Women speak on challenges and experiences during STEM panel

In celebration of Women’s History Month, El Camino College presented a panel hosting women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields on March 23 in the Natural Science Building.

Volunteer panelists spoke to students about the challenges, opportunities, and paths they experienced and took that lead them to pursue their careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM.

Dean of Natural Sciences Amy Grant hosted the panel and said she wanted students to feel like STEM is doable.

“The people that are doing STEM love it,” Grant said. “They are interested in it, and [students] can have a wonderful, full life doing something exciting.”

Grant asked the panel if anyone has ever been discriminated against for being a woman in STEM.

Panelist and assistant professor of anatomy and physiology Sanda Oswald said she hasn’t felt discriminated against.

“The only times I have ever felt that way was in a conference that I went to in grad school,” Oswald said.

Oswald said her research was on display during those conferences and most of the men didn’t ask the women questions. However, the men would often get asked questions instead.

“I want women and men to know that the STEM field is a growing field and there is so much you can do,” Oswald said.

Olivia Munoz, a 19-year-old undecided major, saw the flyer for the event when she was passing through the Natural Sciences Building while leaving campus.

“I don’t know what I want to study,” Munoz said. “But after sitting down and listening to the panel talk about their life experiences…I think biology is what I am going to major in.”

Munoz said being undecided stresses her out. It made her feel like she doesn’t have a path to follow.

“You don’t know what you want to do yet, right?” Oswald said during the panel. “That is okay, that’s why it’s okay to change your mind.”

Oswald said she had many jobs she didn’t enjoy, including corporate banking and then deciding to be a doctor; but during her clinical hours, she realized it wasn’t for her.

Oswald said she got recruited to teach after graduating from graduate school and loved it.

“It felt great to know that successful people also have that moment in their lives not knowing what they wanted to do when they grew up,” Munoz said. “It made me feel like I wasn’t the only one.”

Oswald said she had a mentor during graduate school that became a father figure and encouraged her to stay in graduate school.

“Do what you love, don’t chase the money,” Oswald said. “[If] you chase the money, you’re always going to chase the money.”