Nine members of Mercer’s chapter of Society for Women Engineers (SWE) visited Indianapolis to attend SWE’s national conference this past weekend.
The annual conference, which is the world's largest conference for women in engineering and technology, was held virtually in 2020 due to COVID-19 but returned this year.
Mercer SWE vice president Madelyn Thornberry said that due to COVID-19, only one of the women attending had ever attended the conference before.
“The opportunity to just meet other women in engineering, especially since we are a minority in STEM and just being able to see other women across the country is such an important thing, especially our younger girls, making sure they don’t feel alone when they’re applying for internships and jobs,” Thornberry said.
The conference includes seminars about technical and leadership abilities, professional development opportunities and a career fair featuring many tech and engineering companies including Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google and Microsoft. Emily Wilbourn, the president of Mercer SWE, said that their members have left the career fair every year with job offers.
“I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for our members to be able to go and experience this, because they will be able to learn valuable skills and grow their leadership abilities with the different workshops and be given the tools that they need to succeed professionally,” Wilbourn said.
She said that the conference a great networking opportunity, especially for students who’ll be graduating soon, along with getting to know other SWE chapters.
“I think it might almost be kind of weird to see that many women engineers in one place, just because you don’t really see that many women engineers in one place very often,” Wilbourn said. “I think it’ll be really, really good for us to be around other women engineers and experience different workshops and network in employers and potentially walk away with jobs.”
Both Wilbourn and Thornberry expected that the conference would be busy but enjoyable.
"It is going to be a great opportunity for us professionally, but also I think we’re gonna have a lot of fun,” Wilbourn said.
The Mercer SWE executive board, consisting of Thornberry, Wilbourn and secretary Zaina Khutliwala, were the first members allowed to attend. The board also opened attendance to the rest of the club and decided who would be able to attend based on who was the most active.
The group received funding from the Student Government Association (SGA) and the engineering department, as the latter paid for their transportation and food while SGA paid for the conference registration fees and hotels. The students did not have to pay for the trip besides any souvenirs they purchased in Indianapolis.
Thornberry said that they hope to take more underclassmen next year and that more people will apply to attend as well.
“The goal is to reach as many women in STEM, because it’s just such a wonderful sisterhood of women,” Wilbourn said. “It’s just such a wholesome group of people that are all so loving and wonderful and it just kind of feels like home, so I really want more people to experience what that is.”