To kick off this year’s National Engineers Week, a panel titled “Invent Amazing” featured several female Binghamton University professors and alumnae who discussed the rewards and challenges of being a woman in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.
The Watson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences annually hosts a variety of events for National Engineers Week. This year, the panel was organized by the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and Alpha Omega Epsilon (AOE), an engineering and technical science sorority.
The panel, which took place on Monday night in the University Union, featured three female BU professors, including Sherry Towfighian and Kaiyan Yu, assistant professors of mechanical engineering, and Ahyeon Koh, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering. Brooke Eiche, a retired project engineer, and four alumnae were also present.
The panelists discussed various moments where gender impacted their careers. Eiche said she once worked as a contracted employee with a man, and despite the fact that she did most of the work on the project, he was rehired by the company for being more social. Koh said a male coworker once argued over authorship of a paper she wrote and questioned her work as a woman.
“That was the first time I saw myself as a female scientist,” Koh said. “Before then, I thought I was a scientist that was female.”
The panelists also discussed the increase in the number of women in STEM fields. Towfighian and Yu said that things are improving for women in STEM with the rising call for diversity. But Koh and Victoria Kramer, ‘15, said those improvements are not enough.
“We need to work hard to increase the number of female scientists in the STEM field,” Koh said. “I will not be satisfied with the amount we have now.”
Others gave advice to young women seeking careers in STEM fields. Eiche said confidence and assertiveness were important.
“Remember to sit in a prominent position,” Eiche said. “Don’t ever say sorry. Be sure you always ask for help if you need it. Sometimes men may interrupt you and speak over you at meetings, [but] don’t let yourself be walked over. Many guys do not know what they are talking about.”
Imaane Carolina, a sophomore majoring in systems science and industrial engineering, said she came to the event to learn from the experiences of women in her field.
“I came to this event to get a perspective on professional women in engineering and how their day-to-day duties are and how the STEM field is treating them,” Carolina said. “Just getting some older perspective on when and how to really strive through challenges as being a woman in engineering and seeing how people succeeded that came from where I came from.”
Marleen Moise, a sophomore majoring in systems science and industrial engineering, said the event was a valuable networking opportunity.
“I came to this event mostly because I wanted to know the different opportunities that there are for women in tech,” Moise said. “I knew that there would be different organizations here so I wanted to familiarize myself with that and really get involved and take a jumpstart into my career. Even though I’m a sophomore, I don’t have that much time left and I need to make valuable and lasting connections during my time here so that when I ultimately leave Binghamton I’ll have the opportunity waiting for me.”
National Engineers Week will conclude on Saturday, Feb. 23 with Community Day, which will be held at the Innovative Technologies Complex.