Experience of Community
Hello all. My name is Theresa Rogers and I am a rising sophomore studying mechanical engineering at the University of Notre Dame. One of the most influential factors leading me to pursue a STEM degree has been my participation in organizations dedicated to female empowerment. Because I attended an all-girls high school, I was consistently offered leadership opportunities through my science and math classes. For example, during my junior year of high school, I was able to attend a STEM symposium at Georgetown University. Here, I was exposed to the fascinating work of top area researchers in biology, science, physics, and engineering. I was also given the chance to compete in a state-wide physics competition, which introduced me to the engineering design process. Attending a single-sex school afforded me an environment where I could explore STEM fields confidently through hands on experiences like these. My teachers in the science and math departments also worked tirelessly to remind my classmates and I of our tremendous potential as females in STEM. Having this supportive background has continued to fuel my motivation to stick with my intended engineering major in college.
Expansion of Interest
During my first year as an undergraduate, I found a community equally as supportive of women in STEM through Notre Dame's chapter of the Society of Women Engineers. Heading the club was my first-year engineering professor, who also serves as the director of the university's Women in Engineering program. She was always willing to discuss her personal experiences with me, offering insight into the opportunities engineering has to offer young women such as myself. As a club member, I was able to share my interest in engineering with the surrounding community through STEM fairs, admissions events, and Girl Scout Day engineering activities. Participating in this type of community outreach helped me solidify my desire to study engineering as I recognized my enthusiasm toward the field rubbing off on other young girls.
Empowerment of Others
I recognize that I am fortunate to have been a part of communities so dedicated to advancing women within STEM fields. Not every young female has the chance to express herself as I was able to through my all-girls high school education. Rather than building the self-confidence and motivation to take on a primarily male field, many high school girls find themselves "lost in the crowd," or limited by gender stereotypes. This is where schools would greatly benefit from the helping hand of organizations like the Manufacturing Institute. By taking advantage of programs such as the Institute's Manufacturing Day and Dream It. Do It. network, schools can more easily connect with local STEM and manufacturing companies that seek to engage students, possibly targeting young females specifically. This way, teachers can enthusiastically inform their students local opportunities which allow for greater field exposure than is possible inside the classroom. Another resource for schools is the Institute's STEP Ahead initiative which recognizes outstanding female manufacturing talent. This network of leaders work and live in communities all across the country and are energized and committed to providing young girls with the industry role models they need as an incentive to continue along the path toward a STEM career. To find empowering women within Science, Technology, Engineering, and Production (STEP) careers in your own community, check out the Manufacturing Institute's STEP page on their website. These opportunities could be the first steps in building empowering environments for young females, like the ones which have been the backbone to my personal journey in engineering.