May 9, 2017
The Mid-Atlantic Region E Conference of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) was held at the Marriott Syracuse Downtown Hotel and Conference Center this February. 65 women engineering students from Syracuse University and SUNY Environmental School of Forestry (ESF) attended the Saturday portion of the three-day program.
Students had opportunities to network throughout the course of the event. Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) student assistant and member of WiSE Women of Color Treasure Bellamy commented, “One of the best aspects of the conference for me was being able to network with women in STEM from different schools and industries. I also enjoyed attending the panels because doing so allowed me to gain various perspectives regarding common issues women deal with in their careers.”
Students found the event’s career fair, which consisted of local engineering firms and graduate admission representatives from a number of regional universities, to be a low pressure environment in which to explore career and education options post-college. WiSE Women of Color member Asia Wynn remarked, “I enjoyed the intimate size of the career fair. I had the opportunity to engage with the recruiters and I did not feel rushed talking to them.”
On her overall impression of the conference, Bridget McDonough, president of the SU/ESF chapter of SWE, stated, “The greatest impact the SWE Regional Conference had on me was hearing the experiences of several female professionals in the field, which made me realize just how far women have come in the STEM fields and yet the hard work that still lays ahead for women in these professions. Catching a glimpse into their experiences in either expressing themselves in a male dominated field, or fighting the wage gap that continues to exist, or the sacrifices in balancing a family life and a career, brought upon me a deeper motivation to not only continue in my engineering major, but also to excel in it as well. I realized that progress is slow and tedious, but from one generation to another, change can be made.”
WiSE Women of Color member Asia Wynn offered a word of thanks for her conference experience, “I want to thank Dean Dahlberg, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, WiSE, and SWE for all of their hard work organizing and funding this conference. It is because of this conference that I was able to gain some insightful tips that helped me better make my decision about what I wanted to do post-college and to receive an interview from GHD.” GHD is a leading professional services company operating in the global markets of water, energy and resources, environment, property and buildings, and transportation.
The SWE conference made an important contribution to attendees’ sense of belonging as engineers. The opportunity for women and members of underrepresented groups to have personal interactions with professionals who look like them is vital according to Nilanjana Dasgupta, a psychology researcher at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Through research supported by a National Science Foundation Social and Behavioral Grant, Dasgupta found that academic success is not the primary indicator of whether or not women and persons from underrepresented groups stay in STEM where they are minorities. Rather Dasgupta summarizes, “Feeling like they fit in, or not, is the critical ingredient that determines retention.” Enabling SU students to attend this conference fulfills one of Dasgupta’s recommendation to universities about how to facilitate a sense of belonging among students: enhancing students’ exposure to technical women.
WiSE Program Assistant