News Release, Charles County Public Schools
North Point High School celebrated Women’s History Month in March with a series of events featuring women making strides in the areas of athletics, STEM and education. On March 25, Celebrating HERstory: Women on the Forefront of STEM invited three women working in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics to talk about their experiences and share advice.
Karena L. Swisher is the capability advancement director at the Joint Warfare Analysis Center (JWAC) in Dahlgren, Va. She began her career in 1998 as a chemical engineer with the Department of the Navy.
Charmaine Thompson, chief of instructional technology for Charles County Public Schools, has been in the field working in public and private schools, universities and the federal government for more than 16 years.
Allena Ward, a 2016 graduate of Tennessee Technological University, where she earned her master’s in 2018, studied mechanical engineering. She is a mechanical engineer at Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Indian Head Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology Division (IHEODTD).
North Point sophomore Yasmeen Adeleke acted as mistress of ceremonies, leading the discussion on what each guest felt was the most rewarding aspect of their jobs, what they wished they would have changed about their high school experiences and what challenges they faced as women in their career fields.
Thompson pointed out that when she was in college, her job description didn’t yet exist. She wanted to help people solve problems with technology in the education field. Social media manager, podcast producer, telemedicine jobs — those occupations only emerged in the past decade. “I’m working in a field that is still developing,” she said. “You have to think beyond the four walls of a classroom.”
Swisher said she would have slowed down in high school. She was always in a hurry to get through a project or assignment. “I would explore more,” she said. “Enjoy the journey a little bit more. Take the time to learn what’s important to you.”
The three guests are used to being one of few women in a male-dominated workplace. “Who I am brings a lot to the table,” Ward said. In high school, Swisher was the only girl in her Advanced Placement (AP) physics class. When she first went to work for the Navy, she was one of two women hired. “Part of your role is going in and setting the expectations,” Swisher said.
When dealing with mistreatment in the workplace, the panelists suggested taking the high road. “There is always going to be conflict,” Swisher said. Addressing the small problems early prevents them from becoming bigger issues later, she said. Thompson said that professionalism should trump the instinct to engage in the conflict.
“Keep your integrity,” Ward said. “Keep who you are.”