The women in the engineering field know what it’s like to be outnumbered. In 2013, 14.8 percent of engineers in the United States were women, according to the National Science Foundation.
That’s why Temple’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, a national organization for the advancement and support of women in engineering and other STEM careers, aims to provide its student members with networking and career preparation opportunities. From Oct. 22-24, the group will send 11 delegates to WE15, an international conference hosted by SWE in Nashville, Tennessee.
The conference will have more than 250 of the best engineering companies that are interested in hiring and empowering female engineers, providing the delegates with opportunities to network with influential companies and potential employers.
Last year, six Temple SWE members attended the northeastern regional conference, hosted by Drexel University in Philadelphia.
“What sparked us going to the national conference [was] basically the regional,” said Pauline Rusciano, a senior mechanical engineering major and the president of SWE.
Networking with companies has proven to be just as important prior to the conference as well. Companies like Lockheed Martin have stepped in as sponsors of Temple SWE for events like sending students to the national conference, but the group has also used fundraising methods like bake sales and Doors of Clubs, which is an organization fundraising website where companies can view profiles and donate to organizations of their choosing.
The organization also hosts events like talks on how to dress professionally, teaching the basics of LinkedIn and resume builders. SWE accepts students in non-STEM majors, like speech pathology, social work and advertising, in addition to male students, looking for career skills and support.
“We don’t discriminate, like, we accept males,” Rusciano said. “If they support women in engineering, and they’re all for us, then they’re welcome to join.”
This year, SWE started up a mentor program, in which a freshman girl would be matched with a junior or senior mentor in the engineering field to help them with academics and navigating the world of engineering as a woman.
Deven Strabala, the vice president of Temple SWE, noted the difficulties with being a woman in the field of engineering.
“It’s weird how different it is being a male engineer and a female engineer; we go through a lot of different stuff,” said Strabala, a junior mechanical engineering major. “Personally, I worked at a construction company that had a lot of older guys, and they were very set in their ways with how females should be throughout the office. They thought that females should have an [administrative] or an office manager type title, like they weren’t suited for engineering.”
“A lot of the guys would want to take over the work that I was given because they didn’t think I could handle it, or they would just rather do it themselves,” she added.
It is because of common experiences like these an organization like SWE took shape across the country as a space for women engineers to share ideas and support each other.
“Everybody is friends and everybody tries to help one another,” Strabala said.
While many companies and organizations have contacted Temple SWE recently looking to donate for the students to attend the conference, Strabala mentioned the effort that has been made on their part in preparing.
“We’ve really worked hard to get where we are,” Strabala said. “Right now all eleven girls are going … and this is going to be a free trip. Last semester, I think we only had $36 in our bank account. It’s just such a drastic change.”
Lindsay Hargrave can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.