Two students from Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) — Carolina Binns and Sara Symonds — have been announced as recipients of the 2017 Women Forward in Technology Scholarship. This unique scholarship program was founded by Distil Networks, Foundry Group, Techstars, Cooley, Yesware, Help Scout, Cloudability, Kulesa Faul, FullContact, and Anchor Point Fund, with the goal of promoting diversity within the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) workforce.

2017 marked the inaugural year of this program, and 16 scholarship recipients were chosen from across the United States. Open to both undergraduates and graduate students, the competition was based on a submitted 1000-word essay, academic transcripts, and letters of recommendation. Each winning student received a $3000 scholarship to be applied toward her tuition at an accredited US university in a STEM field.

While the STEM workforce is becoming more diverse, the scholarship program organizers note that, according to the Census Bureau’s latest American Community Survey, women comprise 48 percent of the US workforce, but just 24 percent of STEM workers.

“I recently read that women represent only 11 percent of professionals in electrical and computer engineering, and I’m proud to be one of the next generation of women engineers that is increasing that percentage,” says Binns. “I think there’s a lot of stereotypes surrounding STEM majors and women in STEM, and it’s important for girls to know that they don’t have to fit those stereotypes to be successful in this field.”

At Northeastern, Binns is active in the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), where she serves as coordinator for an annual event called “Cool Women, Hot Careers” — aimed at encouraging female high school sophomores and juniors to consider STEM careers. Each February, high school students are invited to spend a day on the Northeastern campus, participating in tours, workshops, and presentations that highlight opportunities for women engineering students on campus.

Symonds has also been active in SWE — and has attended national conferences where she was able to network with female engineering students from across the US. “Through the Society of Women Engineers, I’ve met a lot of great role models,” notes Symonds. “One of the most important has been the SWE advisor Rachelle Reisberg. She and my professors at Northeastern have always been very encouraging to me as a female engineering student, and I know there are many resources on campus, such as SWE, where I can go for advice and support.”

“Here at Northeastern, we have a community that’s very welcoming to female students, and I’m happy to support that spirit of diversity, as well as demonstrate it to potential new students,” Binns explains. “I’ve always felt inspired and supported by the faculty here; they value and encourage all of their students. Although women engineering students are still in the minority, I feel that Northeastern is at the forefront of minimizing the gender gap.”