Why Drexel's Society of Women Engineers is seeking male allies for women in STEM - Technical.ly Philly

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Dec. 1, 2017 7:32 am

Why Drexel’s Society of Women Engineers is seeking male allies for women in STEM

Drexel SWE co-organizer Nohra Murad explains the reasoning behind the group's #HeForSWE gender equality campaign.

At a Drexel #HeForSWE event in October 2017.

(Photo courtesy of Drexel Society of Women Engineers)

This is a guest post by Drexel Society of Women Engineers co-organizer Nohra Murad.

I’ve been in leadership at the Drexel Society of Women Engineers for about three years now. It’s an amazing feeling to enter a space where, as a woman in engineering and often one of the few women in class, other people get it: the experiences, the disadvantages and the unspoken feeling of exclusion that we lug around.

Having this community builds us up as both engineers and as people in a way that nowhere else really can.

But when it comes to trying to explain this power to the guys we’re friends with, we’ve seen that it’s difficult to communicate that we see problems that they often don’t, like complacency, favoritism and even outright harassment in class or on co-op. Worse, putting them into words may come off as confrontational or offensive, making communication next to impossible.

I’ve also seen many pass our organization by when they see the word “women” without realizing that, for us, our identity as engineers is trial by fire, which makes us an overall awesome engineering organization to be part of.

We’ve thought long and hard about why we chosen to be engineers, and it shows in the quality of our work. It has also taken strong, humble men to stand up for and mentor women to show us that we belong, which makes groups and offices better places to work. On the flipside, having no women around encourages rigidity, which slows the flow of ideas and makes work feel less like life and more like, well, work.

What we needed was a space to bridge this gap.

In May, we launched a gender equality campaign called HeForSWE, borrowing the name first used at the Cal Poly and Temple SWE chapters, and made it a full-blown marketing campaign, combining the SWE brand identity with that of UN Women’s HeForShe initiative. We started spreading our message of inclusion for all with black, white and a shock of hot pink.

And so far, it’s worked. Really well, in fact.

We’ve reached out to students, faculty and professionals and received an overwhelmingly positive response to our efforts from the Philly STEM community. HeForSWE is what one makes of it, which allows it to be workshops, lunch and learns, networking events, podcasts, volunteering and so much more. We’ve gotten faculty brand ambassadors, professional advisors and an outreach partnership series with TechGirlz in just five months, and we are always looking for more opportunities to expand.

The best way to get in touch with us is by signing up for HeForSWE’s mailing list or emailing Drexel SWE at swe.drexel@gmail.com. We also have a Facebook page.

We are looking to make our program a supportive space free of both judgment and politics where people can challenge our claims and important dialogues can be had. Overall, we want to make it fun and easy for people to be involved with advocacy; we want people to make friends and feel warm inside when they look out for one another. We believe that engineering is better when everyone is included, and HeForSWE is no different.

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