Let’s Talk About Gender, Baby

By Gabriela Godlewski (CE ‘19)

The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) at The Cooper Union is collaborating with supportive faculty members in order to introduce a forum at Cooper. The forum, called “Let’s Talk,” aims to increase conversation about the experience of women at Cooper as well as in the engineering workforce. The forum aims to offer support and advice to those who need it and could provide learning opportunities for those who want to know more about what their female colleagues experience daily.

“Let’s Talk” was born out of a conversation that Sara Wong (ChE ‘17), current president of SWE, and Camille Chow (EE ‘19), future vice president, had with professors Naveen Shlayan and Samuel Keene about the need for a space at Cooper geared toward women. “The idea behind ‘Let’s Talk’ is that it would be a source of support for women in engineering at Cooper because we all agree that that is lacking,” says Isabella Pestovski (ME ‘19), president-elect of SWE.

The topic of women in engineering is one familiar to those at Cooper. Recently, a census released by the Faculty Student Senate shows that, while the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture and the School of Art have an almost perfectly even ratio of men and women, only 20% of the students in the Albert Nerkin School of Engineering are women. The number seems small, but unfortunately matches the numbers provided by American Society of Engineering Education, who state that the 19.9% of engineering degrees earned in the past year went to women. Cooper is currently addressing the gender gap by encouraging more female high schoolers to apply, but that does not address the issues within Cooper to those already attending.

That’s where “Let’s Talk” comes in. The sitting board of SWE spoke with Grace Kendall, current Title IX coordinator, and agreed to make “Let’s Talk” less of a safe space and more of an open discussion to bring to light issues that women face as women at Cooper. “We are posting questions that people can answer anonymously and then we will talk about the answers about what could be better at Cooper,” says Pestovski. Though the first few meetings will aim to make students more comfortable talking about these issues, SWE aims to also involve female faculty as sources of inspiration and support as a result of their experiences in the workforce. ◊

The first meeting of “Let’s Talk” will be held tomorrow, April 4, in Room 101 during club hours.

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