For the first time, DMC will attend WE22 – the world’s Largest Conference for Women in Engineering and Technology. The conference is held at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas from October 20 to October 22 and hosted by the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).
What SWE Does
“SWE is an organization that focuses on building community and promoting the advancement of women in STEM,” Elizabeth Goodnight, project engineer who attended the conference while at Rice University, said. “In your career, it also provides a lot of different opportunities for training, advancement, and networking to provide a support system – especially for those of us who might continue to work in a male-dominated field, industry, or work environment.”
The organization focuses on diversity and inclusion and is also open to gender minorities as a whole.
“Anybody who identifies as a woman or any gender minority who is in engineering can be a part of it,” Natalie Pippolo, systems engineer who attended the conference while at Rice University, said. “Most universities have chapters where people who are studying engineering can get scholarships from SWE, or SWE will help you find internships, help you out with job search, and just be a community and host events for women in engineering.”
This year, three other DMC engineers will be attending the conference in addition to Pippolo – Cecilia Brookshier, Caroline Courbois, and Jason Mayes.
Some DMCers were involved in the conference during college – like Goodnight.
“When I was at Rice, I was really involved. I was an officer. For a couple of years, I was specifically the Conference Chair, so I was responsible for coordinating everybody’s attendance,” Goodnight said. “We would do scholarships and stuff for some students who couldn’t necessarily pay their own way. We would pay for hotel rooms and stuff to get people going. That’s actually where I got my first internship. There is always a career fair, and sometimes that is why a lot of people go. They also do speeches, workshops, and panels.
Alike to being a part of SWE, any gender may attend the conference, and Goodnight says she “fully supports this.”
“I would encourage anybody to go because everybody should see women achieving,” Goodnight said. “If you're going to try to benefit from this conference, then you should also be prepared to support the overall mission – which is supporting and advancing women in engineering. Go to a talk, learn some things, apply that in your future, and then absolutely be a part of the community. Do it as an ally, not as an appropriator."
The conference allows companies the space to hire a broader demographic of people in a space where these genders feel welcomed. While large, Pippolo says the opportunity to be surrounded by others like you is exciting – as she knows from attending the conference while attending Rice University.
“There’re so many companies, and it’s really cool to be in a giant convention center room full of a bunch of just women in engineering – which is a pretty rare opportunity, so that was really cool,” Pippolo said. “I know a lot of people from college who have gotten jobs and internships from the SWE conference, so I am really excited that DMC is going for the first time this year.”
Goodnight agrees that it is rare to see women featured in the workplace in this way.
“I think, for me, it was first time I ever saw women at the top of their field,” Goodnight said. “When you look at the people that kind of run the engineering world, you don’t see a lot of women. It’s a very cool environment to just see people who are really good at what they do and also who look like you, have a similar background, or have been through the same thing.”
While attending Rice University, Elizabeth Goodnight (left) attended the SWE conference.
The Next Generation
Since 2018, Goodnight has been pushing for DMC to attend the conference and recruit there.
“I think it’s absolutely worth it for exposure and demonstrating that you actually care about something," Goodnight said. "It’s one thing to say ‘we care about promoting diversity in our workplace.’ It’s another thing to say ‘we are spending money on being there, being present, and being actively engaged.”
The conference actively engages with high school students by hosting Girl Scouts and other groups that participate in invention competitions.
“They also do an invention competition for high school students typically to do some kind of robotics invention task – which includes a bunch of girls and SWE volunteers all working together on some kind of design challenge,” Goodnight said. “It’s really cool. It’s more about, not just reaching out to current women in engineering or current women who are studying to be engineers but building up the pipeline early on.”
As SWE supports the next generation of engineers through events such as these, DMC is as well by sponsoring the SWE chapter at Rice University.
“This is our first year we are trying to sponsor a student club like that,” Goodnight said. “We are kind of stepping that up in general from an outreach perspective, so I think that also played into this – getting involved with SWE at one of our target schools and the conference happened to be there this year. There’s just a lot of things that came together where it made sense. I’m hoping that – seeing it as a positive experience this year – will make it worthwhile to attend in future years.”
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