Society of Women’s Engineers

Vector art representing a woman engineer

To educate the student population during Women’s History Month, the Society of Women Engineers MSU chapter is researching and creating posters about historical women in STEM. Since SWE became a national organization in 1953, it has gained members in over 400 collegiate and professional sections in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, including in MSU’s chapter beginning in 2019. Its mission is to “Empower women to achieve their full potential in careers as engineers and leaders; expand the image of the engineering and technology professions as a positive force in improving the quality of life, and demonstrate the value of diversity and inclusion,” according to their website. Amber Seward, SWE president and mechanical engineering senior, was a part of the team of women that established a SWE chapter at MSU.

“Establishing a chapter with the national SWE org my first year at MSU and continuing to grow and unite women in STEM fields [have been big successes],” Seward said. “I joined SWE so I can connect with the other young women studying engineering at MSU. We are a minority when it comes to engineering so I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of SWE.”

As of 2017, only 13% of all engineers are women and only 26% of all computer scientists are women. Even at MSU, where over 60% of students are women, Elizabeth Horn, SWE secretary and engineering sophomore, said that she only sees one or two other women in her engineering classes.

“We have other engineering organizations… SWE is not a specific organization for a specific thing. It’s just a place where all the women, especially in [a major] where you only see one [other woman] in your class every semester, can go and meet new people,” Horn said. “Because it’s a male-dominated field. I know things are getting better job-wise, but it’s still at the point, at least in some places, where you don’t get as much. You’re not as well respected. We just have to work together and work, unfortunately, work harder than them to get somewhere. At least being all together in this organization, we can be a lot more comfortable going to upperclassmen in SWE and ask them for help with homework or with anything you don’t understand.”

Female engineers make 10% less than male engineers for the same exact job, forcing women to work harder if they want to be considered equal to men in the workforce. Seward said this is why SWE exists to lift women up.

“It is important because in engineering and STEM fields, which typically have mostly guys, for women to step up and work hard. Every day in the workforce, there are differences in gender roles,” Seward said. “For example, I am a server at a restaurant and have experienced this because my boss doesn’t like the females to do any heavy lifting when the inventory truck arrives. I believe everyone should be equal and work hard alongside each other, especially in fields like engineering.”

Horn said she joined SWE her first semester during the freshman Roundup. She said she joined to make friends and get to know other women in STEM.

“Since the STEM field is a male dominated field, [SWE is an organization] for women to…make some friends and just have more opportunities and stuff,” Horn said.

On top of forming connections, SWE participates in on-campus events like Engineering Week and forms study groups for female STEM students. This month, they are producing flyers to increase awareness about female impact in STEM fields.

“We have put together a small research project researching different women and their impact on engineering and other STEM disciplines for women’s history month,” Seward said. “We are putting up QR codes around McCoy and Bolin so students can scan and read about the women that we have chosen to showcase for this month.”

SWE has five core values at their national level: integrity, inclusive environment, mutual support, professional excellence and trust. As for future plans for the organization, Horn said that they are in the process of planning some academic and social events, which will promote the core values of inclusive environment and mutual support.

“I know so far, at least with this semester, our plans have been to just do some study groups with each other,” Horn said. “I know Amber, the president, also wants to do a gals night out kind of thing. [Which would be] something that we can all just hang around each other, be more comfortable with each other.”

This comfort is essential in encouraging women in STEM to continue working in their field, according to SWE’s website. Horn’s main advice she’d give to other female engineering students involves taking advantage of opportunities to interact with other students.

“Because you can make friends out of it and also just have someone else as resource for help with assignments and things like that,” Horn said. “I’d say it for anyone. I know it’s something that I probably needed when I came here as a woman going into engineering: don’t be afraid to ask questions and talk to people in your class.”

Logo for Society of Women Engineers at MSU