Monday, March 12, 2012

Women in Science and Engineering Blog Series: Part One, Jadey Pareja

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, Department of the Army, Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.
In recognition of Women's History Month, Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) presents a special blog series featuring candid responses from female ECBC employees and leaders on their experiences as females in the science and engineering fields. The first blog in this sereis features Jadey Pareja, a chemical engineer in ECBC's Protective Equipment Test Branch.

I will be the first to admit I don’t fit the typical profile of a scientist.  I’m your high school cheerleading captain, the bubbly girl you want to kill in the morning before you have had your first cup of coffee, the girl with a pink lab coat.  I attended a predominately all-girl college, but was the minority when it came to my graduating class of four chemists.  I will never forget my first day at work as a professional at the ripe age of twenty-two:  I walked into the building as was immediately informed by an older gentleman that my desk was “over there.”  I looked in the direction where he was pointing only to discover the secretary’s desk.  It was at that moment I realized I was going to be the female on the all-male baseball team for the rest of my life.  Thank goodness I was wrong.

In 2005, I was hired by Edgewood Chemical Biological Center as a chemist.  The opinions and barriers associated with women in scientific fields had already been broken down by most of the women currently employed by ECBC.   These women had the courage to step outside their comfort zones for not only their immediate futures, but for the future of women to eventually work for ECBC.  The all-male baseball team image was no longer an issue.   

I absolutely believe that the science and engineering fields have shifted in the last 5-10 years.  The number of women working on the Protective Equipment Test Branch since I joined the team in 2005 has vastly increased.  Currently the team consists of thirteen females and ten males, which is a tremendous shift compared to the 1980-1990 team organization.  According to ECBC’s website, “…women make up one-third of ECBC’s workforce offering diverse expertise that enables the Center to cover a full spectrum of chemical and biological research, engineering and operation support for the nation and the warfighter.”   This number can only continue to grow as more females enter the professional world of science and engineering.    

My advice to an aspiring female scientist is simple, go for it!  Work hard in high school and choose a great college to obtain a degree.  Take advantage of all opportunities presented to you and work hard to make it part of your life.  Know that you will have to make sacrifices along the way, but don’t stop when you run into a barrier.  Climb that barrier, go around it, or knock it down.   Do not let anyone tell you that you cannot do something because you are female.      

Jadey graduated from Villa Julie College in 2002 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry. She began her career as a chemist with a government contractor in 2002 and was hired by the Department of Defense in 2005.  Currently she is employed as the carbon group leader with ECBC's Protective Equipment Test Branch (PET), which is part of the Engineering Test Division at the Center.

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