Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day breaks STEM gender stereotypes

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Freshman Bruna da Silva leads a group of high school scholars on a tour of the College of Engineering during the Society of Women Engineers' Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day Thursday morning. Kawan Amelung // Staff Photographer

Freshman Bruna da Silva leads a group of high school scholars on a tour of the College of Engineering during the Society of Women Engineers’ Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day Thursday morning. Kawan Amelung // Staff Photographer

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he Society of Women Engineers (SWE) hosted 260 high school girls from 20 South Florida schools Thursday afternoon to show them the benefits of a career in engineering.

Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day is part of a national effort to acquaint young girls with the many possibilities in the field of engineering. It was held in the Shalala Student Center and included UM engineering students, professors and alumni who all shared stories of their experience in the field.

“We want to give the girls a chance to see what studying engineering is like,” University of Miami SWE President Amanda Klaristenfeld said. “It is especially important because they are about to make choices about their future: their college, their major, their career path.”

The students also participated in activites such as creating organic lip balm and touring labs at the school.

“My favorite activity was definitely touring the biomedical labs,” said Anissia Ojeba, a sophomore from John A. Ferguson Senior High School.

“We wanted to pick activities that incorporated all the departments in the engineering program here and keep things interesting for the girls,” Klaristenfeld said. “We wanted to be sure and force them to work as a team.”

Sarah Field, a graduate from the UM School of Engineering, spoke to the girls about setting goals and staying focused, as well as her passion for engineering.

She went on to tell the girls about how much the SWE Convention inspired her in high school and her continued involvement with the organization throughout her time at UM. Field insisted that the girls follow their dreams.

“Engineering allows you to capture the essence of creativity and innovation. I really wanted to express that to the youth,” she said. “There is no difference from me doing it and you doing it.”

While career decisions are still years away for many of the high school students, some discovered a connection with engineering through the event.

“I really enjoyed my experience and feel I learned a lot,” said sophomore Sydney Viguera, a student from American Senior High School.

Daniella Munoz, a junior from John A. Ferguson, addressed gender when talking about her interest in pursuing a career in engineering.

“I have always questioned how things work. I am really interested in mechanics,” Munoz said. “I want to combat the stereotype that when it comes to mechanical stuff, girls cannot do anything.”

Both Field and Klaristenfeld believe that being a female in engineering is no longer a problem of stereotyping, but more about the field being stuck in the past.

“In the industry, I have never felt that being a woman has held me back,” Field said. “I mean, I may be the only female on site, but I do feel the numbers in the field are growing.”

She went on to explain that corporations have been increasingly investing in young girls.

Klaristenfeld recounted a story about the impact the event had on a previous participant.

“I was tabling for SWE at an engineering expo and a girl came up to me and said, ‘I am now an engineering student at the University of Miami, and it is because of you guys.’”

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