Engineers Week Women in Engineering Panel Discusses Unique Challenges Facing Women in Engineering

During Engineers Week, a panel of faculty and students shared their experiences and advice on their education and career journeys as women engineers. They offered advice to future female engineers to empower them and help them grow, including the importance of faculty and peer mentors.

This article originally appeared on Northeastern Global News. It was published by Cyrus Moulton. Main photo: Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Women in engineering say female mentors offer help on challenging road

As a woman in engineering, Serena Lin says finding a mentor makes the challenge easier.

“Mentors are just the most important thing,” says Lin, an undergraduate studying electrical and computer engineering at Northeastern. “Finding those people who will support you and can relate to your experiences and give you relevant advice and can relate to you is the most important thing I’ve done since I’ve been here (at Northeastern).”

Tanvi Vinod Pathrikar, a graduate student studying bioengineering, agrees that finding a female mentor or group of female colleagues and friends to whom you could share not just research challenges but also life challenges is important.

“You are not alone in this — a lot of people at Northeastern are trying to help you and have been in your shoes before,” Pathrikar says. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help at any point.”

Despite an increased focus on STEM education, and a particular focus on opening these fields to women, just 16.7% of professionals in the engineering and architecture fields are women, according to the Society of Women Engineers.

That has led to a unique set of challenges facing women in the field, as female engineering faculty and students at Northeastern explained during a forum on Tuesday, the beginning of Engineers Week. There were concerns about adjusting their priorities and expectations concerning home, student and work life upon the arrival of children or while juggling other jobs; feeling undervalued and patronized during group projects and job interviews; and feeling more pressure to appear “put together” and “less nerdy” than their male peers when talking with colleagues. The forum was hosted by Sarah Ostadabbas, director of Women in Engineering and associate professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Kelsey Pieper, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Northeastern, advised future engineers to “find that group that empowers you.”

“Find a culture that really works for you and that will promote your growth as an engineer,” Pieper says, suggesting “great mentors who can help you explore, rather than belittle you.”

Read full story at Northeastern Global News

Related Faculty: Sarah Ostadabbas

Related Departments:Bioengineering, Civil & Environmental Engineering, Electrical & Computer Engineering