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UMN’s Society of Women Engineers celebrates SWE Week

SWE’s biannual SWE Week includes activities from every committee, encouraging SWE members to get involved.
Image by David Monterroso
The University of Minnesota campus gates on East Bank, Nov. 12, 2022.

The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) held SWE Week this past week, highlighting all twelve of their communities with a focus on celebrating women in engineering and their allies.

SWE is a professional and social student organization at the University of Minnesota focused on professional development and community building. The University’s SWE chapter has 300 of the 40,000 global members.

Some events featured during SWE Week included lantern decorating, Family Feud game night, a scavenger hunt, professional mentorship and others, all hosted by the numerous committees in SWE. 

One of the newer SWE committees is He For SWE, focused on male allyship for women engineers. 

“The first thing to know about SWE is that it is not a group that is entirely for women,” said Nikhil Kapur, the co-director of the He For SWE board. “It is a group for people who are supportive of women in STEM spaces.”

Kapur is a fourth-year student who became involved with SWE after having classes with engineering women and wanting to support them.

“I know I come from a place that needs a lot of learning, so I knew it would be a good place to learn for myself,” Kapur said. 

Darin Phlork is the other co-director for He For SWE and a fourth-year student. He said the committee advocates for male allyship and shows support for women in STEM. 

“When I attended my first SWE meeting here at the U, I think I was the only male at the event,” Phlork said. “It gave me an experience of what it’s like, maybe not necessarily the exact same experience, but what it’s like to be a woman.” 

Raised by a single mother, Phlork said he wants to give back to the women in the world on her behalf. While Phlork knows people may not intend to inflict negative consequences, at least from men, they still do. He said he believes awareness can improve the environment around this issue.

“After hearing from other SWE people about their own experiences, I’ve been able to better recognize them,” Phlork said. 

Showing up to a meeting is an important first step, according to Kapur. As a place to advocate for equitability in a variety of different spaces in STEM, he said the problems SWE deals with are not just for women to face.

Apart from building allyship, SWE also values professional excellence. With SWE’s professional development committee, members work on resume building, networking and talking with SWE’s company sponsors. 

According to Natalie Mac, SWE’s president, College of Science and Engineering students in SWE get paid more after graduation and have a higher salary in internships, with $2.07 more per hour in internships and a few thousand dollars more in a post-graduate salary. 

Mac said SWE has other benefits, too, one of them being a safe space for students. 

“My freshman and sophomore year, engineering was very difficult and I was feeling like the minority in all my classes,” Mac said. “When I joined SWE, I was able to meet other women who were in the same boat as me. It was a safe space for me, and now I’m making sure it continues to be that safe space for everyone.” 

Every year, SWE hosts an event called “SWEekend at the U” geared toward seniors in high school interested in engineering. Makayla Cizek, SWE secretary, said she joined SWE as a freshman because she had been to SWEekend at the U while in high school. It ended up being one of the main reasons she chose to go to the University. 

“I get to give back and engage in that now,” Cizek said. “It’s so much fun to volunteer at SWEekend and you see them come back and they join SWE as freshmen.” 

With 50 to 60 leadership roles in SWE, Mac said it is a great way to build leadership skills. Mac added that SWE offers a low-stakes environment where students can figure out their leadership styles and get feedback. 

Irena Hong is a third-year student who has been attending SWE events since her freshman year. Along with finding them fun, Hong said going to SWE events helped force her out of studying and do something other than worry about school. She added these events help her de-stress because she does not worry about the fact other people might be studying while she is not.

“Not only are the events super fun, but also being able to have events and activities to go to with fellow women in science and engineering is so fun because you can bond with the other girls in your major or in engineering in general,” Hong said.

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  • James Lin
    Oct 18, 2023 at 2:58 pm

    This is an extremely important activity and there need to be more ways for Allies to participate in SWE events! I fully support most of the board members on He for SWE!

  • Steve Hauser
    Oct 17, 2023 at 11:56 am

    Good for SWE. We need more engineers.