By Sherry DiBari

Mechanical engineering majors Laura Bell and Jessa Lui discovered some hard truths about women in engineering as part of their research project in Stacie Ringleb's Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Information Literacy and Research course.

"A lot of women are leaving STEM," Bell said.

"Many of them are not feeling welcome in the workplace," added Lui.

Bell and Lui were part of a large group presenting class research during "Gender, Engineering & Solutions," a Women's History Month event, at Perry Library.

Thirteen student groups in Ringleb's course spent the semester researching how gender needs to be accounted for in engineering designs and career paths.

The event was co-hosted by Abbie Basile, Engineering and Physical Sciences librarian, and Ringleb.

A video presentation by keynote speaker Annette-Finley Croswhite, director of the Center for Faculty Development and professor of history at ODU, kicked off the event.

She spoke about historical contributions of women in STEM and the challenges they faced. Her examples included Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman in America to earn a medical degree; Bessie Coleman, the first Black and Native American woman to earn a pilot's license; Hedy Lamarr, an Austrian-American actress who helped develop an early technique for spread spectrum communications; and Rosalind Franklin, a British scientist best known for her contributions to the discovery of DNA's molecular structure.

After Finley-Croswhite's presentation, Mona Danner, professor and chair of ODU's Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, gave an impassioned speech about diversity in STEM fields.

"It matters that there are people in STEM who are different," she said. "I want buildings and bridges to stay up. That means I want people to come into the workplace and do the work. We can work better if we feel safe and secure and we can trust our co-workers."

The student group presentation topics included women in STEM, removing barriers for women in aerospace and considering gender in the design of products like bicycles, spacesuits and motorsports technology.

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