BYU organization mentors women in engineering, tech

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Hannah Gasinski
Civil engineering student Kate Corbett shows off part of the concrete canoe she and other students have been working on for an upcoming competition. (Hannah Gasinski)

Women make up only approximately 16.2 percent of the undergraduates in the engineering college at BYU, according to Lisa Barrager, a Women in Engineering and Technology organization coordinator.

BYU’s Women in Engineering and Technology organization is dedicated to changing that.

The organization aims to help women in the engineering and technology programs by hosting activities and providing students with the resources they need to succeed.

“We do activities throughout the year. We also have an annual celebration where we do a panel discussion with four women alumna,” Barrager said. “This is a neat time for the students to learn from these women that are older and have completed these majors and how it has impacted their lives.”

One way the Women in Engineering and Technology organization helps female students is through organizing mentoring for female freshmen in the programs.

According to the organization’s website, every female freshman in the program is assigned a mentor who can “help answer questions and help you find your way around the college.”

BYU civil engineering student Kate Corbett is currently a mentor to female engineering freshmen, all because of the impact her mentor had on her during her freshman year.

“She helped me so much, she even offered me a job recently,” Corbett said.

Corbett became interested in engineering in high school, when her counselor told her she should join Women in Technology, a program organized by the company BAE Systems. This program strives to help female high school students with an aptitude for math and science get involved in engineering.

“BAE Systems worked with NASA to help build the rovers that went to Mars, and I got to work on projects with them every week through my junior year in high school, and I just fell in love with it,” Corbett said.

Now a senior in the civil engineering program at BYU, Corbett has loved the experiences she has had in her major, including working with other students on a concrete canoe for the Rocky Mountain Conference engineering competition.

“The canoe has to float … you have to do a test where you have to sink it all the way and fill it completely with water, and let it come back up and float, which is so scary,” Corbett said. “You wonder if it will even stay together.”

Corbett advised female students to stick with the major.

“My freshman class was around 50 percent women, but they slowly started to drop out because they didn’t feel good enough, or felt like they should make their family a priority, or other reasons,” Corbett said. “But just stick with it, because it is so satisfying.”

Cammy Peterson, a professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering, said many studies and her own experience show that having people with different backgrounds and life experiences is good for companies.

“Gender diversity at the management level leads to higher profits in the companies and more innovation,” Peterson said. “Women help produce better, higher quality outcomes. They can frame problems in a way others may not have considered or develop unique approaches and solutions. Everyone will benefit if we see a higher proportion of women in STEM careers.”

Peterson also advised female students wanting to pursue a career in engineering to “go for it” and said their creativity and intelligence is needed.

“We have some great programs to help women in engineering,” Peterson said. “They can apply for research mentorships that give them opportunities to do some hands-on research and learn early on more about what being an engineer can be like.”

To learn more about the Women in Engineering and Technology organization visit their website.

 

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