Women engineers gather at Notre Dame, bring the ‘brains and beauty to engineering’

by Notre Dame News

Society of Women Engineers Society of Women Engineers

This Friday and Saturday (March 6 and 7), approximately 850 female collegiate students and professionals will gather at the University of Notre Dame for the 2015 Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Region H Conference, highlighting women engineers’ unique place and voice within the engineering industry and bringing a significant economic impact to the area.

Hosted by the Notre Dame student section, this year’s SWE conference — titled “Bringing the Brains and Beauty to Engineering” — supports diversity in engineering, provides networking opportunities with prominent companies and includes personal, professional and SWE development activities. Approximately 850 collegiate students and professionals will gather at the conference for networking, keynote addresses and a career fair featuring 40 to 50 companies looking for female engineers, including keynote sponsors Aerojet/Rocketdyne, Keurig Green Mountain, Boeing and platinum sponsor Xerox.

According to Cathy Pieronek, associate dean for academic affairs and director of the Women’s Engineering Program in the College of Engineering, programs such as SWE create an environment where women engineering students are able to flourish at the University. “Our academic culture embraces students from all backgrounds traditionally under-represented in engineering. Opportunities like the SWE conference and our student section support and encourage women to achieve their full potential in their careers.”

While many colleges and universities are struggling to attract and retain women in their engineering programs, the number of admitted engineering women choosing to study engineering at Notre Dame has increased to 33 percent — almost twice the national average.

“I was unsure if engineering was the right path for me, until I visited my first SWE conference,” says Notre Dame electrical engineering student Maggie McGonigle, who is also organizing this year’s conference at the University. “I looked around and realized there is a place for me in this field. That’s the kind of impact a conference like this can have on students and young professionals.”

Beyond the effect the SWE conference will have on women engineers and their careers, the conference is also making a significant economic impact just as Notre Dame students are departing the University for spring break. McGonigle says the organizing committee decided to forgo the typical conference banquet and instead is arming attendees with Downtown Dollars, a new gift certificate program from Downtown South Bend, encouraging out-of-town guests to experience the local community’s dining and entertainment.

Visit South Bend Mishawaka estimates that the spending by attendees at hotels, restaurants and other businesses will have an estimated economic impact of $443,329. “We want to share our vibrant community with guests coming to Notre Dame,” says Pieronek. Attendees will also have the opportunity to tour South Bend facilities with engineering in mind, including Honeywell, the Notre Dame power plant and other locations.

Notre Dame last hosted the SWE Region H (which includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin) conference 10 years ago, with approximately 650 attendees. With nearly 400 members, Chicago Regional, the host professional section, is one of the largest sections of SWE and welcomes new members; contact Cathy Pieronek at Catherine.F.Pieronek.1@nd.edu for additional information.

Contact: Margaret McGonigle, Margaret.M.McGonigle.5@nd.edu