Wayne State hosts Speed Mentoring event to support women in engineering

Despite recent gains in female representation in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, U.S. News and World Report reveals that men still outnumber women in the STEM fields 3-to-1. Organizations like the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) are working to close that gap through one-on-one mentoring and professional support activities on campuses throughout the country. The Wayne State University College of Engineering’s chapter of SWE hosted a unique mentoring activity called Speed Mentoring on April 7, which brought together engineering students with a diverse group of local female professionals in technical fields.

In speed mentoring, modeled off of speed dating, students are seated on one side of a table with mentors seated on the other. The students have three minutes to ask each mentor questions ranging from how they manage to promote themselves in their careers to how they balance their work and home life. Over 20 mentors and 20 students participated, focusing on professional excellence and developing women engineers in the early stages of their personal and professional lives.

“This event gives our students valuable experiences they can’t get in a classroom. They get firsthand accounts of what to expect in their careers, and the opportunity to ask candid questions to a diverse group of female engineers from a variety of majors, industries and career stages in an open and welcome environment,” explains Rachel Kast, assistant professor of research in biomedical engineering and WSU SWE faculty advisor. For students who haven’t attended a job fair, this could be their first opportunity to introduce themselves, shake hands and speak to a stranger in a business-like setting.”

The event proved to be equally beneficial to the mentors as they were able to interact with the next generation of engineers. Mentors shared their experiences and stories, and connected with a network of strong female engineers. “I wish that speed mentoring existed when I was an undergrad. I knew very few practicing engineers until I started interviewing for jobs,” says mentor Ashley Lesser, MSCE ’11. “This is not uncommon at research universities, but it’s vital for students to understand the industry and the business culture they are entering. We all know that there’s more to a successful and enjoyable career than mastering its technical elements.”

The overall mission of the Society of Women Engineers is to empower women to succeed and advance in the field of engineering, and to be recognized for those accomplishments. Events like Speed Mentoring advance that mission by providing a platform for women to learn from and lift each other up. This year’s event built upon last year’s success, and Wayne State expects to make it an annual event.

Learn more about Wayne State’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers.

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Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution of higher education offering 380 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to nearly 28,000 students. For more information about engineering at Wayne State University, visit engineering.wayne.edu.