Lack of representation among faculty and the importance of support and unity were some of the topics Friday at a cultural immersion lunch to celebrate black women in engineering.
MU College of Engineering’s Office of Diversity and Outreach Initiatives and the MU chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers hosted the event.
The lunch was the last event of the Women in Engineering Week that the office hosts each semester. It was also among the events the society hosts to celebrate Black History Month. This event was different from other cultural immersion lunches because it didn’t include a presentation but instead focused on interactions among the community, organizers said.
While attendees enjoyed their lunch, they could look at each wall to read inspirational quotes from black women or see posters of black women who studied engineering at MU and answer trivia questions relating to black women in engineering.
Alazsa Mbroh, a sophomore studying biomedical engineering and a National Society of Black Engineers at MU member, said she heard about the event because it was shared within her group.
“It means a lot for women in engineering to be recognized and even celebrated,” Mbroh said.
While Mbroh never felt out of place at MU because of the support from organizations like the National Society of Black Engineers, she said she thinks there is a lack of representation among teachers.
Danae Nash, the society’s chapter president, agreed.
“I’ve never been taught in an engineering class by a black woman, which can be very discouraging,” Nash said.
Nash said she believed the event was a good way to start conversations about the lack of black women in the field of engineering.
On the tables, there were cards labeled “food for thought” that provided insight on the representation of black women in engineering. One of them read that only 4% of engineering bachelor’s degrees are awarded to African American, Hispanic and Native American women combined.
“That’s just ridiculous, honestly,” Nash said. “This is a good place to have conversations on how to feel like we belong. We’re also always thinking about how to uplift our black women.”
“It’s the unity and support within the system that keeps us going,” she said.
The food that was served at the event was catered from Ms. Kim’s Fish and Chicken Shack. When Nash spoke to Kim, she found that Kim studied engineering as an undergraduate.
Hilary Mueller, the director of diversity and outreach initiatives at the MU College of Engineering, said cultural immersion lunches create a welcoming and warm environment, which is helpful when discussing issues that could push people out of their comfort zones.
“All our events work to include diversity and inclusivity,” Mueller said. “We’re always looking at ways to empower students and create dialogue about the lack of representation within the field.”
There is a challenge to get people to attend these types of events, especially if attendees might feel uncomfortable with the discussions, she said. She said, however, that she was pleased that the turnout for the event was high.
“It’s worth it to me to make even one student feel empowered,” Mueller said.