Carnegie Mellon University

Women Empowerment in STEM Conference: A Student Perspective

E&TIM student Sakhi Shah (third from left in photo below) attended the weSTEM conference January 28th in Chicago and returned with a recap of the event. 

weSTEMThe weSTEM conference was very inspiring and I left understanding better the issues and opportunities of women who are involved in STEM. I was able to network with other women who had similar difficulties in their workplace and discussing how to deal with issues around diversity. I learnt that having a strong network and support systems is really important in working through difficult times at work and school. I also learnt how to approach managers and company executives and how to lead teams where you are a minority. The importance of diversity in STEM and how to help improve this was a key part of the conference. By encouraging younger children to be excited about STEM and showing younger girls that they can be successful and thrive in engineering careers, more females can be involved in STEM. Additionally, the importance of companies need to be more accommodating for women was stressed, in terms of improvements in maternity leave and promotion opportunities amongst others. The role of men in advocating for women was also touched on, as they should not be alienated.

The opening keynote speaker was the Chief of Staff and TA to the CEO of Intel, Lakecia Gunter. She spoke to us about how to own and be strong in a position and how to be successful in a large corporation. She also gave advice on dealing with situations where one is a minority, and the importance of having a network and people to advocate for you. She encouraged us to read a lot and to take advantage of all opportunities.

I went to a session by Amelia Patrick who is in the field of civil and structural engineering. Shespoke about self-doubt and how success involves trying many things and failing. She also explained that sometimes we have to try change the culture of a company if they do not support your needs, and may even have to leave in order to ensure career progression.  She started her own engineering studio and spoke about the difficulties and opportunities of this. I went to some more speakers and panel talks as well as break-out sessions where issues were discussed in depth in smaller groups. This was very useful as I learnt more about the opportunities associated with professional organisations amongst other topics. I was able to network and connect with students and professionals, and really understand my role and opportunities as a women in a STEM fields as well as how to deal with hurdles that I may face during my career. Being able to listen to people from such varying backgrounds a great learning experience.