After getting her bachelor’s degree in engineering, Jessica Moreno made the transition from college student to career woman at Eaton Corporation in Southfield. Speaking at the Michigan League last night, she recalled, “I am a college graduate sitting in my first group meeting and I see all Caucasian males over 50.”
Intimidated by the lack of diversity at her workplace, Moreno turned to her mother, a first-generation Mexican American, for advice.
Her mother urged her to stick with the job and give back to the southwest Detroit community she came from. “She reminded me that I did have the strength,” Moreno said.
Moreno persisted in the job and is now back in school working on her master’s degree.
Moreno was joined by other women in science- and engineering-related fields for a discussion titled Diversity in the Workplace, which is part of this month’s Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Symposium.
The discussion focused on women overcoming the intimidation and pursuing their passion for science regardless of the shortage of women in the field.
Debbie Taylor, director of Women in Engineering at the University, identified this insecurity as “imposter’s syndrome,” the feeling women often get when they are in a classroom full of men and immediately infer that “I don’t know as much as everyone else does.” Much of the audience nodded in agreement.
Taylor said that on average, women were actually getting better grades in college than men, and there was no reason for their insecurity.
The panelists and keynote speaker, Moreno, were determined to share their success stories and rid women of the idea that they are not capable of being engineers.
“It’s not just about what ethnicity you are, if you’re female or male. It’s about personality and determination to pursue what you want to pursue,” said Jenny Morikawa, a University alum and engineer for General Motors Corporation.
Groups for women and minorities in engineering, such as the Society of Women Engineers, Women in Science and Engineering, the National Society of Black Engineers and the Minority Engineering Program Office, were emphasized as means of support and networking.
“There’s always people challenging your right to become an engineer,” Taylor said.
Besides reaching out to the support groups, other tips were given to women pursuing a career in engineering.
“Consciously work on diverse teams in your classes. Communicate with a variety of people,” Taylor said. She added that learning about other cultures and having an open mind will increase the range of workers’ problem solving skills.
Moreno advised women to push their limits and test different opportunities within engineering to find their passion.
“Never think that you cannot do something until you try it,” Moreno said.
Engineering senior Jennifer Girard said she thought the event was very eye-opening.“Events like this help us to break out of our comfort zone,” she said.