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Society of Women Engineers Provides Networking, Opportunities

Maggie Scow | KzooConnect

Growing up in Roscommon, Mich., Maggie Scow says that she "didn't really know what engineers did. I went through middle school and high school thinking I wanted to be a doctor." She goes on to explain, "I went to Michigan Tech because I was good at math and science and they had good programs in those areas. I kind of fell into engineering. I really liked the problem-solving aspect and the impact that I could have as an engineer."

Today, as president of the South Central Michigan Section of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), Scow is passionate about making sure the young women of Kalamazoo have opportunities to understand at an early age the impact that engineers can have.

Scow joined SWE while she was a student at Michigan Tech 10 years ago largely for the networking opportunities that it provided. She describes it as, "a great network of professionals around the world. They have job boards and webinars available."

She graduated from Michigan Tech with a degree in biomedical engineering, worked for Whirlpool in Benton Harbor, and a small company in rural Minnesota before coming to Kalamazoo. Here, she worked for a small contract manufacturer before starting work for Performance Validation in 2013.

Scow says, "Every move I made, I looked for SWE because I worked for small companies, it was important to find other women who could relate to that feeling of sitting in a meeting with men my dad's age and trying to be seen as a professional."

Scow credits SWE for helping to ease those difficulties describing the organization as, "a great resource to people of all different experiences and different industries. It is all professional women who help - smart competent professional women who are there for you."

Scow talks about some of the events put on by SWE aimed at Women Engineers currently in the workplace at all different stages of their careers.

She says that her SWE section recently partnered with the Grand Rapids section to put on a women's panel. This highlighted five women talking about negotiating their careers, and how to plan the next career move. According to Scow, part of the focus was on, "What experience are you missing and how can you get that experience so you can get where you want to go next."

The organization also organizes industry tours. They recently visited the Eaton Proving Grounds. Other activities are just for fun, such as blowing glass or painting pottery.

Scow emphasizes that all SWE events are open. Anyone interested can send an email or visit to check out upcoming events.

Outreach is another huge part of the SWE experience. "That is the 'why' for me," says Scow, her passion shining through, "The outreach is the reason that I love SWE."

Scow has seen the membership increase so much in the last decade, and says the goal is to "reach more girls earlier. We are looking to really have an impact sooner."

Here in Kalamazoo SWE hosts the Corporate Engineering Challenge at the Kalamazoo Air Zoo. This event targets girls ages 9-12. The girls are put on teams and work together with corporate mentors and high school volunteers to use engineering skills to complete tasks. The girls have lunch with their engineering mentors and can ask questions about being a woman engineer. Many local businesses such as Stryker and Pfizer provide corporate sponsorships.

Scow reflects on her own experience as she sums up the mission of SWE, saying, "SWE tries to make sure everyone, especially girls, has access to engineers and knows what engineers do."

Scow loves talking to young women in Kalamazoo, to pique their interest and get them started on the very path that she stumbled upon.

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