March is Women's History Month!
Last year's Women's History Month's national theme was Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The theme honored generations of women who throughout American history have used their intelligence, imagination, sense of wonder, and tenacity to make extraordinary contributions to the STEM fields. At UMBC we honored last year's theme by partnering with the Center for Women in Technology (CWIT) to feature some of their amazing students participating in technology in the engineering and information technology fields.
Since last year's spotlights were so meaningful and successful in highlighting the important work of women in STEM fields, we're back at it for year two. This year's national theme is Celebrating Women of Character, Courage, and Commitment. Though there is no specific mention of STEM, it is impossible to deny that acts of courage and commitment from women (and their allies... which we're specifically featuring in this spotlight today!) in STEM occur everyday. So with that, we are honored to bring you the 2nd Annual CWIT Showcase in honor of Women's History Month.
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Kevin Johnson, mechanical engineering major
Men in CWIT group facilitator
Tell us about your experience in the CWIT community.
Joining the CWIT community has been one of the best decisions of my life. I have loved becoming so close with other success-driven students who share similar majors to mine. The CWIT community really is one big family who all support and look out for each other. It is a great feeling knowing that you have so many friends to help you with any problems you may have. The directors of CWIT have done a great job of making themselves extremely accessible and supportive as well. They are always willing to help scholars with any of their problems, whether they are academic or personal. It is also nice being around other students who share a similar mindset as me. We all support the inclusion of women in STEM fields and use the community as a way to support the women in our program and other women who are not in our scholars program. The CWIT community has helped me make some lifelong friends who I will always stay in touch with and never forget. Each new class of scholars is unique in their own way and when we all come together as a family, anything seems possible.
Based on your internship experience, what do you want other men to know about the gender gap in engineering and IT?
I would say the most important thing men need to realize about the gender gap in engineering and IT would be that the inclusion of women is going to be necessary to keep moving forward in a constantly changing world. I have had 2 internships now and it is quite obvious in each one that I have been part of a male majority. Although both places I interned with are extremely successful, I would be remiss to not say that both places would benefit from more women involved in STEM fields. Right now, many engineering problems are being solved by males, which account for half the population of the world. Why are we solving problems that affect everyone with the brainpower of only half the population? It doesn't make sense. Encouraging more women to get involved in STEM fields and giving them a real chance to succeed in the workplace will allow us to create and design more diverse and effective solutions to the difficult engineering problems that we face in today’s modern world.
How do you feel you are a role model for other men majoring in engineering and IT?
I feel like I can be a role model for other men majoring in engineering and IT in many different ways. I am comfortable talking to anyone about CWIT and our mission and I believe this is the most important aspect of our program. Spreading the word about our program and why it exists to other men could make a huge difference about how they view women in STEM fields. Sometimes it just takes someone informing another person of a dilemma for them to view it in a different light. I also feel comfortable standing up for women who are being discriminated against. I have no problem pulling a male teammate aside and suggesting they treat a woman in our group more fairly. This is only fair to the woman and will help the team in the long run. Sometimes the males are not even conscious of how they are discriminating against females. Other men in engineering and IT should learn to be accepting of women in STEM fields because this will lead to more robust solutions to advanced technological problems.
In your experience, how has being a man advocating for women in engineering or IT demanded character, courage or commitment?
Being a man advocating for women in engineering and IT comes with its challenges. A majority of males do not agree with my opinion, or if they do, they do not go out of their way to vocalize it like I do. There have been several occasions during group projects where I have had to talk to my male colleagues to encourage them to include the women’s opinions more because their opinions hold just as much weight as ours do. Some of my closest and smartest female friends are women in STEM fields at UMBC, but some males do not have the privilege of knowing them because they think they are on a higher level compared to the females. I have stayed committed to the CWIT mission even when many other students do not agree with it. Even in the workplace I have had to stick up for female interns so their voice will be heard among the masses of male voices. Advocating CWIT and their important mission has not always been easy, but it has been worth it. I know that every person deserves a fair chance in the engineering and IT fields and I will continue to support this mission throughout my lifetime.
The Center for Women In Technology (CWIT) is dedicated to increasing the representation of women in the creation of technology in the engineering and information technology fields. CWIT efforts begin with nurturing a strong group of Scholars, grow to building community resources for other women in these majors, extend to fostering a healthy gender climate and ITE pedagogy in College of Engineering and Information Technology (COEIT) departments, and finally expand into outreach efforts to increase interest in technical careers. A successful program for female-friendly engineering and information technology education at UMBC will help make UMBC a destination for women (and men) interested in technical careers and serve as a national model for other universities.
Learn more about the CWIT community at http://www.cwit.umbc.edu/
For more information about Women’s History events and happenings, visit: http://my.umbc.edu/groups/womenscenter/news/41639