Engineering a Female Future


Freshman Liberty Dilbeck, sophomore Emma Tatum, club sponsor Eniola Ajayi, and junior Elizabeth Hall are part of Society of Women Engineers. The club explores STEM opportunities. Photo by Charlene Nguyen.

Ashley Tindall

Women only make up 28% of the science and engineering workforce, according to the National Girls Collaborative Project. This is a small percentage when compared to their male counterparts. Society of Women Engineers, SWEnext, is dedicated to getting girls involved in science, technology, engineering and math.

Photo by Charlene Nguyen

“SWEnext is a global organization that supports women engineers,” club sponsor Eniola Ajayi said. “Our club is a branch of that, trying to include high school and middle school students as well.”

SWEnext helps girls who like math and science explore engineering and STEM opportunities. The club also gives girls a chance to be around people who have similar interests and create friendships that are unique to the club.

“Just like any club, it is nice to be around a group of like-minded individuals,” sophomore Sophia Rakestraw said. “We talk about what we are learning about in our classes, what the plans are for the rest of our high school career and going into college, as well as a shared passion for helping younger girls.”

SWEnext works on many projects throughout the year. Last semester, the members worked on an entry for Battle of the Brains, a K-12 STEM competition where schools compete to win money for their programs. The Kansas City branch is hosted by Burns and McDonnell, a construction and engineering company.

“We started by brainstorming and coming up with ideas that were anywhere from climate change to ants,” junior Elizabeth Hall said. “Then we developed a few of our favorite ideas and got a rough idea of what it would look like. From there we choose our favorite, which was a timeline of how technology has developed and where it might go. Then we refined our idea and went through things like the floor plan, what would be in the exhibit and how much it would cost.”

Photo by Charlene Nguyen

This semester, the club is focused on a field trip that will better educate them in the world of female engineers.

“We are going to Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, hopefully in February,” Ajayi said. “We are trying to work with a Girl Scout troop, to just bring them in and do some STEM activities with them.”

Members of the club were introduced to engineering differently, but they have all been drawn to the SWEnext program.

“I went to a career exploration meeting when I was 10 or 11 and I found a woman from SWEnext and she explained to me what engineering was,” sophomore Emma Tatum said. “Since then, I thought that it would be so much fun to get into.”

SWEnext sounds like a high tech club, but any girl at any experience level can join.

“Engineering sounds really scary, but it can be a lot of fun, just as long as you find the right people to teach you,” Tatum said. “It can open up an entire world of opportunities.”