‘I CAN’ forum encourages young women to succeed
Three more panel sessions to come
In an effort to encourage young women to take up careers that are primarily held by men, the Calvert County Commission for Women hosted the first of four “I CAN” panel sessions Sept. 20 at the Calvert Library Prince Frederick and invited women with math and science careers to speak about the paths they took to obtain and succeed in their careers.
Calvert County Commission for Women, in partnership with Calvert Library, launched the “I CAN” series last week, with the first session focusing on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Over the next seven months, three more forums will be held focusing on military and law enforcement, finance and accounting and international relations and politics.
Calvert Commission for Women
member and deputy state’s attorney Kathryn Marsh welcomed attendees to the forum last week. She then introduced the evening’s speakers: pharmacist Diane Bell, environmental supervisor Brittney Dorsey, electrical engineer Katherine Chenier and cybersecurity specialist Sara Standard.
Addressing attendees first, Bell defined a pharmacist as a scientist who is an expert in medication. She listed the different kinds of pharmacists, including community pharmacist, clinical pharmacist, consultant pharmacist, academia and pharmaceutical industry pharmacist. Bell went on to detail the eight years of school she endured to become a pharmacist before describing additional school paths someone can take.
Bell told the young women in attendance to remember the CAN acronym, which calls for them to be “Courageous and Committed,” “Apply themselves and take Action” and “Never give up.” She also said fun must be added liberally with the other factors to ensure success.
Dorsey, environmental supervisor at Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant, spoke next, describing the work she does to ensure the environment is protected by watching air emissions, water emissions and the soil. The youngest panelist, Dorsey graduated in 2010 with a bachelor’s in biological sciences, with aspirations to be a high school science teacher.
“In college I got a job as a lab technician where I worked in a wastewater fa- cility. Throughout that experience, I really learned I like laboratory work,” Dorsey said, chronicling the various paths her career has taken her since graduating, to include working for the BP oil industry company. She referred to Calvert Cliffs as a great fit for her skill set and personality.
Also employed at the nuclear plant, Chenier explained what it’s like to be an electrical engineer and how broad of a term it is. She said an electrical engineer could be doing anything from wiring up a microphone to designing a television or installing lights. Math and technical writing were referred to as essential skills for an electrical engineer, as designs must be specifically communicated.
Chenier currently manages the electrical systems department at the Lusby nuclear plant, where she oversees every electrical component on site and monitors the electricity to ensure no components will fail.
“The great thing about electrical engineering is stuff gets outdated really fast. How many of you have a Walkman?” Chenier asked, evoking laughs from the crowd. “Keeping up with electrical components and making sure we [are updated]. Things get obsolete vary fast, so if we need to put in new electrical components for monitoring, we will. We try to stay ahead of items before they fail.”
Referring to cybersecurity as her speciality, Standard talked about her passion for numbers, computers and puzzles before subsequently distributing several brain-teasing puzzles to the young women in attendance to dabble with.
“Cybersecurity oftentimes is like solving a puzzle because you’re trying to figure out how to make sure that somebody can’t pick the lock on your computer or other computers. I find it to be a lot of fun, and if you like working with computers, you will enjoy it as well,” Standard said, adding she graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1988.
Standard described what it’s like to work for the United States Department of Defense and how her role has changed over the years. After earning her master’s in applied mathematics and computer science, Standard was moved from a Navy supply core officer to an information professional, which focuses on the Navy’s networks and computers.
After teaching cybersecurity at the Naval Academy, Standard learned she had a passion for hacking and differentiated between criminal and ethical hacking. As the technical director for cybersecurity and developmental tests and evaluations, Standard assists organizations that are buying ships, tanks or planes for the military in designing the systems without hackable vulnerabilities inside.
She encouraged kids who are interested in hacking to sign up for the National Security Agency’s free hacking summer camp, GenCyber.
During the Q&A, youth in attendance asked a number of questions about what it takes to achieves various careers.
Calvert Commission for Women member Joan Winship asked panelists how they feel about the shortage of women in STEM fields and how they are still able to make achievements despite this.
Answering first, Standard said she was in the ninth graduating class of women at the academy and was one of 67 female graduates. She said she “became a woman in a jock’s locker room and was exposed to things, that is not as bad now, for sure.” She said her mind was formulated to be logical and analytical at a young age, helping her to be successful and outperform her male counterparts.
“I believe having the competence and confidence is important, and having that ability to stand up for yourself,” she chimed in.
Although she usually doesn’t notice it, Chenier said she is usually the only woman in the room at most of her work meetings. She explained that she earned respect from her peers by following through and giving accurate answers to people’s questions even if she had to get back to them.
“I’ve also learned, with support from my husband, not to take things personally. It is just work,” Chenier said, to which Standard seconded. “You just have to take that feedback, look in the mirror and say ‘I CAN.’”
Dorsey also noted the small percentage of female supervisors at Calvert Cliffs. She said she used her science knowledge and skills to stay competitive, which naturally earned the respect of her male counterparts.
“I’m very extroverted and competitive. I have basically succeeded through speaking my mind and not backing off or letting down. I’m basically just being the best female and the best person I can be to get to where I want to be,” Dorsey said.
While Bell acknowledged that a majority of pharmacists are women in today’s time, she said the supervisory positions are still primarily male-dominated. She added that it was mostly males in the industry when she started, but said she never thought in those terms because of the values her father taught her.
“I never really struggled with feeling inadequate or unequal. That’s how I approach life. There’s nothing that’s off limits for me if I want to do it. If I put my mind to it, I will do it and ‘I CAN’ do it,” Bell said proudly.
The military and law enforcement “I CAN” session is scheduled for Dec. 7.
With the help of pharmacist Diane Bell, Maggie Green, sixth-grader at Calvert Middle School, demonstrated what the “I CAN” acronym stands for at the first session of the “I CAN” forum last week at the Calvert Library.