WSU’s support for STEM women lacking

We need better outreach, more participants from WSU’s top-level management



Although there are some student groups at WSU that encourage and support women to sustain a career in engineering, the responsibility to support minority groups in the STEM field should not fall solely on students’ shoulders.


I once thought that due to the efforts of past generations of women, the battle for equality was over. 

But evidently, there are still biases toward women pursuing a career in science, technology, engineering and math, and a disparity in pay which leaves the efforts of the past incomplete. 

Women have made extensive contributions in STEM throughout history. 

There is Radia Perlman, whose innovation in search algorithms made today’s internet possible. Susan Kare, an influential computer iconographer, made our screen experiences effortless. The Macintosh trash can, the pointing “paste” hand and the formatting paintbrush are some examples of her intellectual acuity. The list goes on. 

Yet, across the United States the scarcity of women in STEM fields is a long-standing and persistent problem. 

To increase the diversity in STEM fields, the guidance and inclusion need to extend from early education all the way through professional development and career support. 

The general needs of undergraduate and graduate women are very different. However, the common goals for two support groups for these students at WSU — Society of Women Engineers and Graduate Society of Women Engineers — are to inspire female students to stay in STEM degrees, find their community and get inspired by other women in their field.

Ayumi Manawadu, fifth-year doctoral candidate in civil engineering and GradSWE president, said “providing career motivation and access to resources either at the WSU level or at the national level is major focus of the existing support groups at WSU.”

The SWE group at WSU organizes two major events every year: Evening with Industry and Kids’ Science and Engineering Day.  

Evening with Industry is a big, focused networking event usually held the night before WSU’s career fair. 

Kids’ Science and Engineering Day is an event for the local children.

“All of the science and engineering clubs here at WSU are involved to help like create activities for the kids to enjoy and learn,” said Makenna Mullen, a senior mechanical engineering major and president of WSU’s SWE. 

“The GradSWE group at WSU, started in 2020, organizes three to four professional and personal development events throughout the year focused on ensuring women have the resources they need to sustain graduate level studies,” Manawadu said. 

They will also have a dedicated speaker series to bring in female leadership from across academia and industry to foster motivation to the community. 

“In the coming year, my main target is to get many graduate students register for the national women in engineering conference, open up a platform for graduate female engineering students to interact with each other, give them many opportunities to develop as professionals, and inspire young female students to get into engineering,” Manawadu said .

I strongly encourage all women students that need support and guidance to get involved as a member of SWE or GradSWE at the WSU level or at the national level.

In addition, there are also many significant groups out there to provide support, guidance, and motivation for women to pursue a career in STEM: Association for women in science, IEEE women in engineering, Million women mentors, National action council for minorities in engineering, National girls collaborative project, Society of STEM women of color, etc. 

At WSU, despite the efforts from these two groups, there is still a significant lack of diversity in the number of female students and faculties in STEM departments. 

Reports from career research show that the disconnect between girls and STEM-related career paths happens during college. 

To bridge this gap, there needs to be a diligent effort from the higher-level management at the university. This involves all the supportive male and female faculties to be actively participating and providing leadership to make the effort of these student groups consequential.