In honor of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Million Women Mentors (MWM) had the privilege to partner with OLAY for a forthright and insightful 90-minute heart-to-heart event, Females Face the STEM Gap: Mentoring and Beyond. During the event, female STEM professionals shared the journeys leading to their STEM careers and the impact of mentorship in their own lives with female high school students from across the country. The speakers also shared a roadmap for students who wish to seek out mentors for themselves. Speakers for the event included: Dr. Rolanda Wilkerson, Dr. Raven Baxter, Dr. Deborah McGregor and Dr. Vanessa Aponte-Williams. All of these bright women have something in common — a mentor who believed in them, a passion for STEM, and an enviable career.
Dr. Rolanda Wilkerson, Principal Scientist, Senior Director Skin Care, OLAY, P&G, talked about both her professional and personal mentors saying, “I had multiple mentors, including my first mentor, my mom. She is responsible for exposing me to science and she still continues to encourage and mentor me and inspire me.”
Dr. Raven Baxter, aka Raven the Science Maven, Science Communicator & Director of Diversity Initiatives, UC Irvine School of Biological Sciences, talked about how she overcame challenges by believing in herself. “Many times, in my career people tried to put me in a box of what they thought STEM success looked like or what a STEM professional is and throughout all of that I learned the most important thing I could do is just be myself, and then the opportunities I was getting were exciting since people could see the authentic me,” said Dr. Baxter.
Dr. Deborah McGregor, Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Environmental Justice, York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, spoke about her high school experiences, in particular when her guidance counselor doubted she would be successful in college and her mother stepped in to advocate for her. “It was hard to hear that the institution didn’t believe in me. I learned that people in authority are sometimes wrong, and to know what you’re good at and go on your path.”
Dr. Vanessa Aponte-Williams, Aerospace Systems Engineering Senior Leader at Lockheed Martin, reminded the audience that we are smarter than we realize and not to fall victim to imposter syndrome. “When I first started my journey, I was told I wouldn’t pass calculus and that’s when I got fired up! You have to be patient and kind with yourself and remember it’s a process. You learn and make it better and better.”
The high school girls who attended shared their takeaways from the event:
“The most surprising thing I learned during the STEM Gap: Mentoring & Beyond event is to never give up, even when someone thinks you can’t succeed in something you truly want to be in life” said one young woman. Another shared “I found surprising how most of the mentors had memories of being treated unfairly, either because of race or gender. That truly takes effort to continue trying after being told that.” Another shared how this experience helped her see a bigger future for herself. “The most interesting thing I learned during the event were all the different STEM careers available. Whenever I thought of the STEM field only certain careers would come to mind, this presentation opened my eyes to the many possibilities of pursuing a career in STEM.”
The OLAY website reads, “There is a lot of science in this little red jar [of OLAY Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream], and a lot of women behind it.” This statement is just one small part of why OLAY made a multi-million dollar commitment to #FaceTheSTEMGap and help to double the number of women in STEM and triple the number of women of color in STEM by 2030. Our partners at OLAY want to recognize and support the next generation of women in STEM who will one day be making history in their respective fields and becoming role models for young girls in the future.
Event Replay- watch a replay of the event.
Event ebook- Beauty – and mentoring – comes in many forms. STEM is Beautiful: Women in Science celebrates OLAY’s tremendous commitment to mentoring and honors the pioneering women in science who paved the way for future generations of women in STEM. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do!