IEEE Hawaii Women in Engineering (WIE) and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Hawaiian Islands co-hosted an inspiring panel discussion on “Challenges and Disparities in the Workplace” on February 24, 2024, in Honolulu, Hawaii. The event brought together a diverse group of STEM professionals, each with a unique journey of industry experience.

The discussion was moderated by Mary Despe, a Career and Interview Coach, and a SWE member. She is passionate about helping others succeed professionally and in their authentic style. Despe has delivered workshops for the Society of Women Engineers, Project Management Institute, and Women Leadership & Empowerment Conference, and has contributed career and personal branding articles to LinkedIn, Refinery24, and FairyGodBoss.

The panelists included Dr. Ruthsenne Perron – R&D Senior Principal Engineer from Cadence Design Systems, Inc. in Silicon Valley, Dawn Szewczyk – Vice President at HDR with 25 years of experience in civil engineering design, public works operations, and program management in both private and public sectors, Lori Hashimoto – Senior Program Manager in Flight Operations Engineering at Hawaiian Airlines, Lynette Shiroma – a Lead Aviation engineer at Boeing, Lorraine Reyes – President of Human Resources at Trade Wind Group, and Pearl Yamaguchi – Senior Principal Field Clinical Engineer at Medtronic.

Each panelist shared their professional journey as a STEM woman and discussed how they overcame challenges to succeed in leadership positions, despite ongoing disparities faced in the workplace. They recounted their experiences transitioning from entry-level to professional positions and offered valuable tips and advice to the audience on negotiating salaries and boosting confidence in the workplace. Overall, the event provided a valuable platform for attendees to learn from the experiences of successful STEM professionals, gain insights into navigating workplace challenges, and fostered networking opportunities within the STEM community in Hawaii.