Gender and equity dinner showcases women in STEM 

Over the last 44 years, the number of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) has increased. In biological scientists, the number has gone from 33% to 57%, but in architecture and engineering, the number has only gone from 5% to 16.1%. 

There is still a long way for women to go in STEM industries, and MSU is trying to help the numbers go up. A gender and equity dinner, with keynote speaker Mona Elabbady from SRF Consulting Group, was held Monday night. Elabaddy spoke about her experiences growing up learning STEM and what it’s like to be in such a male-dominated field. She said diversity experience is important in everything people in STEM do, which was why she spoke at the event. 

“When you think about all of the different things that STEM professionals do, from developing medical devices to computer technologies, I think it’s really important that women have an influence on how those things get developed,” said Elabbady. “Women represent half of our population, and they need to make sure that things are also being thought of from a woman’s perspective.” 

Elabbady was interested in STEM from a young age. She said during her presentation that her parents pushed her into STEM and she never thought twice about being a woman in STEM. Elabbady said having a STEM background has given her many different work opportunities. 

“Even if you decide that you don’t necessarily want to get a job in the specific field that you graduated in, having a STEM background still gives you a lot of abilities to find jobs in a variety of fields,” said Elabbady. 

Natacha Ineza, the Society of Women Engineers vice president, helped organize the event. She said she hoped students got a lot out of the event and they took something away from it. 

“We hope that they get connected to industry professionals and feel like they’re surrounded by a community that cares and sees their dreams of succeeding in STEM,” said Ineza. “And find that they are surrounded by people who are together working towards the same goal and can all thrive and succeed.” 

Salena Smit, an electric engineering major, was among the many students at the event. She said she chose her major based on which engineering major was the hardest. She said that she wanted a challenge when picking a major. 

“I like how complex it is and how like there’s so many different subfields of it that I can go into anything. I could go into power, I could go into radio frequencies, I can go into control system signals, everything,” said Smit. 

Smit said being a woman in STEM is a sense of accomplishment. 

“I do notice when I walk into a new classroom for the new semester, and I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m one of two girls here.’ And I always feel proud of like, ‘Oh, I made it here. I’m one of the two,’” said Smit. 

Elabbady said she hopes students took two things away from her presentation: to use their voice and have a network of people in their job. She said finding someone to go to for career advice is important. 

“To make changes, we all have to collectively work towards that. Having that network of people and mentors to help you throughout your career is super important, and that goes for any industry,” said Elabbady. “Make sure you find somebody you can kind of go to for career advice that can help you think about things and challenge you and push you.”

Header photo: Mona Elabbady from SRF Consulting Group was a keynote speaker at gender and equity dinner Monday, Feb. 19, 2024. (Alexis Darkow/The Reporter)

Write to Lauren Viska at Lauren.viska@mnsu.edu

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