Women’s engineer club supports students in their major

By Ben Hernandez

Cal Poly Humboldt’s student club, the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), will host a “Chat with Professionals” event for students to network with both faculty and local women in engineering on March 25 at 5 p.m. at a location to be determined and announced on their Instagram, @swe_humboldt. 

SWE seeks to create a safe space as well as foster a community for female scholars within the School of Engineering and STEM as a whole. SWE is a national nonprofit organization that strives to highlight the achievements of non-male individuals as leaders and engineers, according to their website. Cal Poly Humboldt’s educational chapter of SWE was established in 1997 and is a part of the larger national organization. 

Claire Cason is a sophomore studying Environmental Resources Engineering at CPH and is the SWE club president. Cason emphasized the club’s importance as a place where women can come to feel a sense of inclusivity and belonging, as well as get support from peers and faculty. 

For Cason, she admits that one of the main benefits of SWE is retention, in the sense that it keeps women, who otherwise might switch majors due to a lack of support, in the engineering program.

“I know a couple of girls who’ve already left the program and moved onto different majors because either it was too hard, too demanding, or they just didn’t feel supported,” Cason said. “When I was a freshman, and I would see the senior girls in the club and they were all so cool and so smart, and I was like, ‘I can do this’ because they want people to continue to do engineering even though it sucks and it’s hard.”

In the fall semester of 2023, 86 students (31%) out of 274 undergraduate and graduate students in the School of Engineering identified as female, according to Cal Poly Humboldt’s Institutional Research, Analytics, and Reporting (IRAR) enrollment demographics. 

“It’s a little tough sometimes,” said Neeshelle Jaimes, a sophomore also studying environmental resource engineering, and SWE student officer. “The important thing we really want to emphasize about SWE is the safe space aspect.” 

At the time of publication, engineering program faculty gender demographics were unable to be confirmed. For engineering students overall, 51% identified as white, and the number of BIPOC female students in engineering is unclear, according to the same IRAR data.

“The faculty who are women have definitely helped out,” Jaimes said. “I think many non-women in engineering have a lot of people to look up to and to admire, and sometimes it’s harder to find that with women, especially how pressured it can feel.” 

Christa Meingast is an assistant professor in the School of Engineering and faculty advisor for SWE. 

“I really do like what SWE is doing,” Meingast said. “As a woman engineer, a lot of the times all we really need is to feel confident, and have a community, and to feel supported, and that’s what SWE does for women engineers.”

For Meingast, SWE’s true benefits lie not only in the club’s platform for open discussion amongst peers but also in opportunities for students to meet and network with real women engineers who work within the community.

“If you look at the statistics of women engineers in the United States, there’s around 17% women engineers and the rest are men, and women make up [about] 50% of the workforce,” Meingast said. “We should have a larger percentage of that be engineering women as well…and I think that is changing.” 

SWE hosts an array of different events throughout the year including study sessions, team-building activities, time-management courses, goal-setting workshops and the occasional holiday party. 

SWE meets every other Monday in Alistair McCrone Hall (AMH room 5) at 5 p.m. They can be reached via email or through their Instagram @swe_humboldt.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *