How we all benefit from increasing diversity

Last month I planned a symposium entitled “Equity in the Job Search” that integrated career advice with discussion of the biases facing women during the job search. Part of the philosophy behind this symposium is that since everyone exhibits gender bias, we can’t address the problem in lasting ways without including people of all genders in crafting solutions. However, as I have realized through planning similar events in the past, getting men to attend a “gender” workshop is challenging. Sadly, this difficulty is only more prevalent for other underrepresented groups.

As part of my push to get more male grad students to attend this symposium, I wrote a motivation page about the many benefits of diversity. This blog post expands on those thoughts, illustrating how a more inclusive culture has far-reaching benefits for everyone in an organization. I hope that this post will be useful to anyone trying to convince those around them that diversity issues are relevant beyond the members of underrepresented groups.

The benefits of increasing diversity can be seen by comparing the financial performance of diverse companies to that of their less diverse counterparts. Scientific American clearly lays out several studies that have illustrated this effect:

  • After Orlando Richard, a professor of management at the University of Texas at Dallas, and his colleagues surveyed executives at 177 national banks in the U.S., they found that for innovation-focused banks, increases in racial diversity were clearly correlated with enhanced financial performance.
  • After examining the influence of gender diversity on the performance of the top firms in Standard & Poor’s Composite 1500 list, business professors Cristian Deszö of the University of Maryland and David Ross of Columbia University showed that firm value increases by $42 million with women in top management positions.
  • Similar effects can be found by examining companies across the world: a team of researchers at the Credit Suisse Research Institute found that among 2,360 companies, those with at least one woman on their boards delivered higher average returns on equity and better average growth.

Diversity helps increase creativity and improves company performance because numerous studies have shown that heterogeneous groups prepare better and more thoroughly consider all evidence. Furthermore, social diversity makes it more likely for diverse perspectives to be voiced and considered. This is critical for innovation, which requires looking at problems in new ways.

Inclusion is necessary to realize the benefits of diversity—such as mutual respect, improved conflict resolution, and increased creativity—and to avoid tension between diverse social groups. It is crucial to ensure that these benefits are sustained in the long term. Quotas and other initiatives to increase minority hires can increase the number of women and other minorities in the workforce, but inclusive workplace cultures are necessary to ensure that those hired stay and advance.

Moreover, an inclusive culture doesn’t just benefit the minority—it creates a more attractive workplace for everyone involved. This has proven particularly true for millennials.

However, if those in the dominant group aren’t included in conversations about diversity, then they often lose sight of its benefits or view inclusion as a zero-sum game that puts them at a disadvantage.

I believe that by including members of a majority group in conversations of diversity we can help reduce the impression of diversity initiatives being “us vs them.” This is not to say that we should let those in dominant groups control the conversation about diversity, but that more lasting change can be accomplished by including all players.

I hope that moving forward, we can change the conversation about diversity by showing that everyone benefits from more inclusivity.


International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day! International women’s day commemorates the movement for women’s rights.

American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) released an interview of Jonna Gerken, current SWE president. In the interview Jonna discusses the challenges and opporutnies that women engineers are facing today. She notes that company culture is one of the biggest challenges.

Jonna also discusses her priorities for her term as SWE president. The three main priorities are professional excellence, advocacy and globalization.

Reading her interview, its clear that company culture needs to change and finding advocates and allies might be the way.  To read the interview in full or learn more about International Women’s Day, please see the links below!


Women Earning More College Degrees – Still Underrepresented in Career Levels

A new study about women in the work place has just been released. The study has a lot of interesting statistics and tips or suggestions. We will be presenting some of the information in a series of blog posts.

The first sentence of the report is striking, “Women remain underrepresented at every level in corporate America, despite earning more college degrees than men for thirty years and counting.”

Why is this still an issue, with record number of company’s committed to gender diversity?

An interesting direct quote from the report may have one answer, “Men think women are doing better than they really are.”  As leaders in our field, we need to educate others around us about the issues that we may be facing.

How do you educate others?
  • First educate yourself by reading the recent articles and data.
  • Have a clear objective for these conversations:
    • For example, I want to improve the career training for young professionals. I suggest to management that we could have monthly brown bag lunches about career topics.
  • Be prepared for tough questions on how this will help the company.
    • Empowering and developing your employees can pay off in the long run.
    • Studies have shown more diverse group come up with more efficient and effective solutions.
  • Keep doing it. Get out there and educate others about the opportunities that can be improved.

Graduate Member Spotlight: Jodi Lonneman

Jodi Lonneman

Master of Engineering

Engineering Management

University of Louisville


Jodi has been an active member of SWE since 2009. She has held several positions, including President, Secretary, and Outreach Director at the University of Louisville. Her work has had direct impact on many young girls, and she held events with the Girl Scout troops to build wheelchairs for wounded or disabled dogs. Jodi was identified as a SWE future leader for her service to SWE, and was also awarded Outstanding Member of SWE. The Manufacturing Institute recently awarded Jodi as a 2018 STEP Ahead Emerging Leader.


Jodi’s Brief Explanation of her Work


While taking classes, I work full-time at Toyota Motor of North America. I work in the stamping department where I strategically plan and develop new vehicle models at multiple manufacturing plants across the continent. I have assisted in justifying the purchase of new stamping equipment, which resulted in a reduction of annual logistic costs. I have also demonstrated strong leadership skills by working with a team to develop and standardize the quality requirements for new technology utilized in the 2018 Camry.


With a Masters in Engineering Management degree, I hope to further my professional development as an engineer with Toyota. I continue to develop my critical thinking and decision-making skills, which will provide me the confidence to enhance in my career. My career goal is to be in a senior management position in the manufacturing industry. Ultimately, as a female engineer, my goal is to inspire and motivate the next generation of woman engineers to pursue careers and thrive in STEM fields.


What are some of your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?


I love to travel! One of my goals is to visit all of the National Parks in the U.S. In my free time I enjoy doing yoga and cooking new recipes.


Fun Fact about Jodi: I have been playing the cello since I was 9 years old! I am SCUBA certified too!

Graduate Member Spotlight: Kazi Tasneem

Graduate Member Spotlight

Kazi Tasneem

PhD Candidate

Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Vanderbilt University


            Kazi has been a member of the Society of Women Engineers since 2010. She currently serves as the Region D Graduate Representative as well as the WeLocal Liaison. She also participates in the International Graduate Team within GradSWE. In the past, she has held positions such as Professional Development and Sponsorship Chair at the University of Central Florida.

Kazi’s participation in conferences goes beyond the typical SWE conference experiences. Kazi has been active at WE conferences, and has served as a Graduate Judge for the Undergraduate Rapid Fire sessions. She has attended the Collegiate Leadership Institute held at the WE conferences, as well as the Academic Leadership for Women in Engineering Program, for which she won a travel grant.

Outside of SWE, Kazi volunteers her time through FabFems, which is a mentoring program. She also participates in the Advisory Panel for the International Chemical Engineering and Science Magazine, ChE Thoughts. Kazi also served as the Vice President and Treasurer of the Bangladeshi Student Association during a time period where the University of Central Florida recognized the group for its efforts. For her extensive efforts and successes, Kazi was awarded the Frank Hubbard Engineering Scholarship for her extracurricular activities and Graduate Presentation Fellowship.

Kazi is not only active in outreach and diversity work, but is very successful in her research. She was awarded Best Paper by The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society this past year. She represented Bangladesh as Young Researcher and attended the 59th Meeting of Nobel Prize Winners in Chemistry in Germany.

Prior to her current graduate work, Kazi received a MSc in Materials Science and Engineering from University of Central Florida as well as a MSc in Environmental Engineering with Dean’s Fellowship from Carnegie Mellon University.  She completed her Bachelors Degree in Chemical Engineering from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology

With a multidisciplinary background with experiences in Chemical, Environmental, and Materials Science and Engineering, Kazi has been working in the area of the characterization of toxicants and their effect to environment and human health experimentally and computationally. Her current research area involves computational prediction for drug transport and its toxic effect in human, using powerful modeling tools computational fluid dynamics to investigate chemical toxicity in human organ on chip microsystems. She also works on an exciting computational project in which she models cellular signaling of calcium around tissue-level wounds.

Kazi has worked as a Laboratory Lecturer at the University of Pittsburgh for a year, and found she enjoyed teaching. Because of this positive experience, she is considering a career in academia, however she is keeping her options open between academia and industry.

Outside of her research and active outreach service, Kazi enjoys watching Netflix, cooking, and strength training. Her personal best is currently a 125lbs deadlift! She hopes to continue achieving PR’s as she continues in this hobby.

Interestingly, Kazi attended an acting class at Carnegie Mellon, where she performed as Julia Roberts from Notting Hill and she got an A for acting! Kazi loves to sing. She has had 5 years of training for Tagore song. As an undergraduate, she participated in singing performances in Bangladesh.

Kazi Tasneem (1)

Title IX: What to know

As female graduate students, you have likely heard something about Title IX. However, these conversations are usually staged during orientation, or in response to a negative event on campus. This post is meant to provide you with basic information about Title IX. It is important to know this information in case you or another person is ever faced with a situation of gender inequity in any of the areas covered by Title IX. If you are a new graduate student, or someone looking to go to graduate school, you have no reason to assume you will need to use these resources, but should be knowledgeable about their existence.

What is Title IX and how did it come into being?

Title IX is a law which requires gender equity for boys and girls in every educational program that receives federal funding, and was passed in 19721. This law applies to ten different areas:

  1. Access to Higher Education
  2. Career Education
  3. Education for Pregnant and Parenting Students
  4. Employment
  5. Learning Environment
  6. Math and Science
  7. Sexual Harassment
  8. Standardized Testing
  9. Technology
  10. Athletics

As female engineers in higher education, Title IX certainly attempts to reduce discrimination within our fields. Most modern implications of Title IX circle around sexual discrimination in the workplace or in higher education. While some universities came under fire in recent years for not appropriately dealing with these situations, we are hopeful that most universities provide the appropriate support to their students, as well as appropriate sanctions to those performing the sexual assault.

How can I find out more about Title IX on my campus?

If your institution receives federal funding, it must dedicate and train at least one employee to coordinate the Title IX responsibilities. If you have more questions about Title IX for your program specifically, this person will be your best point of contact. Additionally, if you are a victim of a Title IX infringement (situation or action which breaks the Title IX law), seek out resources on your campus to appropriately file this issue, but also to assist in your recovery from the incident. Many institutions offer health consultations, and student groups often host workshops to assist in these situations.

We encourage everyone to keep an open mind – do not anticipate you will need these resources, but instead understand that this knowledge will keep you informed.


Making Mentors Long-Term

Once you have established a relationship with a mentor through multiple emails, phone calls or meetings, its important to transition them to a long-term mentor.  Be honest and establish an expectation of how often you will contact them. It’s good to email them every 3-6 months with an update on your career and if you are comfortable, your personal life. My emails generally talk about my current job, if I am considering a switch in careers and an update about my daughter who just started walking.

What about mentors I have not contacted in awhile?

Consider the mentors you have now, when was the last time you contacted them?  Most mentors are understanding that you are busy and will email or call when you want to talk. Email them an update, worst case they do not answer. More than likely you will not keep every mentor you have ever had throughout your career.

Tips of Making Long-term Mentors:

  • Email every 3-6 months
  • Remember to ask them about their personal or professional life
  • Highlight your own personal or professional changes or accomplishments
  • Consider a phone call if you are comfortable