March is Women’s History Month!
Two years ago Women’s History Month’s national theme was “Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.” The theme honored generations of women who throughout American history have used their intelligence, imagination, sense of wonder, and tenacity to make extraordinary contributions to the STEM fields. At UMBC we honored this theme by partnering with the Center for Women in Technology (CWIT) to feature some of their amazing students participating in technology in the engineering and information technology fields. Three years later, we still find it meaningful and important to continue spotlighting the stories of UMBC’s CWIT women and with the 2015 theme of “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives” there’s no better time than now to continue weaving the stories of our campus ITE women into the fabric of women’s history and current day lived experiences. So with that, we are honored to bring you the 3rd Annual CWIT Showcase in honor of Women’s History Month.
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Tell us about your experience in the CWIT community.
By being a member of the CWIT community, I have felt a connection to other students in class and socially that I wouldn’t otherwise have. In almost every class I have, there’s someone there that I recognize and can have a rapport with. Almost every group I have hung out or worked with from class has built up from a fellow CWIT member. Recently I have had the honor to be a part of several committees to encourage young women to enter the STEM fields or work beside new members to CWIT. These events have been some of the most satisfying experiences I have had at UMBC.
Based on your experiences, what do you want other men to know about the gender gap in engineering and IT?
Personally I think that most men are already aware of the gender gap in the STEM fields. I know my own major of computer engineering is particularly lacking in gender diversity. This is a frustrating issue as one of the hardest parts of working in this field is coming up with solutions to very difficult problems. Trying to solve these in a vacuum is a near impossibility. I know I can’t do it. The women that I work with have valuable insights and perspective that has helped me through a project more then once. They make just as strong of an addition as any man would. Everybody attacks design problems from a different angle depending on how they learned to problem solve. These unique perspectives are invaluable to a project and should never be overlooked.
How do you feel you are a role model for other men majoring in engineering and IT?
I have had a lot of support from women in my life help me get to where I am today. I think it is only right that I try to be there to offer support to anybody who may struggle here at UMBC. By being a mentor to other member’s of CWIT I hope any of our community members may feel more comfortable working in STEM. By being a member of the CWIT retreat committee, I was given the opportunity to mold many student’s first impression of UMBC. As a part of the Bits and Bytes group, we helped young women better understand how to get into the STEM fields, what kind of challenges they might find, and the kinds of support that are out there. I have tried to make my workplaces and classrooms more tolerant and accepting places. I encourage others to be accepting and nonjudgmental as well. I think this is important not just for encouraging women to participate in STEM, but for anybody.
How has being a man advocating for women in engineering or IT helped you better understand how important the stories of women’s experiences are?
By being in a community dedicated to diversity in the STEM fields I have learned a lot. Everybody has their own story, and with it comes their own take on a host of issues. While many of these are different and unique, I know I have been most struck by how many of them I can relate to. I think it is important to realize that there is far more that connects me with everybody in this community. Not just the men, and not just the computer engineers. All of us have found an interest our area and an aptitude for it. For many of us it was a surprise and wasn’t even something we were looking for. I know that we are all together exploring what these interests mean to us and its important that we have the support improves that journey.
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The Center for Women In Technology (CWIT) is dedicated to increasing the representation of women in the creation of technology in the engineering and information technology fields. CWIT efforts begin with nurturing a strong group of Scholars, grow to building community resources for other women in these majors, extend to fostering a healthy gender climate and ITE pedagogy in College of Engineering and Information Technology (COEIT) departments, and finally expand into outreach efforts to increase interest in technical careers. A successful program for female-friendly engineering and information technology education at UMBC will help make UMBC a destination for women (and men) interested in technical careers and serve as a national model for other universities.
For more information about Women’s History events and happenings, visit the Women’s Center myUMBC group page.