New “Women in ECE” organization provides professional development and community
WECE is a student-run, diversity-focused organization dedicated to the personal and professional growth of those committed to innovation and excellence in electrical and computer engineering fields.
A new student organization, Women in Electrical and Computer Engineering (WECE), puts ECE topics front and center while helping to build a stronger community for women and gender minorities in engineering.
“There’s a lot of camaraderie in ECE courses, and we wanted to continue those relationships beyond the classroom,” says WECE President and co-founder Isha Bhatt, a Computer Engineering undergraduate student.
Bhatt and Enakshi Deb, an Electrical Engineering undergrad and current Internal Vice President of WECE, decided to form WECE to make it easier for ECE students to find study groups and share advice about classes. They assembled a team of ECE women who officially launched the club last winter. While there are other EECS-related student groups on campus, WECE is the only one that focuses specifically on ECE topics and fields.
“There are a lot of Computer Science and coding centered groups, so there was definitely a need for something more ECE-specific,” says Gillian Minnehan, a Computer Engineering undergrad and WECE member. “It’s been very cool to have a group of people where you can geek out about embedded systems and logic design and things like that.”
In addition to class-related support, WECE hosts a variety of events related to career and advanced degree topics. Members of WECE include over 100 undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty (including Mingyan Liu, the Peter and Evelyn Fuss Chair of ECE), who host discussions about their personal journeys and advice for pursuing different routes. WECE has also hosted a virtual career fair with representatives from a variety of industries.
“It’s been really helpful talking to the grad students and professors,” Deb says. “They’re great role models. It helps knowing that they made it that far, so I can, too.”
One of WECE’s central missions is to foster a supportive, inclusive environment in engineering for women and other underrepresented minorities. Membership is open to people of all identities who support that mission. As a result, WECE hosts many events, activities, and trainings about striving for an intersectional approach to allyship. This enables community dialogue on topics such as identity, current events, and systemic oppression.
“We wanted a way to channel our voices and have an open discussion, especially about all the events that were happening over the summer,” Deb says. “These conversations are so important and support our overall mission, because our goal is for everyone to be considered equally and have all the opportunities that other students have.”
Our goal is for everyone to be considered equally and have all the opportunities that other students have.Enakshi Deb, Electrical Engineering undergrad & WECE Internal Vice President
Laurel Saxe, a Computer Engineering undergraduate, is the Outreach Officer for WECE. She is currently developing programming targeted to high school students.
“When I was in high school, I was interested in Computer Engineering, but nobody talks about it at all,” Saxe says. “I really wanted to help expose high school students to ECE, and it’s a great opportunity for WECE members to develop speaking skills and things like that.”
When in-person events become possible again, Saxe hopes to arrange more in-person demonstrations and experiences, including bringing high school students onto campus for exposure to our labs and facilities.
“I’d love to do hands-on, technical events,” Saxe says. “I think that would really inspire students to learn more about ECE fields.”
WECE has never been able to meet in person due to the pandemic, but that hasn’t slowed them down. They’ve hosted over 50 events in the past year and have a very active slack space. They’re advised by Prof. Louise Willingale.
“Prof. Willingale comes to every single board meeting and gives a lot of great advice,” Bhatt says. “She’s always there for us, and we really appreciate it.”
“I have been totally blown away by the organization, coordination, and ideas of the WECE executive board,” Willingale says. “They have had to work even harder to compensate for the pandemic conditions and having entirely virtual events. But it’s been wonderful and uplifting to be involved with the community WECE has formed.”
Favorite WECE Events
“We did a self-defense workshop, and that was by far my favorite event. The instructor, Candace Dorsey, is really awesome, and it was good to have those tough conversations. Also, every single person had their videos on, which I’ve never seen for a zoom call with that many people. It was nice to have an event with that much interaction.”
“One of my favorite events was the graduate school panel. We had a few students who’d just recently graduated and Prof. Willingale. It was very helpful for me, because I’m considering grad school, and it was nice hearing fresh perspectives and honesty about the pros and cons. And it was great getting to ask questions.”
“My favorite event was the book club this summer. One of the books we featured was, So You Want to Talk about Race, and that was a really safe space to talk about some challenging topics. The facilitators of that conversation did such a good job, and it was so interactive. Also, shout out to the ECE department for funding the shipping costs for the books.”
“I have two favorites: the internship panel and the technical interview workshop. I’m a first-generation college student, so I didn’t know anything about those things. Having that perspective from WECE members – people who have had internships and have experienced interviews – was really, really helpful.”