By Kate Highnam
The EEE Department and IEEE Student Branch celebrated International Women’s Day with a series of panels to celebrate the achievements of women in STEM.
The first event was our new inaugural Professor Maria Petrou Panel, featuring individuals from undergraduate through faculty within our department. In summary, there were two major areas highlighted by the panel: “chance” encounters and unconscious bias. Although the former seems like a serendipitous event, they can only occur when we take the first step to join the STEM communities. The latter came up while discussing how all minorities suffer from unconscious bias and going through some training on it improves the respect of all within the community, as well as our own self-reflection.
The second event brought together four guest speakers from diverse fields and unique professional experiences in a roundtable setting. Amidst their powerful personal stories, these women conveyed their continuous struggle with imposter syndrome and tactics to combat it before it can impede their progress. They reminded the audience that you are not alone in your struggle (everyone feels imposter syndrome) and that, no matter what others say, you deserve to be here because you had to show up at the starting line to go anywhere. It was encouraging to see how they all mentioned immense support from their organisations and friends through any hardships. As for addressing how to increase the number of women in STEM, they recommended encouraging girls from a young age by continuously remind them that it is hard work to succeed, so keep trying!
Undergraduates Christy Chan and Priya Chhaya present how women in Imperial EEE and EIE support each other. They also mentioned their own technical achievements: Christy is developing a novel recommender system for skincare products based on chemical composition; Priya works across three departments to advance the efficacy of PCR testing.
Postgraduate Dafni Antotsiou presents her background going from industry, where she worked as a Research Software Engineer on X-ray inspection in heavy industry, to Imperial, focusing on imitation learning with hand gestures.
We hosted four incredible women in STEM from both industry and academia: Dr. Jelena Ponocko (Lecturer at the University of Manchester), Dr. Yaprak Eminaga (Field Application Engineer at Intel), Alicia Blatiak (Postgraduate Candidate in EEE and CEO of Intelliflex), and Dr. Aizaan Anwar (Postgraduate in EEE and physician).
Dr. Kristel Fobelets talked us through her impressive career traversing multiple fields and the decisions that brought her to where she is now. She also told us of her “chance encounters” with Prof. Maria Petrou (the first female professor in EEE) and Ambassador Yvette Stevens (the first female engineer in Sierra Leone), along with other technical collaborators that enhanced her experience in STEM. As Dr. Jeremy Pitt added to the panel later, although it may seem to be pure chance to encounter these individuals that progress our careers, they could only happen to those who take the first step!
Co-organiser and Professor Maria Petrou PhD Scholarship winner Semina Mertzani sets up the platters for our first IWD event of 2022. She later starts the first event by discussing female inspirations that brought her to STEM.
A huge thank you to all our brilliant women, and everyone who organised, took part in and attended these events!