Chicago Ideas Week is “about the sharing of ideas, inspiring action, and igniting change to positively impact our world” and “reflects our great city in its inclusiveness, diversity and excellence of intellectual discourse.” Without a doubt, Chicago Ideas Week is a great opportunity for a diverse group of forward-thinking individuals to come together and discuss the future of Chicago and communities around the world. Considering future developments also provides the opportunity to reflect on areas of weakness that are still not as developed as we might hope; one such area important to everyone in the MEM community is women in STEM educational programs and careers.
We’ve covered the topic of women and STEM in the past, including updates on women in the STEM workplace and personal stories from MEM alumni. In general, the results aren’t what we would like to see. Women hold fewer than 10% of positions in engineering fields, though in the face of discrimination in the work place, the facts come as no surprise. Of the over 230 speakers at CIW, only about 35-40% are women. After looking at applications for the coming quarter, MEM Associate Director Susan Fox reports that a significant decrease in applications from women. “I have asked the women to go out and talk about the value of the program. It is important,” Sue says on the topic.
The topic is of the utmost importance and one can’t help but see the irony that engineering fields on the cutting edge of technology seem to be behind the times in terms of discrimination and mutual respect. Rather than focus on the negative, we’d like to present a few speakers at CIW worth looking to for inspiration (see chicagoideas.com for more information about each speaker):
- Deborah Sawyer is the President and CEO of Environmental Design International and a leader in environmental engineering services.
- Jean Case served as a technology executive in the private sector for two decades before founding the philanthropic Case Foundation.
- Nicole Lazzaro is a world-renowned in the game industry as a researcher, speaker, and designer.
- Robyn Beavers is the Director of Commercialization for Water & Power Technologies, DEKA R&D Corp and has worked with a variety of companies in energy industries.
- Wendy Pabich is the Founder and President of Water Futures and wears a variety of hats as a consultant scientist, writer, artist, and educator.
These are just a few of the women leading the way in STEM industries despite the difficulties they face. The MEM program has a host of brilliant women like Executive VP of Global Marketing and Sales for Shure, Inc., Christine Schyvinck, who graduated from the MEM program in 1999 and was a 40 under 40 pick by Crain’s Chicago Business in 2006. What women inspire you? What is your take on creating a better future for women working in engineering fields? Share you thoughts and stories today to an important conversation in engineering management!