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NIU Today | CEET’s women engineers taking flight

To commemorate Women’s History Month, NIU Today is publishing a series of articles highlighting faculty, staff, students, alumni and programs that make an impact at NIU and beyond.

While the number of female engineers has increased over time, women engineers only represent 13% of the total (altogether.swe.org). The experience of being the only female in a workforce of men leaves female engineers often report feeling a sense of isolation. But two female engineering students from NIU’s College of Engineering and Engineering Technology (CEET) are hoping to make a difference to future female engineers through involvement with the NIU chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).

Meet Cindy Gomez and Courtney Shimp. Cindy Gomez is a senior who will graduate in May 2022 with

a BS in electrical engineering and is the out-going president of SWE at NIU. Cindy will hand-off the role this spring to Courtney, the in-coming president and sophomore mechanical engineering major.

Organizations like SWE emphasize the importance of student chapters on campus, especially for underrepresented groups because they create a community by bringing together students of similar experience to provide a supportive environment for learning which fosters success.

“It is critical that we support our students in their educational path but especially groups that are underrepresented in our field, such as the Society of Women Engineers, the National Society of Black Engineers and the Society of Hispanic Engineers,” said CEET Dean Donald Peterson. , Ph.D. “The work that SWE does to encourage and support each other and young middle school students truly demonstrate their passion to the engineering industry. We are excited to see the success these young women will have in the future.”

The efforts to support female engineering students and increase the number of women in engineering may be working. Overall, the number of female engineering students at NIU has risen to 15.4% as of fall 2021, compared to female engineering students national representing 24% of engineering students (magazine.swe.org).

“I would love to see the day when the percentages get closer to 50%,” said Cindy.” It is important to introduce young kids to engineering especially minorities, like young girls and people of color. The percentages of women of color in engineering are much less at 5%. Seeing that percentage so low makes me sad. But it inspires me every day to continue my career as a Latina in engineering; to show other Latinas, women of color, and women in general that they can also become engineers,” said Cindy.

Courtney Shimp (left) is the new president of the NIU chapter of the Society of Women Engineers for academic year 2022-2023. Cindy Gomez (right) is the outgoing president who is slated to graduate in May 2022 with a degree in electrical engineering.

Through their involvement with student organizations, and participating in the job and internship fairs, each of these promising next-generation engineers is looking to make a difference in the field of engineering, an industry that could benefit from diversifying its workforce.

“After learning what SWE is about, I found support in this group because we all understand what being a woman in engineering is like,” said Cindy. “Sometimes you feel imposter syndrome when you feel like you are not as capable as your fellow male engineering students. SWE helps woman engineers find their voice and confidence to grow into amazing leaders. I knew after a while of being in SWE that I wanted to help other freshman or transfer students find a place they belong, just like I did when I first joined SWE.”

Collins Aerospace Power and Controls division in Rockford is one organization that is working to turn the tide and diversify its workforce. In 2021, the company partnered with CEET to support diversity-specific student organizations and fund events that encourage networking and learning about careers in the aerospace industry.

And the members of NIU chapter of SWE is doing their part as well. Courtney said that in addition to providing her with a way to connect with other women in the engineering program during the pandemic, she also chose to get involved because of the SWE chapter’s partnership with Sycamore Middle School. The school has an all-girl STEM club called the G-Force that encourages and inspires girls to pursue their passions for STEM.

“As a club, we help the girls with homework, help set-up and run labs, and share our experiences as women in STEM. Getting to talk to the girls about their passion for STEM is a great way for us as a club to help inspire and encourage the next generation of STEM students. Since joining SWE I ​​have been able to volunteer at G-Force and I love the environment that is created to promote engineering as a career path,” said Courtney.

Both Cindy and Courtney have plans that involve work at Collins Aerospace. Cindy completed a summer internship at Collins Aerospace and has already been offered a job at Collins Aerospace as a Systems Engineer and will start her new job after graduating in May.

Courtney has been offered a co-op job position for the summer of 2022 at Collins Aerospace. Courtney’s plan is to work in the manufacturing engineering product and process design area within the aerospace industry as a mechanical engineer. “I’m working towards this goal through a summer/fall manufacturing co-op at Collins Aerospace this coming summer,” said Courtney.

“I plan to move up in the ranks at Collins Aerospace by learning from diverse backgrounds and using my experiences to help me. My plan is to go back to school to get my Master’s degree in engineering management,” said Cindy. “I think my experience with NIU student organizations has really helped me develop my leadership skills. I plan to bring back more opportunities to NIU students by using the connections I make working with Collins Aerospace. I would love to say involved with NIU SWE in any way I can provide internship and networking opportunities.”

For more information about CEET and its degree programs, visit niu.edu/ceet.

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