At the National Panhellenic Conference, we have built solid bridges between generations. From one generation to the next, women are finding meaningful ways to provide assistance, support and help. That can translate to direct support through scholarships or networking help when it comes time for a new college graduate to land a job.
In many ways, we find mentors that last a lifetime. Someone we can call in a pinch for a bit of emotional support during trying times or to assist with a long-range strategic plan for a business or charity.
The NPC network is vast and its resources are diverse.
As many of you review our annual report this fall, we also wanted to share with you a conversation we had with Jessica Albert, a production engineer with The Dow Chemical Co. in Texas and an alumnae of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Indiana.
Her focus is STEM – which is a shorthand reference to careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
The U.S. Department of Labor expects that there will be 1.2 million job openings in STEM related fields by 2018, but there won’t be enough qualified graduates to fill them.
Jessica has been featured by the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) as one of five “New Faces of Engineering.” The honor recognizes young engineers who have demonstrated outstanding technical excellence, and made a significant and positive impact on the engineering profession. SWE also honored Albert with the 2012 southwest regional Emerging Leader-Professional Award for outstanding technical and leadership excellence, and involvement in SWE and community activities.
Q: How did your sorority experience influence your career path or vice versa?
A: It did not influence my career path, per se, as I already decided to attend an engineering college before joining, but being in a sorority was extremely beneficial considering there were five men to every one woman at Rose-Hulman. Sorority was a place where I could branch out and really discover my strengths and weaknesses in a safe zone of support. The sorority also exposed me to many different types of people that I would never have gotten so close with on my own. It really expanded my views of the world and it was the perfect place to unwind with my sisters after a long week at school. They also supported me in the other activities I did at Rose-Hulman and would show up with signs and banners at my sporting events! I can say that in the male-dominated world of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), my sorority was key to providing the balance needed for success at my university.
Q: Do you believe now is a good time for women to get more engaged in STEM careers – or explore STEM careers? If so, why?
A: Of course! Women have such an advantage when it comes to STEM careers. I don’t think people, especially women themselves, realize what wonderful problem solvers we are. That is basically what an engineer is: a glorified problem solver. I know that all of that math and science curriculum can be overwhelming, and the thought of being an engineer might not sound “cool” or “hip” to the junior in high school, but I cannot think of any other career where I get to save the day so much! I am respected for my knowledge and sought out specifically to fix a problem no one else can solve. It gives me such a feeling of accomplishment and frankly, I love the power of being in charge of my own life, which not a lot of people can say these days. Engineers, especially women engineers, are ALWAYS needed in the work force, and well paid for it. It is a given that you will do more work in college than other careers, but it is well worth the benefits once you get in the work force.
Q: We often struggle with negative cultural or media references to sorority women. Did you ever run into such a stereotype after you graduated? And how did you handle it?
A: Yes, I think a lot of people have trouble associating sororities with being “serious” or academically beneficial, but I have told anyone that raised an eyebrow what a benefit it was to have such a support group in my challenging college curriculum. People automatically think of a bunch of girls gathered together to sit around and talk when you mention sorority, but I explained how my sorority and my sisters were the base of my growth as a student and as a person.
Q: What career advice do you have for women seeking STEM careers?
A: Seek out a mentor in your area. I know that there are members of the Society of Women Engineers in almost every big city. They would love to talk to you about what your options are in not just engineering, but all STEM careers. This would be very beneficial to learn about what all there is to offer!
Thanks Jessica. We know that sorority women provide one of the best professional networks in the country. For young women graduating this fall, don’t forget to stay in touch with the women who blazed trails ahead of you. Their advice could be life changing.