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Illuminate x Durham Conference

Hi everyone! My name is Rachel Yang and I am a grade 10 at Pickering High School. Today, I had the pleasure to attend Illuminate x Durham’s regional conference. This conference has provided me with clarity and information about future job fields that I could go into. Not only was this conference informational, but it was also entertaining and I had a great time listening to the different speakers speak passionately about their respective topics. The speakers that presented were Ilona Dougherty, Dr. Cécile Fradin, Mackenzie Clark and Andrea Gunraj.


Ilona Dougherty spoke of challenging authority and innovation. She inspires me to spend my time wisely and share my ideas even when working with figures of authority. No matter our age, our ideas are valid. She spoke of making an impact and becoming the change that you want to see. She touched on being more than the typical teenage stereotype and using our unique thought process to prove these stereotypes wrong.


Dr. Cécile Fradin's presentation about stereotypes in the workplace and what it's like to be a woman in STEM. She used this example where a father and son went to the hospital and the surgeon wasn't able to perform as it was the son. We would later found out that the surgeon was a woman. This showed our bias when we think of people in high positions such as surgeons, our minds quickly believed that the surgeon was a man. She also touched on internalized stereotypes. Internalized stereotypes lower our self-esteem and it reflects in the way we speak and move. We must not allow others to create our own opinions and values. Lastly, She mentioned that even though there may not be people in your family that are in STEM, you can be just as successful as someone with their whole family in STEM.


Our third speaker was Mackenzie Clark. Her presentation was about her experience at Google, impostor syndrome, its effects and ways to overcome it. She started her presentation by talking about how she first got her job at Google. She first applied when she was in university and she didn't get the job when later on Google would call her and ask if she would like to fill an open position as a software engineer. Even though Google had called her to ask her if she wanted the job, she felt underqualified and a fraud. She would always say to her co-workers that she can't believe that she still has her job and how Google hasn't figured out yet that she's "a fraud". She would then proceed to speak about how imposter syndrome affects someone. Imposter syndrome can cause low self-esteem, prevent you from achieving your goals and prevent you from enjoying your success. Ways to prevent imposter syndrome would be kinder to yourself, stop comparing ourselves to others, don't insult and talk down to ourselves and value ourselves as well as our work. We don't have to be perfect to be valuable.


Lastly, Andrea Gunraj presented the importance of human rights, being a co-mentor and social change. She encouraged us to make an impact and leave the world better than we found it. She spoke about human rights and how they are fundamental to making the world a better place. It is also important to call out injustice when you see it. She also talked about gender justice and how we must push for fair treatment, equal pay and equal opportunities. She also touched on what it means to be a co-mentor. To be a co-mentor means to listen to the voices that aren't heard and help the less fortunate. It is important to support women, girls, LGBTQ+ and the less fortunate and encourage them to become leaders in their community.


Overall, I enjoyed listening to Ilona Dougherty, Dr. Cécile Fradin, Mackenzie Clark and Andrea Gunraj speak about their respective experiences and values. I also enjoyed hearing the other groups' presentations about the digitization of healthcare. I thought all the groups had brilliant ideas. All the presentations were unique and allowed me to see the case study from a different point of view. Every group brought a new idea to the table and found a way to digitize healthcare.


In the future, I plan to use the lessons I've learned today in my daily life and the workplace/school environment. I will push for what I believe in and fight for gender justice as well as human rights. I will take risks and fight for my dreams even when the odds are against me. I will share my ideas even when I feel unheard as well as value my ideas when I feel underqualified. I shall not limit myself and create and seek opportunities. I have the potential to do a lot in this world and I plan to not waste it.


I am grateful to have had the opportunity to attend the Illuminate x Durham Conference. This conference has only left me excited for the future and I am forever thankful that I was also able to learn more about women in STEM.