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24 March 2017

(L-R) Philippine Embassy’s Public Diplomacy Officer, Ms. Darell Artates; Dr. Christie Canaria of the US National Institutes of Health; Ms. Hedy Thomas of Leuterio Thomas LLC; and Ms. Hilda Gigioli of Roccomar, Inc. discuss Women in STEM at a Talakayan sa Pasuguan held at the Embassy on 23 March 2017.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – “Ignorance is bondage; the mind defines the man; a man who does not cultivate an independent mind has no identity.’ That was Dr Jose Rizal in his 1899 letter to the young women of Malolos who wanted to liberate themselves from the shackles of ignorance by learning Spanish. STEM was farthest from their minds. Writing from London, Dr. Rizal expressed his full support for them,” said Mr. Jose Victor Chan-Gonzaga, Minister for Economic Affairs of the Philippine Embassy as he opened the inaugural Talakayan sa Pasuguan featuring “Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)” that was held on 23 March 2017 at the Romulo Hall of the Embassy.

“Gender bias in STEM remains prevalent around the world. Most especially in Asia, the opportunities and capabilities of women are still constrained by cultural and societal values,” Mr. Chan-Gonzaga further stated.

The Talakayan was led by a distinguished panel of speakers who were introduced by the President of the Philippine Association of Metropolitan Washington Engineers (PAMWE), Ms. Hazel Russell.

The speakers were Dr. Christie Canaria, a highly trained chemist presently working as program manager at the National Cancer Institute, US National Institutes of Health; Ms. Hedy Thomas, architect and structural engineer who owns Leuterio Thomas LLC; and Ms. Hilda Gigioli, computer engineer and proprietor of Roccomar, Inc. The Embassy’s Public Diplomacy Officer, Ms. Darell Artates, moderated the discussion.

The three speakers underscored the importance of having mentors and role models who can empower girls and young women to overcome gender stereotypes and pursue scientific careers.

“Really, the first thing that women need is confidence. Confidence in yourself, confidence that you can do it. Without that, you would be easily overpowered by the people around you,” said Ms. Gigioli.

“If I could go back, I would remind myself and young people that this is something that I can do. Just the realization that ‘You can do something’ and ‘You bring value’, is something that I don’t think young people hear enough,” Dr. Canaria remarked.

In reference to the incidence of women dropping off mid-career due to familial responsibilities, Ms. Thomas and Ms. Gigioli, owners of small engineering firms, shared their experiences in helping female employees achieve a balance in their professional and personal lives, mainly by devising work-from-home arrangements.

“I don’t mind that (working from home). It’s all about deadlines. It’s essential. We need to promote these women so we don’t lose them,” Ms. Thomas stressed.

The panelists also fielded questions from the audience and a simple reception followed the official program.

The Embassy hosted the Talakayan in partnership with PAMWE, in line with the international celebration of Women’s History Month. ###

24 March 2017

Embassy’s Economic Minister, Jose Victor Chan-Gonzaga delivers the opening remarks at the Women in STEM panel discussion held on 23 March 2017.

24 March 2017

Philippine Association of Metropolitan Washington Engineers (PAMWE) President, Ms. Hazel Russell (left-most) and Minister Jose Victor Chan-Gonzaga (center) presents Certificates of Appreciation to the three guest speakers of the Women in STEM forum held at the Philippine Embassy on 23 March 2017.