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Empowering The Next Generation Of Women Engineers

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The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) is an international organization that consists of over 40,000 members around the world. SWE was founded in 1950 and is the world’s largest advocate for women in engineering and technology. SWE provides its members with professional support and resources to assist women as they navigate a predominantly male-dominated field. The SWE mission is to “Stimulate women to achieve full potential in careers as engineers and leaders, expand the image of the engineering profession as a positive force in improving the quality of life, and demonstrate the value of diversity.” [i]

Geneva College’s chapter of SWE was founded in 2013 and has seen remarkable growth since its founding. Karen Mlynarski, the Administrative Assistant of the Engineering Department, is the faculty advisor for the club and has worked alongside the student leaders since its founding. The mission statement of the college is “to equip students for faithful and fruitful service to God and neighbor” [ii] and Mrs. Mlynarski says that this mission is foundational to Geneva SWE. She says, “If you are given the God-given gifts then you do it, whether you are male or female” and SWE is a fantastic resource for women to receive support as they pursue their chosen profession.

SWE is a valuable resource for Geneva students, because it includes resume reviewing, conferences, scholarship opportunities, skills training, help finding interviews and internships, and networking. It is useful for academic development, but also for professional development that can have a lasting impact beyond the collegiate setting. Geneva SWE has a counselor and representative for SWE named Mary Zeist, who is instrumental in providing professional support for the students. The engineering professors are also supportive of the Geneva SWE and work to ensure that their students feel equipped for professional careers.

web-thumbnail-size-31.jpgSWE is valuable for women in STEM fields, because it provides support with professional development, but beyond that it also creates an atmosphere of cooperation and bonding. Delaney Winterhalter ’25, is majoring in Civil Engineering, and she is the outreach coordinator for Geneva SWE. She finds SWE to be an incredibly encouraging atmosphere. When she came in as a freshman, she found it encouraging to have a club where she could interact with other engineers and was very hopeful as she could engage with successful upperclassmen in the department. SWE provides significant support with getting interviews, finding internships, and learning useful skills, but the impact of SWE goes beyond that and is a place where women engineers can bond together and feel connected on a deeper level.

Beyond being a place to find friends and peers, SWE is also a place where women can find a sense of belonging. Caitlyn Cipher ’23, president of Geneva SWE, notes that SWE is bigger than just the Geneva section. It can be encouraging for women in this club to recognize that they are members of an international organization of women just like them. For many, SWE can provide a profound sense of belonging, because women can recognize that they are not alone, and they can make a difference in this field. Mrs. Mlynarski adds that SWE provides a sense of belonging at both the collegiate level and the international level. Firstly, women can feel a sense of belonging at Geneva College, because they are part of this group of women that are working toward similar goals. In addition, there is this sense of international belonging, because SWE connects women from around the globe, and being a member of this organization can give women a sense of being part of such a large group. They truly are not alone.

It is also valuable to note that it is overall beneficial to have women in the field of Engineering. Caitlyn Cipher says, “I think variety is something that every single career needs. No matter what you do, you need multiple perspectives. Women provide a different perspective than men and the variety of people in the field improves the field as a whole.” Delaney Winterhalter echoes this perspective as she says that “I think women are well fit for engineering. It requires not just academics, but communication, presentation, and problem solving.” There is not only specific mold that a person must fit in to be a good engineer. In fact, the opposite seems to be true. The field of engineering is improved when there are people with different perspectives and skills.

web-thumbnail-size-32.jpgAnother valuable aspect of SWE at Geneva is that there is a lot of opportunity to get involved and engaged. Caitlyn Cipher says, “If we have people that have knowledge, how can we utilize that.” SWE is not like an extra class where you just have to sit and listen to a lecture, it is an opportunity for to students to interact with their peers, receive hands-on training that they might not experience in the classroom, and receive support for their professional development. SWE has many opportunities for students to engage with if they are interested, and it is the active engagement of members that makes SWE so valuable. Caitlyn Cipher says, “The girls that show up make the group what it is.” Their continued engagement is what allows the club to continue to grow.

Despite some misconceptions, SWE is not only available for women, but they also encourage the attendance of male students. Mrs. Mlynarski remarked that in a male-dominated field, men supporting their female peers goes a long way. Caitlyn Cipher also commented on this topic by saying the there is more support in this field than there used to be, and it will continue to get better. SWE is designed to encourage more inclusion and diversity in the field of engineering, and this unity can be found when peers and coworkers support each other, whether they are male or female. So, Geneva SWE encourages the attendance of male students, because it is valuable for women students to see the support of their peers.

SWE is a valuable club on Geneva’s campus and gives engineering students a space where they can connect with others who are also passionate about supporting women in the engineering field. There are a lot of stereotypes with engineering and SWE is working to break down those stereotypes and bring more diversity to the field. Ultimately, engineering can be for anyone who has the passion for it. As Mrs. Mlynarski has said, “If that’s the path for you, go for it. It doesn’t matter if you’re a woman or a man. If you have the ability, go for it.” SWE provides the resources for women to go for it and follow their passion.

 

-Mattigan Burleigh '24

 

 

[i] http://swe.org/about-swe/

[ii] http://www.colindowdeswell.com/about-geneva/identity/mission-doctrine#:~:text=Geneva%20College%20is%20a%20Christ,service%20to%20God%20and%20neighbor.

Mar 13, 2023

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