International Women’s Day | Natalie Panek: Championing Women in STEM

International Women’s Day is just around the corner, and this year’s theme is #BeBoldForChange. It’s a call to action to forge a better way of life – a more inclusive, gender equal world.

Throughout the month, we’ll be highlighting some of our acclaimed Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) speakers, who are breaking boundaries while inspiring other women to pursue their passions. 

Today’s blog features Rocket Scientist & Advocate for Women in Tech, Natalie Panek. As a Member of Technical Staff at MDA’s Robotics and Automation division, Natalie works on the next generation of Canadian space robotics and space exploration programs.

Natalie’s Revolutionizing Women in Technology presentation shares insights from her experience working in a non-traditional field and a male-dominated industry offers a unique perspective on revolutionizing women role in the technology industry. Natalie shines a light on what is possible for women in STEM fields and how we can motivate young women to embrace technology.

Natalie recently sat down for an interview with TVO’s The Agenda to discuss ‘Championing Women in Stem’. We break down some of the key lessons learned by Natalie over her career:

“I just didn’t want to live with any regrets. I have to live with the knowledge of whether I’ve done everything I possibly can to achieve my goals.”
-Natalie Panek

 On Getting into Engineering & Robotics:

Natalie grew up with the goal of becoming an astronaut. To get there, she felt it important to focus her education on the same fields previous astronauts had studied in (Science, Technology, Education & Math). It showed her the value in emulating the steps taken by your hero’s.

Natalie also attributes her pursuit of this career path to a Physics teacher she had in high school. This particular role model showed Natalie the potential rewards of a career in engineering and robotics.

On Learning from Failure:

Often we don’t hear about failure. Now, through social media, we see a curated version of ourselves, one that only shows the accomplishments & successes. But the real world isn’t like that and Natalie argues it’s important that young people know we have to overcome obstacles in order to achieve our ultimate goals. 

On the Stats:

Natalie believes the numbers showing a low representation of women in STEM and low earnings don’t tell the whole story. She argues that we need to look at the big picture & what can be done to improve the low numbers of women in STEM Careers. This comes about by getting them interested, getting them enrolled in the specific areas of study for their education, having them graduate, getting them in (and keeping them in) the workforce, then moving them up the levels of seniority within organizations. Natalie believes there’s a mix of points in the process where women are leaving STEM careers. 

On the Road Forward:

Natalie grew up without knowing the road map for a career as an astronaut. She feels by sharing her story and putting herself out there, she is able to offer guidance to a whole new generation of future explorers. The interconnected world offers a whole new way to share information, and, in her eyes, get more young women interested in STEM.

Her Key Takeaways:

  1. Dream big.
  2. Take risks.
  3. Constantly look for opportunities to work outside of your comfort zone.

Watch the full interview here:


Click here to request more info on Natalie and her availability 

For more on Natalie and how she can inspire your IWD audience to #BeBoldForChangecontact us.

Check out our other featured Women in STEM speakers for IWD:

View more of our inspiring International Women’s Day speakers here.