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McCormick Alum Encourages Women in Engineering

It’s an issue that the engineering world has been talking about for years — how do we get more young women interested in engineering?

McCormick alumnus Smita Shah (BS, civil engineering ’94) wrote an opinion piece in today’s Chicago Tribune that encourages schools to highlight stories of women who have become successful engineers.

“It can be hip to be good at math and science, for girls as well as boys,” she wrote. “It is a message we need to communicate directly.”

Read the entire piece here.

Shah, founder and president of Spaan Technology Inc., an architectural and engineering firm in Chicago¸ was recently named to the McCormick Advisory Council.

“I speak as a kid who some may have called a geek,” she wrote. “I still have the ribbons and medals from my high school "math relays." For me, those races led to Northwestern University, for my undergraduate degree in civil engineering, and to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for my master's... Even Barbie, a doll known for being late to the party when it comes to matters of social change, last year chose an interesting new career: computer engineering.”

The McCormick student body is 30 percent female — one of the highest percentages among engineering schools across the country. The school has several initiatives to encourage women in engineering, including the Society of Women Engineers (which helps students build relationships and networks with other female engineers and scientists and develop their skills in leadership, problem-solving, and interpersonal relationships). The group hosts the annual Career Day for Girls, where junior high and high school girls are introduced to engineering through hands-on experiments and laboratory tours.