Paving the Way for Women: SWE
Attending a school such as Missouri S&T, students are not oblivious to the gender demographics of the male to female ratio (more so of the lack of a strong female presence on the campus). But luckily for current students, we live in the age of feminism, equality, and the ability to create and exist among organizations developed to create a sense of community for minority groups where one might not be established easily. The Missouri S&T campus and community has the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) where women of all STEM disciplines (even though it has the word engineers all are welcomed) may gather to explore job opportunities, conferences, or even just to have a sense of belonging and community. The SWE organization here at Missouri S&T consistently goes to both the National SWE Conference and the Local Conference every year. I reached out to Shelby Schrenckenberg, a junior in aerospace and mechanical engineering, regarding the complete aspects of SWE’s reach on a campus with such a small female presence. She was able to explain that SWE is designed to aid its members in the professional world by connecting women from the school with potential employers as well as showing potential new students what the Rolla community and S&T can offer with degree programs. Currently, SWE has a total of 443 members, which includes their alumni, and they average about 60 women attending each meeting.
With COVID-19 sparking a worldwide pandemic, clubs and organizations on campus have had to adjust greatly in order to maintain the safety and health of their members. Schrenckenberg talked about how the organization at the start of this semester was concerned about their ability to host in-person meetings for current and prospective members because their in-person meetings allow a better sense of community with the ability to sit down and just eat and talk to one another. SWE currently reserves rooms on the second floor of Toomey Hall every Thursday at 6pm in which they can seat ten women in a room (per social distancing guidelines set by the university). They are still able to provide dinner to the women who attend in-person meetings by giving out lunch boxes prepared by food distributors; if a member or prospective member is not fully comfortable with attending the in-person meetings they also have an online option in which one can join via Zoom and still get the same opportunities and sense of community. And although they currently are unable to host in-person talks with employers and companies, SWE still hosts them via Zoom calls and are still able to hold resume reviews, what to say in an elevator pitch, and so many useful skills to have when trying to obtain an internship or job.
Schrenckenberg was able to share her own personal experience about SWE and everything they have done for her and all they have to offer, “I am so grateful for this club, without being able to go to the National Convention last November, I would not have the internship I have now. I was able to talk to NASA’s JPL during the conference which landed me an internship with them this last summer and now next summer. SWE has always made me feel at home, even since the very first meeting. This organization offers so much more than I could ever say, but one thing I know is that they are my second family.” While from an outsider looking in, SWE may seem to be inclusive only to female engineers, but they are able to provide so many professional and personal experiences to better benefit the women on S&T’s campus.