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Illuminate X Durham: My Key takeaways from these Inspirational Women Thriving in STEM

Hi everyone! My name is Madhureema and I am a Grade 10 student at Bishop P.F Reding Catholic Secondary school. Today, I had the pleasure to attend Illuminate x Durham’s regional conference. Here are my thoughts highlighting what I learned:

Equality of access to and attainment of educational qualifications is necessary if more women are to become agents of change. Literacy of women is an important key to improving health, nutrition, and education in the family and to empowering women to participate in decision-making in society, which Illuminate universe has been successfully encouraging. When women are living safely, fulfilled, and have productive lives, they can reach their full potential, contributing their exceptional skills to the workforce. Ilona Dougherty and Andrea Gunraj were key role models to demonstrate the success of women in STEM, and have become an inspiration to many youngsters like us, through their thoughtful speeches.

In Ilona Dougherty’s speech, she had discussed the historical perspective of young people, and the transition of youngsters from being a pillar of support for the family, to a major problematic burden in society, which was one of the key factors that promoted the development of education and school for children and adolescence. Being a huge advocate for youngsters like us, she had shared her understanding of adolescent minds, from their creativity, innovation, and their potential impact on society. One of my key takeaways from her speech was optimizing learning opportunities. This means not just passively comprehending information at the table, but also take advantage of that opportunity to make an impact, mold your youth identity/status, and contribute to the discussion, knowing that what you have to share is valuable. In order to interject into a mature discussion, you can express your curiosity for their ideas, so they can give the same respect and listening ear for you. Overall, gaining such knowledge has motivated me to seek and take up more and more leadership opportunities, and share my own ideas without hesitation, so thank you, Ilona!

Today, we also had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Cecile Fradin’s speech on her own experiences in the STEM field, and we also got a glimpse of some of the fascinating research projects and explorations she has done in past along with her students. It was quite amusing to get a mini science lesson on molecular biology and genetics as well! One of my key takeaways from Dr.Cecile’s interactive poll discussion was understanding that family background does not matter for one’s success in a specific field of the workforce!! The only thing that matters is your dreams and how much you are passionate to fulfil them. If you are really dedicated to your goal, then no one can stop you to achieve it. Dr. Cecile, herself has been a real-life example to demonstrate this idea, as she was the first one in her family to pursue a career in the sciences, due to her interest and passion for the subject.

Another keynote speaker that I enjoyed listening to was Mackenzie Klark. In her presentation, she had shared her struggle with imposter syndrome. By understanding this condition, I was able to become more self-aware of my mental state, and know to recover when I need to.

Finally, one of my favorite components of this conference overall was listening to our keynote speaker Andrea Gunraj. Andrea had so many inspirational thoughts to share, but something that caught my interest and attention was how she kept reinforcing us; as developing individuals to prioritize human rights. Supporting Andrea’s stance, I also think that we must learn to embody key values in our society such as fairness, dignity, equality, and respect, and value people the same way, no matter their demographics.

Altogether, I enjoyed the way each workshop was carefully and meaningfully curated, and I hope to be a part of the next Illuminate event as well!


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