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Conference encourages women in engineering

Published: Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Updated: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 23:02

Women in Science and Engineering, an organization made up of graduate students, faculty, postdoctoral faculty and staff, will hold its annual career and professional development conference Saturday to provide information to A&M women looking for STEM careers.

This is the 22nd year WISE has hosted its career and professional development conference and Saturday’s program, “Real Go Getters: Becoming Agents of Change,” will include different speakers and potential role models for women interested in science and engineering.

Nancy Magnussen, director of educational outreach and women’s programs and one of the event organizers, said the speakers will focus on the challenges of being a woman in science and engineering. Eleanor Green, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, will be the keynote speaker.

“This conference brings in successful women scientists and engineers from around the country to share their stories and experiences on how they overcame various obstacles along the way — both professionally and in their personal life,” Magnussen said
Chris Kaunas, director of the ADVANCE Center, said there is a large gender gap in U.S. science and engineering jobs. Kaunas said the conference is beneficial for the A&M community because it raises awareness of this underrepresentation of women in STEM.

“Basically we have a shortage of scientists and engineers in our country and we need to do whatever we can to broaden the pool of excellence and if we are leaving half the population out then we aren’t doing that,” Kaunas said. “Women and minorities are underrepresented in STEM nationally. Less than 25 percent of the workforce in STEM are women even though women are graduating with bachelors degrees just at a little bit more than 50 percent relative to men, so I think these kinds of conferences are very good at helping to facilitate getting women
into STEM.”

Magnussen said she wants students to have the opportunity to network with guests and gain valuable advice for their current and future endeavors.

“Our hope is that the young women will leave the conference with new ideas for overcoming any challenges that they are encountering in completing their degree,” Magnussen said. “We also hope that they might establish a new network with some of our guests that will lead to a mentoring relationship or step towards a new career. Whether trying to get out of graduate school or deciding if the current career path is the correct one, everyone should take away new thoughts and ideas from our motivated and
inspired speakers.“
Bonnie Schiller, logistics coordinator for the conference, said WISE tries to gear the conference more toward graduate students. She said this year’s speakers will be focusing on the changes women may face in their transition from the academic world to the professional one.

“[The speakers] will talk about the challenges that girls will face when transferring from school into the workforce,” Schiller said. “The girls get to interact with these ladies plus also interact interdepartmentally with the other attendees and in that fact it is very good because it creates a lot of camaraderie between the different departments and the girls get to interact and exchange ideas as well as speak with women leaders in industry
and academia.”


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