Over the past decade-plus, educators and professionals across the country have been working to encourage women to enter and complete STEM degree programs. But for all the good work that has been done, representation of women in mechanical engineering has remained stalled. In 2004, according to the NSF’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, 13.2% of mechanical engineering degrees were awarded to women; that number remained low at 13.54% in 2016. At Drexel, 14.8% of degrees in the field were awarded to women. Now, a new group is seeking to improve those numbers.
Founded this fall, I am ME is a professional student organization focused on promoting equal partnership, equal opportunities, and increased visibility for female engineers in mechanical engineering. The goal is to connect women in the program with each other and with women who have completed their degrees and are working in the field.
“Because of the underrepresentation of women in engineering, a student can walk into a classroom of 70 and discover that she’s the only woman,” explains faculty advisor Jennifer Atchison, PhD ’12, assistant teaching professor in Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics. “It’s difficult in that case to find a sense of community or connection. This group seeks to correct that.”
Seminars, workshops and social events are planned throughout the year. I am ME programming kicked off on Friday, September 25 with an online social, where students could meet each other and the group’s leadership, which includes Atchison, two alumnae and five founding student committee members. Upcoming events include seminars and a workshop on negotiation.
Atchison says that she is especially encouraged by the participation of the student committee, who are shaping some of the group’s programming.
“The young women who make up our committee are smart, creative and ambitious,” she says. “They want to create space for themselves and create change.”
Mentorship is one of the key goals for I am Me. Graduate students and upper class(wo)men will be encouraged to become connected to alumnae in industry and research to learn about career options for their degree, and they in turn can mentor first and second year students on topics such as what to expect as they continue through their studies and how to manage their time from women who have experienced it themselves.
“The women who have been through the mechanical engineering program have experience and a voice,” Atchison says. “We want them to be able to keep a deep connection to Drexel and MEM and to use that voice to show young women that someone like them can find success.”
For more information on joining or participating with I am ME, fill out their online form .