During the final meeting of a program created by U.S. Representative Randy Hultgren to champion the pursuit of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) based careers, nineteen local high school students were given an important lesson courtesy of an all-female panel on how to succeed in male-driven professions by conquering the gender obstacle.

The students in the program, including ten women and nine men, won their place in Hultgren’s inaugural STEM scholars program based on personal commitment to STEM-related subjects including math, robotics and computer programming. The program offered students weekly tours to local STEM-oriented businesses for insight into the running of those businesses and the potential for career opportunities in the future.

On July 10th, the program’s students were awarded graduation certificates during a ceremony at FONA International in Geneva. At the ceremony, Aneesa Muthana, the president and owner of Addison-based manufacturing company Pioneer Service Inc., urged the program’s female students to determine the course of their own futures rather than bending to the preferences of male figures in their lives.

Daily Herald reports, Muthana told the students, “As girls, we sometimes tend to be in [men’s] shadows.” She herself had left a six-figure position at her father’s business in order to form Pioneer Service. “I was not going to have that. I left my father’s company for the unknown.”

She assured the students that people no longer presume men should be the top decision-makers, even in fields still considered male-dominated today: “Workers, they don’t look at you as a woman or a male now. It’s not men versus women. We are on the same team.”

Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti, who attended the event, urged the students to pursue their interests in STEM-related fields while also applying their efforts within their home state.

“These jobs are the jobs of the future,” Sanguinetti said. “STEM education is crucial for our nation’s economy and workforce development. You are the talent who will generate the new ideas of the future, discoveries and new efficiencies that will bolster each area of the state.”

The story, originally published in the Daily Herald, can be found here.