. Soriano said supporting the sciences can be done anywhere and everywhere.

“Not everyone can go into the sciences… but those who are passionate about science but would not want to go to this discipline can still support the Sciences. You may be media practitioners, go ahead and write about scientists and engineers. Wherever you are, if you could do something to support the sciences,” Ms. Soriano said.

Women also need support from family and friends to achieve their dreams.

“It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a village to raise a scientist… You have to understand that to someone, you are part of someone’s village… Your friend or… someone around you can get affected… Understand that you have a role to play, as well,” Carmel Valencia, corporate communications head of L’Oreal Philippines, said.

“I think it’s more than just getting numbers. It’s also a fundamental way of someone to be able to have this opportunity… Women have the power can and have the power to change the world,” Ms. Valencia added. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang