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The Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology ended its celebration of women’s history month by hosting its first women in engineering panel discussion.
The Ohio University student chapter of Society of Women Engineers (SWE) invited current students and Russ College faculty members to discuss the opportunities and challenges for women in engineering and technology.
“I think it was absolutely wonderful that SWE organized this panel that allowed us to share our views about women and STEM with the audience,” said panelist, group advisor and assistant professor of industrial and systems engineering Diana Schwerha.
Sitting beside Schwerha were Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering Monica Burdick, Chair and Associate Professor of Civil Engineering Deb McAvoy, Chair and Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering Valerie Young, and SWE members Marissa Singley and Jessica Belzner.
“The goal of the panel was to reach out to current and potential women engineering students about any issues they might encounter as a woman in a male-dominated field, and encourage them to rise above the issues and focus on the benefits,” explained Natasha Norris, who coordinated the event.
The panelists connected with the audience by sharing their detailed and personal perspectives. They discussed how they got into engineering, their journeys in the field, and barriers they may have faced.
“It was just awesome to listen to,” said mechanical engineering senior Taylor Maceyak. “The panel did a very good job answering questions and showing everyone that there are opportunities in engineering for women, and that it’s a very rewarding career.”
Industrial and systems engineering senior Sarah Koska wishes she had gotten to experience an event like this when she was a freshman or sophomore.
“I thought it was really inspiring,” she said. “You always have worries or you wonder ‘how did all these other people get here?’ It’s just good to see that others think the same way and to know you’re not alone in some of your thoughts and processes as a woman in engineering.”
While most of the panelists were accomplished professionals, researchers and academics that have been in the field for years, the event organizers valued having a couple student representatives in the discussion.
“I think that a younger perspective is great because they see that not only are there people who have continued throughout engineering in their career, but that you’ve got to start somewhere,” said Singley, a senior in mechanical engineering and SWE president. “I hope the younger students know that they’re not alone and that if they can struggle through the next couple of years, they’ll have some great opportunities ahead of them,” added Singley, who will start General Electric’s Edison Engineering Development Program in the fall, where she will do six-month rotations throughout the company for two years while attending graduate school at North Carolina State University.
Senior mechanical engineer Talli Topp found the discussion on advantages for female engineers particularly interesting.
“I think I agree with a lot of the panel members that there may have been doors opened that I’m unaware of because I’m a female but I’ve never been hindered by the fact that I’m a female either,” she said. “The fact that I’m about to graduate is due to my own strengths and not the fact that I’m a female. I had to have the intelligence to make it through.”
As far as she’s concerned, being a woman hasn’t caused any problems.
“I’ve just been another kid in the class,” she said. “I just have longer hair than most of them.”
SWE plans to make “Opportunities & Challenges for Women in Engineering” an annual event.