The Society of Women Engineers National conference is essentially just a giant carnival for engineers. About 11,000 women and a much smaller proportion of men congregated in Philadelphia, PA for four days to network, learn, and celebrate the achievements of so many women who are changing the world.
The conference was a nice wake-up call about how other collegiate sections operate across the country. It turns out that despite having an engineering school with just 900 undergrads, we have a massive SWE section. We have 21 people on our executive board, about 35 people that show up to our meetings regularly, and a network of almost 100 people who show up to the events. While talking to other college students, I was so proud to share that we sent 20 people to this conference! Our group spent a lot of time fundraising so that we could afford to fully fund everyone. It paid off; we won the Outstanding Collegiate Section Award at the Gold level meaning we are one of the top 15 sections in the country!
On Wednesday morning, we loaded 20 people into two Ford Expeditions and one SWEet minivan and drove 6 hours to Philadelphia. While we were there, we visited the Liberty Bell, ate Philly cheesesteaks, and had a great dinner with SWE alumni who also attended the conference. After those drives, some long walks, a lot of laughs, and a couple profound conversations about our futures, I feel much closer to all of those fabulous ladies.
It also alerted to me about the different options that are available beyond just mechanical engineering. There were consulting, finance, and marketing roles, some really cool rotational programs, lots of aerospace companies, and many consumer products companies. These companies recruit hundreds of people and some of them come to the Tufts career fair, but the scale of this career fair is probably bigger than most others in the world.
If you asked me two months ago what I think about career fairs, I would tell you that I would rather hide in the corner. I’m an extroverted person but something about figuring out my future really paralyzes me. Then, I went to the Tufts career fair in September and realized that a simple conversation with an employee is not as difficult as I made it out to be.
After five interviews, a couple sessions, and lots of chit-chat, I was much more invigorated about what exists outside of Tufts. The community for female engineers at Tufts is strong, but I was worried about life outside of Tufts where there is a much smaller proportion of women engineers. The good news is technology companies have made a lot of strides over the past 50 years, although there are still some implicit biases that many industries need to overcome. Encouraging and supporting female engineers throughout all stages of their career will help solve that. The network nurtured by groups like SWE makes me optimistic that we'll get many more female engineers in the future.