Contributors: Lauren Bilbo, Liz Dreyer, Maggie Reuter, Meghan Richey
SWE and GradSWE at U of M have started an exciting partnership with the Center for Entrepreneurship (UMCFE). Throughout the semester, we will be holding six workshops covering a wide range of topics – from learning about entrepreneurship to building our own personal brand to becoming an effective project manager. All the workshops are led by talented women from around the university
This past Thursday (March 24th), we held our third workshop, titled “Strategies to Overcome Gender Stereotypes.” This was a great workshop! We first talked about how to recognize gender stereotypes and microaggressions, both in the workplace and in our everyday lives. The presenter, Elizabeth Rohr from UMCFE, explored different types of stereotypes and microaggressions that can make women feel isolated, uncomfortable, and unwelcome in male dominated fields. The entire workshop was highly interactive, and we were able to share personal experiences and brainstorm solutions to problems we face, such as sizeism, sexist language, and assumptions of inferiority, among other topics.
I believe these microaggressions are a rampant problem even in climates that are striving to promote diversity and inclusion. The danger of these microaggressions is the hostile climate it creates for women, and the simple fact is that the perpetrators of the climate are mostly unaware of how they are hurting the women around them. Every woman at this workshop had a story about her current struggle with these issues, and the few men present were mostly surprised by the issues raised. This is why these workshops are vital for women in STEM. We need to find both a sense of community and learn how to effectively communicate to our peers on the real issues we face.
I have personally faced microaggressions with a male professor I briefly worked for. I was forced to communicate through another male professor because my emails were constantly ignored. In meetings I felt undervalued, attacked, and inferior. It was difficult to share these experience when friends would brush off the sexist undertones I felt in these interactions. Going to the UMCFE workshop helped me feel that I am not alone in these struggles, that I am not crazy, that I have a support network of women and men who understand.
Since engineering is a traditionally male-dominated field, many women engineers have faced these types of stereotypes and microagressions. It’s sometimes hard to know what to say or how to deal with it, so I’ve really enjoyed learning about how to empower myself and those around me. UMCFE has done a great job of providing useful information on how we, as female engineers, can realize that we can successfully navigate the engineering field.
GradSWE and SWE are very excited about this partnership, and we’re looking forward to the next workshop. Join us on Thursday, March 31st in the GM Room (Lurie building, 4th floor) for “Building your personal brand”.