Korea International School Hosts STEM Speaker Series
Korea International School (KIS) hosted a speaker series featuring women in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) field. Middle and high school students interested in STEM attended sessions to learn more about different academic and professional careers. Speakers also addressed questions specific to females working in STEM including the challenges of joining male-dominated fields and the positive changes they’ve observed as more women study and work in STEM.
The idea to invite women in STEM to share their experiences with KIS students started with a question in the FemSTEM club, a high school club that offers STEM centered classes at Korean youth centers. Club founder Ashley remembers asking how FemSTEM could contribute to the KIS community too. She and other club members took the speaker series idea to their math teacher and advisor, Kelly Chang. Ms. Chang is an advocate for girls and women pursuing STEM education. She also knows that women often make personal choices that impact their professional pursuits. “I wanted students to think about the women they know – their mothers, sisters, aunts – in a new way,” Ms. Chang says.
KIS supports student initiative to apply their learning. Once the STEM speaker series was approved, the FemSTEM club reached out to fellow students for professional contacts. The speaker series featured mothers of KIS alums and current students, and one KIS alum. “The goal was to have women share their STEM experiences and expertise,” Ashley says. “I’m happy the idea translated so well into reality.”
Guest speakers work in engineering, programming, neuroscience, and chemistry. Their connection to the KIS community created an openness that invited student questions and discussion. “I loved the honesty of the guest speakers,” Erica, a KIS high school student says. “They talked about the struggles and hardships of a rigorous career path as well as how they balance their work and personal lives.” The speakers acknowledged the sometimes roundabout way they discovered their interest in a specific STEM field too, assuring students that you can explore options as a university student. Another student who attended, Yumin, appreciated the passion and spark the speakers had when talking about their fields and growth. She says, “Low female representation in STEM often made my career aspirations feel distant and abstract. But hearing their stories has transformed my dream of pursuing STEM into something real and tangible.”
The FemSTEM club believes their male classmates also benefit from awareness of the female perspective in STEM. Nillohit attended most of the sessions because he is interested in a future career in STEM. He appreciates the advice guest speakers offered – such as to take diverse courses and participate in STEM opportunities – and also sees the importance of KIS encouraging more female students to join STEM classes. Nillohit recognizes the contributions his female classmates make in their programming class and would like equal gender representation in KIS STEM. “Events like this help students learn more about their options,” he says. Computer science teacher Joyce Pereira agrees. “We all receive and perceive in a unique way,” she says. “We need diverse representation and multiple perspectives in our classes.”
The success of the speaker series has the FemSTEM club members excited to continue promoting STEM education for women and girls. This school year, the club will run an elementary school club for girls interested in STEM. And next school year they hope to organize another speaker panel featuring more women in STEM.