Women and Girls Business/STEM Career Workshop

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019


girl stem workshop
Twenty-two girls from Chatham High School celebrated Women’s Day a month in advance. The third annual Women & Girls Business/STEM Career Workshop was hosted by Junior Achievement of New Jersey and Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken. Way up on the fourth floor of the building, students entered a room of over 200 people and floor-to-ceiling windows with a view of New York City. In this workshop, students first listened to a panel of four women who excelled in their respective fields share their stories about triumph and failure. The panel included Juliette Muszka from Sanofi, Dr. Ann Murphy from the Stevens Institute of Technology School of Business, Maureen Okwuonu from Eli Lilly, and Lisa Hernandez from Deloitte & Touche LLP.

Lisa Hernandez was an inspiring panelist who shared her story. After excelling in her field, she was devastated when she didn’t receive a recommendation to become a partner in her company. She was especially frustrated when she learned that she had done more than her male counterparts who had received one. Afterwards, she pushed herself to new limits, determined to receive the title. When she went through the selection process for the second time, not only did she receive a recommendation, but she was accepted to become a partner. She, as the current partners responded, was more qualified than any of them, having excelled beyond what was the norm. Hernandez knew the second time around that she would be accepted. While leaving the interviews, as everyone around her was nervous, she knew she “killed it.” Later she learned that the man who would propose her name wanted to be sure that she would be in the top one percent, and knew she had to work harder than normal to achieve it. Her story was inspiring and proved that sometimes disadvantage forces one to work harder.

After listening to the panel, students seated across 20 round tables with 6-8 students and one mentor each, could share stories and learn new skills through hands-on activities. First, students wrote an elevator pitch about themselves as practice for an interview. Second, they participated in an experiment that tested the effects of leadership and time constraints on a project. Finally, they brainstormed ideas to solve a real world problem surrounding the importance of maximizing space. The experience was unlike any other. When I first entered the room, the energy in the air was contagious. Perhaps the biggest lesson that I learned through the panelist stories is that it is important to realize how big the world is. We will meet so many different people and travel to so many different places in our lives. Sometimes we find ourselves stuck in a loophole of our daily routines. It is crucial to think about the bigger picture whenever you feel as though you have lost control.

Chatham High School Counselor Mrs. Tully-Cano attended the trip as well. Here is what she had to say about it.

1. How did you find out about this event?

The organization that ran the event, Junior Achievement of NJ, advertised it to various NJ high school counselors in December. Schools that were interested in attending needed to RSVP to save seats for their students to attend.

2. What were some of the main reasons the school decided to attend?

We (CHS) felt that this event would be a wonderful opportunity for our female students for several reasons.  First, we felt it would be good to get students out of the classroom and learn about various STEM/Business fields and careers directly from successful, professional women within those fields.  Second, we felt that it would be a good opportunity for females to gain additional exposure to fields that are traditionally male-dominated. Third, we liked the idea of CHS female students being able to meet female students from other NJ high schools with similar academic/career interests.  Fourth, we liked the idea of students being able to visit a college campus, especially a tech school.

3. Tell us about the Stevens Institute of Technology and its relationship with Chatham. Have students from Chatham ever attended this university in the past?

Each year we have numerous students apply to Stevens for admissions, and we have also had several students ultimately choose to attend college at Stevens - both male and female.  In addition, in past years we have had the pleasure of having a Stevens admissions counselor participate as a panelist in our junior college night panel.

4. What was your overall opinion on how the event was run? Was it organized?

For this trip we had three chaperones - me (the organizer), Andrea Murphy (CHS Counselor), and John Ahsler (Business Teacher).  The three of us collectively felt that it was great for our female students who have an interest in STEM/Business fields to listen to very accomplished, professional women tell the stories of their professional careers.  Our favorite part was the panel, and we appreciated how all four women were able to share experiences with failure, frustration, resilience, and success. We also liked how our students were put in positions where they were required to interact with students from other high schools with similar interests.  However, I really wish that our students could have been given a tour of the Stevens campus and learned more about the school.

5. What do you hope the students who attended will take from the experience?

I hope that our students were able to see that even though the STEM/business career field is male-dominated, they should not feel intimidated, and they have the power to create their own supportive community through mentors and colleagues.  I also hope that our students appreciated listening to the real world experiences of the female panelists and that they were inspired by their resilience and perseverance.

6. How can the students who attended share their knowledge with other girls and spread the information?

I think our students can share their knowledge by being supportive of their fellow female students here at CHS, either in a mentoring role and/or by simply showing support and respect for each other.

7. Is the school counseling office considering similar trips in the future, possibly attending this event next year?

We would love to organize similar trips like this in the future! In fact, this is the second field trip that we have run this school year.  In December we ran a trip for juniors and seniors to visit NJIT for an Engineering Career Day. If Junior Achievement/Stevens and NJIT run the same events again next school year, it's very likely that we will attend again.