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The ASCE El Paso Branch Younger Member Group, in partnership with the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), hosted the Women in Engineering Event on February 26th at the Centennial Museum located on the UTEP campus. The purpose of the event was to provide an opportunity for women in engineering to come together, share their experiences, and strengthen the community of women in engineering through empowerment and motivation. The event was attended by women practicing engineering, engineering students, engineering professors, and women who support the engineering field and are surrounded by engineering. Also in attendance were three young children and two high school students. With over 70 members in attendance, the best part of the event was experiencing the panel-like portion of the event. Each of our 12 volunteers answered a question and it was through that session that a safe space for discussion was created.
The UTEP Engineering Department sponsored the entire event and provided a beautiful setting surrounded by the “Mexico: Crisis and Uprising” exhibit. Brunch included a spread of fruit, oatmeal, a variety of quiches, and non-alcoholic mimosas. Our brunch was plated on the university’s china resting on white linen-covered tables paired with full silverware and cloth napkins. At the center of the table were delicately potted succulents.
The event began with 12 volunteers who shared their responses to predetermined questions. The women intently listened in during the panel portion of the event and were eagerly continuing conversation afterward during the open discussion and networking session. The Women in Engineering Event was a 2-hour event. The common feedback received was that the event needed to be longer. As organizers we agree and also feel that our community needs more events like the Women in Engineering Event.
Diana Guerrero with LOI Engineers says of the event, “I enjoyed my time at the Women in Engineering Event very much. It was a great networking and seeing so many ladies excel in our industry. I loved seeing an event like this have such great attendance and I believe it is largely due to the fact that, as women in a male-dominated field, we have this huge desire to support and guide other women.”
Environmental engineer and current ASCE El Paso Branch President Alexandra Riccillo said, “The Engineering Brunch made me feel enlightened and blessed. I feel that I have a great support system with other women, who are just like myself. To be together again inspires me to work on becoming the great engineering leader that El Paso and UTEP deserve. Thank you!”
The Women in Engineering Event was inspired by Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day. During the planning of the Women in Engineering Event, Daniela Shelley, the event lead organizer, shared a memory of a similar engineering event that she experienced as a student at UTEP. She went on to share that the experience of being surrounded by women in engineering motivated her to continue pursuing her degree and the conversations she was a part of still resonate with her throughout her career. It was during that time in the planning process that we decided to focus on creating an event to bring women in engineering who practice it and study it into one room.
Introduce a Girl to Engineering (or Girl Day) was celebrated on February 24, 2022. According to the Discover Engineering website, “Introduce a Girl to Engineering, or Girl Day is a time when volunteers, educators, and others act as role models, facilitate engineering activities, and show girls how engineers change our world. DiscoverE’s ‘Despite the Odds’ research found that this simple formula helps girls develop an interest in engineering, builds their confidence in their problem-solving skills, and creates a STEM identity”
Julia Smith, P.E. a Geotechnical Engineer at Wood participated as a panelist and was accompanied by her 10 year old daughter had the following to share about what events such as the Women in Engineering Event means to her and to the future of her daughter. “While in college in the late 1990’s, there were always less than five girls in my engineering classes. I moved to Illinois in 2001 to start my career and female colleagues were few and far between. When my daughter was born, she was attending association meetings with me and attended her first E-week expo at the tender age of 10 months. I especially enjoy taking her to women-led events with me because we always have so much to talk about afterward. When I took her to the ASCE Women in Engineering event at UTEP, she asked if all the female engineers in El Paso were in that room and was amazed when I told her there were so many more out there. By having her participate in this type of environment, she can see and hear about the variety of engineering careers that are within her reach. Giving our students access to participating in these types of events and being resources for them helps our students actually envision their futures in our field. I’m so thankful that these opportunities are available to me so that I may share them with my daughter. I will never pressure her into becoming an engineer, but I would love to see the initials PE after her name in the future!”
It was important to invite all women engineering students to fully achieve our purpose for the event which was to provide an opportunity for women in engineering to come together, share their experiences, and to strengthen the community of women in engineering through empowerment and motivation. All UTEP engineering organizations and engineering students were invited. There was a great showing of engineering students with approximately 50 in attendance that day.
Ana Saenz, currently a senior with a focus in Transportation at UTEP who serves as the UTEP ASCE Chapter President shared the following, “As women in engineering, we constantly hear the term “male-dominated industry.” I personally see that term as an invitation to challenge the status quo. Events like the Women in Engineering Brunch remind me that women DO have a place in engineering. Being able to listen to other women’s stories, their struggles, and how they overcame different challenges was very rewarding. I hope this is a tradition that we keep going for years to come!”
The Women in Engineering Event serves as a model for other types of events that are needed in our engineering community. It is events like the Women in Engineering Event that strengthen any community by providing the time and space to have discussions outside of our workplace. Life is challenging and our work is challenging but none of us are alone in anything that we experience, and you quickly realize that once you start meeting other women engineers. Our El Paso community naturally wants to help and pairing that with an engineering mind and our Engineer’s Creed results in people who want to help and give back to their community. The turnout of women engineers and students was so great that the Women in Engineering Event will be a staple event in the El Paso community moving forward.
The ASCE El Paso Branch YMG would like to thank the UTEP College of Engineering and everybody who helped and supported the event. Thank you for making this event possible. To our attendees, thank you for bringing the event to life and creating a beautiful open space for discussion.
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