GSA Hot Topics | IWD With Natalie Panek

March 4, 2015
Each year International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8. The first International Women’s Day was held over 100 years ago in 1911. Thousands of events occur around the world to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women. Organisations, governments, charities, educational institutions, women’s groups, corporations and the media celebrate the day. All around the world, IWD represents an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women while calling for greater equality. This years theme is Make It Happen, encouraging effective action for advancing and recognising women. Throughout this week leading up to IWD, we will be featuring some of our inspiring female speakers on our GSABlog Today we feature Natalie Panek, Rocket Scientist, Explorer & Advocate for Women in Technology. GSA-Divider

Natalie-Panek-LoRes2What does ‘Making it Happen’ mean to you and how have you implemented it in your career to date?

Making it Happen’ is challenging what is expected, pushing myself outside of my comfort zone, and a willingness to try new experiences. I am and always have been motivated by a dream of space exploration. My plan is to be an astronaut; it is the epitome of exploration and what it means to dream. I think the most unexpected yet rewarding aspect of this pursuit is that my experiences can inspire the next generation to also pursue STEM careers.

Gender-specific challenges you’ve faced in your chosen career?

The gender-specific challenges I have seen in my career are the retention of women and minorities in engineering positions and their advancement into leadership and decision-making roles. Diverse and multidisciplinary teams are a key to a healthy culture within an organization and help foster creative thinking across boundaries. Success in the tech industry or any industry really, relies on collaboration with several schools of thought in the pursuit of a common goal: innovation.

Woman you’d like to thank but never had the chance?

Lieutenant Colonel Maryse Carmichael, first female Commanding Officer of the Canadian Snowbirds who was my mentor through the Women’s Executive Network, and Athenia Jansen, my Flight Instructor. I was affected by their lessons learned in a similar industry, their challenges, and triumphs. It was just empowering to see women succeeding in non-traditional roles and I am grateful for that.

What advice would you give a young female in your industry today?

Dive head-on into challenge. See challenge and risk as a means to life-long learning and as valuable opportunities to push your limits. You can learn a lot about yourself by participating in situations outside of your comfort zone, particularly in the science, engineering, and technology fields. Dream big and dare to achieve the impossible.

Who was your female role model & why/how did they empower you?

As a young girl dreaming of space exploration, Canada’s first female astronaut Roberta Bondar was an inspiration. She was pioneering exploration and carved out the importance for the participation of women in sciences. I am grateful for a number of mentors throughout my career as they taught me the value of curiosity and in following the road less traveled.

What is the biggest issue facing women in your industry today?

A lack of visible and accessible role models is an inherent obstacle to young women pursuing STEM careers. We need the next generation to perceive the STEM fields as attainable by anyone. Paving the way for future generations of female engineers and scientists could be as simple as ensuring that the majority of youth can identify a female scientist or engineer instead of a reality TV star. GSA-Divider For more on Natalie, and how she can inspire your audience check out her Speaker Profile. Other Speakers featured in our Hot Topics: International Women’s Day Include: