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Overview of the 5th Annual Women in STEM Mentorship Program

by:Chloe Djedji How should women try to overcome the gender pay gap, and what skills should a woman learn to go against the competition? are some of the tough questions the panelists from PepsiCo had to answer at the Women in STEM presentation at BCC. In spite of the number of women in STEM healthily increasing, studies show that women are still making 20% less than their male peers. As an initiative to help propel women towards their STEM goals, Bergen Community College initiated a mentorship program with PepsiCo, in making sure women STEM majors have the support they need to prepare for their career. 

Commenced by Dr. Emily Vandalovsky, the Dean of Mathematics, Science, and Technology, Bergen presented its 5fifh annual workshop discussing the success of the program and introducing a handful of the mentors in the program. Started in 2018, the mentors and mentee meet twice a month primarily digitally with the mentors providing constructive feedback and encouragement to the mentee for around a year. The results of this program have been overwhelmingly positive with all the students going on to become PTK honors students as well as earning up to $40K in scholarships. 

This year the panelists included two PepsiCo employees and one former mentee of the program. 

Hanshella Magno started off her career with a PhD in chemistry and started off as a contractor for the company. While at PepsiCo, she was offered a permanent position and made her move towards the role of procuring sustainable food safe packaging material, which is her current role as technical manager procurer. 

Jie Yan joined PepsiCo as a statistician with two masters in Applied Statistics and Mechanical Engineering. However, she found herself within a couple of years wanting to move towards a different field within the company. Her supervisor supported her, and she was able to make the change to her current role as a senior manager in charge of leading packaging innovation to be more environmentally friendly. 

Lastly, Bergen invited back graduate Caitlin Mooney, who was a part of the program in 2020, who has successfully found a job as a software engineer for JP Morgan Chase after graduating from MIT with a degree in Computer Science. Mooney talked in depth about how the program helped her solidify her choice to pursue her degree in confidence and prepared her to compete against her male peers for internship and job opportunities.

Together these mentors pushed the message to the primarily women audience that any women’s aspirations towards STEM are possible. As Magno described, “It’s only you who can make your dreams happen.” Yan contributed, “Always push the boundaries, never feel locked in one place.” As women who started off in STEM before it was considered acceptable or encouraged for them to be a part of this sector; their personal insight and knowledge as women in STEM is valuable to any future mentee that takes advantage of this program. 

Current female students in STEM should keep their eyes on the events calendar for a chance to join next year’s program. Having a mentor from a fellow woman with experience in the STEM field is a great opportunity to learn industry and life skills that will stay with you throughout your college and future career. Announcements about the start of the new program should be made by the end of April.

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