Heidi Johnson came to college in a “different state, different community, different everything.” Once in Utah, her lifelong friends were no longer by her side, especially not those who shared her passion for engineering. The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) changed everything for her.
In 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said that “in architecture and engineering occupations, 14.0 percent of full-time wage and salary workers were women.” The bureau also said females only accounted for 7.2 percent of mechanical engineering occupations.
Senior mechanical engineering student Ivy Running explained the Society of Women Engineers is a national society that helps to connect female engineers across the nation, helping them to associate together.
At BYU, students make connections through various club activities. Running said the club focuses on enabling women to succeed by helping them gain support, a network and a friend base.
“SWE has given me support and (the) friends that I needed to encourage me and also a bigger picture of what this can actually look like in real life,” Running said. “We get to talk with a lot of people outside of the college.”
Now the communications chair for the Society of Women Engineers, Johnson said the society helped her make friends and get involved. She was added to the email list for her Society of Women Engineers chapter during her freshman year and decided to attend their events in her free time.
“The girls that came were all looking for friends and shared the same level of interest in the STEM fields. Had it not been for SWE, I would not have the friends and support I have today,” Johnson said.
Aside from offering a support system, Johnson said the society provides students with the opportunity to attend the national Society of Women Engineers conferences and career fairs. These give women a chance to connect to companies across the nation and be empowered by advice given directly to them.
“Our goal is to create opportunities for friendship, connections and support for women in STEM. We organize social events, networking events and service opportunities,” Johnson said. “SWE creates a greater platform to bring these female students together.”
Brieanna Alexander participates in many of the activities the Society of Women Engineers offers, such as Habitat for Humanity. Alexander is a junior mechanical engineering student who said she feels empowered by the amount of independence that comes in her major due to her being one of few female students.
“If I can do it myself, I will do it myself. I love working in the shop hand-ons. I’m a strong, independent woman,” Alexander said.
As much as she loves working in the labs, Alexander gives herself needed outlets by participating in various club events that are productive for her, her future and her career.
Junior mechanical engineering major, Clare Lore said she sees herself as someone who is willing to work hard to complete something that is challenging.
“Sometimes you do look around and you are like, ‘There are no other girls here. Does that make me different from other girls, or does that make me able to do things?’ But it’s cool to be an engineer,” she said.