Judith Resnik Year of Women in ECE

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In 2016, the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University released FIRE: Foster, Impact, Research, Educate, the strategic plan that sets the five-year course for the department. The plan articulates the vision and mission and maps the path for its execution. As one of the four strategic objectives (Foster), ECE takes great pride in articulating its position on what guides it as an inclusive and respectful community. To that end, ECE has formed a committee on inclusion and outreach to formalize the strategy along all axes: from outreach (middle-school and high-school students), prospective students (communications and tours), admissions (working with Central admissions staff to provide balanced and holistic cohorts), climate for current students and hiring and retaining a diverse faculty body. A key thread through this line is attracting and retaining quality staff.

As a result of many of these initiatives, we have been successful along a number of axes, in particular, increasing the percentage of female undergraduate students from 21% to 27% from 2013-2016, the percentage of female/URM tenure-track applicants from 13% to 23% from 2014-2016 and the percentage of female tenure-track faculty from 10.8% to 18.2% from 2014-2016.

To underscore and highlight the importance of inclusion to the department, the department staged a number of different events and event series, such as Rising Stars in EECS workshop for graduate and postdoctoral women headed to academia, and the Let’s Listen to Each Other series open to all students to address issues ranging from academic to social.

A signature series during the 2016-17 academic year was The Judith Resnik Year of Women in ECE, celebrating the spirit of the late astronaut and alumna, Judith Resnik, and all female students, faculty, and staff in ECE. The department hosted monthly events for the community of women, including networking events, dinners, motivational speakers, and workshops. Moreover, all regular seminar series speakers during the academic year were women. A special issue of the department’s magazine, The CIRCUIT, will chronicle all of the events.

September: Undergraduate networking reception
This informal networking event was an opportunity for female undergraduate students, faculty, and staff in ECE to mingle and to get to know one another in a relaxed atmosphere. As the inaugural event in the Judith Resnik Year of Women in ECE, it was a great kick-off for an amazing year.

View the photos from this event.

October: WinECE fall dinner
Women in ECE (WinECE) is an organization encompassing all female undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, and staff within the electrical and computer engineering department. The WinECE Fall Dinner is an annual event for the women of ECE to get to know each other and to hear about what it's like to be a woman in industry or academia. The highlight of the dinner was the keynote speaker, Ayana Ledford, the Founding Executive Director of the Program for Research and Outreach on Gender Equity in Society at Carnegie Mellon University, known as PROGRESS.

View the photos from this event.

November: Rising Stars Workshop
Together with Carnegie Mellon’s College of Engineering, the Center for Faculty Success, the School of Computer Science and in collaboration with the MIT EECS department, CMU ECE hosted the Rising Stars in EECS Workshop. This annual academic career workshop brings together the world’s brightest women Ph.D. students, postdocs, and engineers/scientists, for two days of scientific interactions and career-oriented discussions aimed at navigating the early stages of careers in academia. MIT launched Rising Stars in 2012 to identify and mentor such young stars. CMU ECE was honored to host this prestigious workshop in 2017.


January: ECE staff high tea
In January, the department hosted the staff high tea to celebrate ECE female staff members. Staff members enjoyed a cup of tea and finger sandwiches while listening to the inspiring words of Melanie Harrington, president and CEO of Vibrant Pittsburgh. Vibrant Pittsburgh is a nonprofit economic development organization that was established to build a more diverse and inclusive Pittsburgh region by spearheading initiatives to attract, retain, and elevate a diverse workforce.

 View Melanie's bio here.

February: Paint night for graduate and Ph.D. students
In February, the department hosted a paint night for female graduate students. An instructional painter lead the participants through a two-hour session as they painted the home of the electrical and computer engineering department, Hamerschlag Hall.

View the photos from this event.

March: Lunch & learn: is grad school right for me?
This event featured advisors and female graduate students at an informal pizza lunch where the participants learned about graduate school options. The most common question during this event was if female graduate students felt out-of-place in the classroom. Although the ECE field is male-dominated, our graduate students feel comfortable and natural in the classroom and on campus.

April: WinECE Spring Dinner
This spring event mirrored the fall dinner where students could get to know each other and find out what it’s like to be a women in industry or academia. Instead of hosting a keynote speaker, WinECE asked soon-to-be graduating students to stand up and offer their best advice to underclassmen.

View the photos from this event.