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50 years of recruiting, supporting, and retaining women in engineering at MSU

Michigan State University’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers is celebrating its 50th anniversary of recruiting, supporting, and retaining women in the engineering profession.

Three Spartan Engineers discuss the evolution of women in engineering, challenges and opportunities ahead in the next 50 years, and share their advice for young women interested in STEM fields. The panel discussion includes Dayana Villagran, ’21 alum, General Motors mechanical engineer; Dr. Laura Genik, Applied Engineering Sciences Director/alum and Sara Purdue, mechanical engineering senior, actively involved in Women in Engineering.

Conversation Highlights:

(6:05) – “I think the Society of Women Engineers has done a lot to advance the community of women in engineering.”

(7:54) – “Representation is a huge thing. And if you see somebody like you, or someone who has a similar background, it can spark that possibility that you can also get there.”

(8:47) – “I think you come into an engineering program expecting to be surrounded by men.”

(10:24) – “One of the main things that has always stuck in the back of my head is that everyone has these expectations for you being a woman in engineering. If someone asks me what I’m majoring in and I say mechanical engineering, they say ‘Wow, that’s really impressive. That’s awesome of you.’ And although it comes from a good place, they’re often shocked and don’t expect it. So be prepared for that reaction but be proud of what you’re doing.”

(11:46) – “I would say the biggest thing is not to be afraid.”

(13:38) – “It has to start in the K-12 realm where you’re not discouraging women and girls from staying active in math and science.”

(15:12) – “You have to become comfortable with being uncomfortable in a situation. And when you look at engineering, sometimes you can feel like a square peg in a round hole. But the mechanical engineering solution to that is to get a bigger hammer. The square peg is going to deform, but so is the round hole. But they’re still going to come together to work.”

(16:39) – “I like to speak on my story a lot. I don’t necessarily feel like it’s my duty. I have a need to share what I’ve been through to show those people who are going through something similar that it doesn’t matter where you come from or from where you start as long as you have a passion to do something, and you’re dedicated to doing it. You are more than capable of doing that.”

(17:47) – “I think there still needs to be, unfortunately, a revolution in thinking that has to be societal.”

(19:07) – “Try to pull someone with you…I feel like if you bring somebody with you, you’ve made a difference because it’s not just you now. You have somebody beside you who you’ve helped along the way.”

(19:58) – “There is still just this overall kind of thinking that women aren’t going to be as successful in certain paths as men may be. At the end of the day, you have to be proud of where you’re at.”

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