In February, U-M’s Society of Women Engineers (SWE) took 27 members to Baltimore, MD, to attend Women Engineers (WE) Local, a regional conference that aims to build a network of SWE members, further professional development, and provide career opportunities for attendees. Five of the students were from ECE, and the department contributed funds for their attendance.
“To me, the theme of this conference was communication and inclusion of all types of people and ideas,” said Raheida Khalique, a junior in Electrical Engineering. “I thought it was very fun and enlightening. I was inspired by the panelists and keynote speakers who came from completely different backgrounds and shared some great points.”
They communicated to us that the world is ours; we can be leaders, engineers, world travelers, adventurers, as well as mothers and wives, if we so choose. Gillian Minnehan
The conference gives ECE undergraduates the opportunity to bond with their peers at U-M, as well as professional and collegiate SWE members across the nation. Attendees networked with local companies in the northeast who may not attend the career fairs at U-M.
“This was my first professional engineering conference, and I am very glad I was able to attend, especially in the midst of a wonderful group of SWE leaders,” said Gillian Minnehan, a sophomore in Computer Engineering. “I really enjoyed hearing from these women, because they were not only incredibly successful, but they were also confident, funny, charismatic, and had full and rewarding lives outside of their job.”
The conference featured both technical and professional development sessions. Topics included current and future trends in tech, diversity and inclusion of people and ideas, and sustainable job practices, as well as how to excel as a 21st century engineer. Panelists discussed the value of integrating communities, being flexible in the changing industry, and the importance of being a "T-shaped" engineer, meaning an engineer who specializes in a technical area but can collaborate with, and adapt to, other areas as well.
Panelists also spoke about issues specific to being a woman in engineering, such as the struggle to present yourself as confident and competent without being perceived negatively as arrogant or bossy.
“By standing in front of us and sharing their successes as well as their failures, they communicated to us that the world is ours; we can be leaders, engineers, world travelers, adventurers, as well as mothers and wives, if we so choose,” said Minnehan. “I have always been inspired and encouraged by women who have gone over the career and life hurdles that I am currently experiencing or will eventually experience, and these women were no exception.”
The Society of Women Engineers at the University of Michigan is a professional development and outreach organization with 150 active members. SWE seeks to empower individuals as engineers and leaders within the college and the community independent of gender and to provide opportunities to encourage the next generation of students to pursue STEM fields. To learn more, visit their website.