WISS Today Article

Research shows that only 28% of the global Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) workforce consist of women.  WISS is joining the United Nations to generate awareness by celebrating the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on February 11th.   

Part of our efforts to create awareness on this important issue is to promote diversity in education.  At WISS, we are committed to creating inclusive learning environments that empower all our students to pursue STEM fields of study opportunities.   

We sat down to talk with some of our successful and experienced teachers and women in Science from within our WISS Community to share their experience and advice for the next generation of women in science.    

Women in Science from the WISS Community Take the Floor

Ju-Hee Kim, Head of Maths

My name is Ju-Hee Kim. I am originally from Korea. I have been an educator for over 15 years as a secondary school math teacher. I have taught across a range of countries: Korea, the Philippines, and China. I became an IB educator in 2012. Currently, I am the Head of Mathematics and teach the Middle Years Progamme and IB Diploma Programme at the Western International School of Shanghai.  I developed my passion for math in middle school.  For me, something just clicked, and I was hungry to learn, explore and succeed in the field of mathematics.    

 What message would you send to girls and women in STEM? 

I would encourage anyone with an interest or aptitude for any STEM field to look at different career paths within these subjects as a prerequisite.  Any inquisitive young woman who likes working with numbers and enjoys problem-solving should go for it. Believe in yourself and do not let others or society stop you. Math is beautiful, math is everywhere, and it should be accessible to all regardless of gender. 

Nadya Faquir, Primary Teacher at WISS 

I first graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical/Mechanical Engineering from the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York. After that, I worked as the Information Technology Manager in a bank for a while. Sometime after, I earned a Master’s in Education in Instructional Technology and Primary Education from Jones International University in Colorado and began teaching in IB world schools. I have been a PYP homeroom teacher for eight years at WISS, and I also teach the after-school Tiger Robotics program.  

How can we engage girls in science-related fields of studies?  

I have read many articles about gender gaps in STEM, and many point out stereotyping as one of the main reasons for having fewer girls enrolling in STEM programs. In my opinion, it is the parents’ and the school community’s responsibility to be more open-minded and supportive and encourage students to pursue science-related fields regardless of gender. Schools and teachers play a significant role in minimizing the gender gap in science-related fields. Schools could take advantage of the curriculum to introduce more biographies of female role models who succeeded in science-related fields.

Parent workshops led by schools could also be a way to educate parents by giving them strategies to motivate and encourage their children to learn more about STEM Offering STEM extra-curricular activities could also give them more exposure to the topic. Female teachers could serve as role models if they get more involved in STEM projects and activities. WISS is already doing an excellent job since our PYP Robotics teachers are all female.  

As educators, how can we inspire the next generation of women in science?  

As educators, I think we must be the ones to inspire our students. If female teachers can be more involved in science-related activities and jobs, our female students will also feel empowered to pursue those areas of study.  

What motivated you to explore the field of technology and robotics? 

I pursued the field of technology because, as a young learner, I have always been very interested in mathematics and physics. I was very fortunate to have supportive parents who always said I could do anything I wanted, no matter what other people said if I put my mind to it. Therefore, I grew up with my parents’ advice in mind and decided to study what I have always been passionate about. I find it very rewarding to share my passion for technology and robotics with my students. 

Alba Ortega, Sciences and Biology Teacher 

I am a biologist; I have always liked Science. I love to understand how the human body works at the hormonal level and internal reactions, the brain, animal and human behavior, and psychological patterns. I am also a mother of two children in the Early Years Programme at WISS, and I also love when my children ask me questions or show interest in how things work, the body. We often do simple experiments at home. I love being a science and biology teacher.  

How can we engage girls in science-related fields of studies? 

I am happy to see the WISS science classes full of women. Women choose science subjects to complement their studies. In the IB Diploma Programme, we have a significant female presence. The interested students choose the sciences themselves, regardless of gender. Furthermore, they choose some science and technology careers, so they have the opportunity and the aptitude and the desire to do so.  

Tell us one thing that you would change about the STEM culture. 

Science is something that should be above any stereotype. Perseverance, creativity, and passion would always be characteristics around science, regardless of gender. 

Joanna Cha, Sciences and Chemistry Teacher

I am from Canada and spent the last four years teaching in England and China. I have a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and Biology a Bachelor of Education specializing in Biology and Chemistry from the University of Toronto. I am the Head of Science, and I teach Middle Years Programme Science and IB Diploma Programme Chemistry at WISS.  

As educators, how can we inspire the next generation of women in science? 

Allowing students to have a lot of hands-on labs will inspire students in science. When we talk about science classes, we recall the memories we had when we performed hands-on experiments. For instance, animal dissections, chemical reactions that create fire, or a flash of light definitely spark curiosity among our students.  

Moreover, exposing our students to the real-life applications of science will inspire them. We often take things for granted and stop asking questions about why one behaves in one way and not the other. But if questions start being asked, for example, how is slime made? When baking soda and vinegar are mixed, why does it bubble up? How does hair dye work? What is it doing to the composition of the hair? Finding and connecting the answers to these questions with the scientific knowledge from classes will motivate the interest in the students as it links the content with their life and what they are interested in.  

What motivated you to choose science as a career? 

I found science interesting. When I was a child, I was fascinated by the stars, planets, constellations, and aliens. My parents brought me to the planetarium to observe how the planets and stars look through the telescopes. It left me a huge impression that the stars I was looking at through the telescope were just extremely hot nuclear reactions from the past due to the speed of light. From then, understanding the facts of how science was involved in many things around me was fascinating.  

Mary Song, Engineer at Baowu Steel Company  

I am an electrical engineer and a WISS mum.  I graduated with a bachelor’s degree of Science from the Shanghai University of Electric Power with a major in Instruments and Automation. I started my career as a site service engineer, and with hard work and dedication to the post of Project Manager. In 2008, I received my MBA degree and an EU scholarship of sustainability which allowed me to study as an exchange student at the Copenhagen Business School.  I have over a decade of experience gained in my role as General Manager of Facilities for Hayward Tyler Pumps, China. Later, taking on the role of Vice President of East Asia. Since 2018, I have established AY Hydraulic Engineering, which provides energy-saving services to industrial giants, such as BaoWu Steel, China’s largest steel manufacturer.  

What motivated you to choose engineering as a career?  

When I was a student, there were few choices, and I didn’t think much of what career I wanted to pursue as an adult.  In Grade 10, I needed to decide to either pursue studies in science or literature. My study record was outstanding, and all the successful people I knew seemed to have a background in engineering.  This drove me to pursue a major in science in secondary school then in engineering in college.  

Why is this work important to you?  

Engineers build the world.  As an engineer, I enjoy facilitating and driving change by applying my expertise to help organizations save energy and earn carbon credits.  This, for me, is very rewarding.   

What would you say to encourage female students to take up STEM?  

Since my post as Senior Executive, I realized that success has no gender.  If you stay focused and pursue your interest, you can overcome peer pressure and gender prejudice.   

STEM is objective, and the logic is straightforward.  If you are curious by nature and a natural team player, I will encourage you to pursue a career in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics! 

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