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An interview with WOMEN’s outgoing and incoming presidents

Celebrating International Women in Engineering Day

June 23, 2024 — 

June 23 is recognized as International Women in Engineering Day (INWED). This annual campaign celebrates the remarkable achievements of women in engineering and encourages girls to pursue careers in the field. This year’s theme, “Enhanced by Engineering” presented by the Women’s Engineering Society (WES), shines a spotlight on all the ways women engineers have enhanced people’s everyday lives through engineering. Sharing the same goals, the university of Manitoba’s very own Women of Manitoba Engineering Network (WOMEN) celebrates and supports women in engineering year-round. The student-led team advocates for the promotion of accomplishments by female-identifying engineers, while providing encouragement for female-identifying students at the university.

WOMEN was established in 2017, after a group of inspired young engineering students attended the Conference on Diversity in Engineering. Their mission was to promote diversity within the engineering faculty at the University of Manitoba. The founders of WOMEN created the club to create a strong sense of community for female-identifying students and to provide support and encouragement through various initiatives.

feminine hygiene products on a bookshelf.One of their notable and more recent programs is Aunt Flo’s pantry. This program offers free menstrual supplies to all engineering students. Located on the shelving unit in the corner of the WOMEN lounge (E3-393 EITC), the initiative aims to increase access to period products and reduce the stress that can come with menstruation. WOMEN encourages anyone to stop by to take any products they may need.

WOMEN hosts many wellness workshops throughout the fall and winter semesters which are open to all students. These events allow students to relax between the stress of assignments and tests and provides an opportunity for them to meet new people while letting their creativity flow. Past workshops have included tote bag painting nights, cookie decorating and paint nights.

WOMEN has previously hosted networking events between engineering students and professional engineers, technical workshops (such as soldering workshops), midterm study cafés, and free headshot sessions.

As we celebrate International Women in Engineering Day, Rayna Vergata, incoming WOMEN president, and Makenna Coldwell, outgoing WOMEN president, reflect on how having the support and community provided through WOMEN has positively impacted their experience as women studying engineering.

Who are you and why did you join WOMEN?

Woman facing viewer, smilingMakenna: My name is Makenna Coldwell and I was one of the Co-Presidents of WOMEN for the 2023-24 academic year. I recently graduated from Biosystems Engineering and will be beginning my master’s at UM in the fall. I joined WOMEN because I wanted to find a community in engineering. I felt isolated in my first year and wanted to participate in building a strong community of women in engineering who inspire others and help build the bridge between high school students, university students and professional engineers. 

woman looking at cameraRayna: Hi, I’m Rayna Vergata, I’m going into my fourth year as an electrical engineering student. I have been in WOMEN since the start. I was corporate relations lead last year where I spoke with a lot of our industry contacts and organized industry tours and networking nights. Now I’m incoming president and have some fun ideas coming up for next year. I initially joined WOMEN because of a first-year women in engineering workshop, where I met Sydney, one of the founders. She encouraged me to join [WOMEN] and I have been participating ever since.


What positive impact has WOMEN had on your journey in engineering?

Makenna: WOMEN gave me the opportunity to not only develop leadership skills but also build friendships. I gained connections to other students but also professionals by organizing and attending panels and networking events. Through my time in WOMEN I learned that there is a place for us in engineering which is the most important aspect. 

Rayna: [WOMEN] was such a great way to meet people, get involved with women in the faculty, outside of the faculty and industry professionals. Now that I’m in my fourth year, I feel like I’ve been able to establish a lot of long-term relationships with people in the faculty. I now have the opportunity to make an impact on people who are starting their journey in engineering, which is awesome, and I think that is super fulfilling.

What is next for WOMEN?

Rayna: Next year is all about outreach. We really want to focus on elevating our events with people outside of engineering and get more people involved. We have plans with Engineers Geoscientist Manitoba and WISE Kid-Netic Energy. There is also some talk about collaboration with Red River College Polytechnic. There hasn’t really been any previous overlap with those students even though they are in intertwining industries. They also already have a program for women and share similar goals as us. Overall, a huge focus on outreach, social events, and getting people out and about and more involved.


Learn more about International Women in Engineering Day and join the conversation by using the hashtag #INWED24 and #EnhancedByEngineering

For more information about WOMEN and to stay updated with WOMEN news and events, follow their Instagram @ womenofmanitobaengnetwork

WOMEN is always accepting and encouraging new members, if joining a supportive community with like-minded women in engineering interests you, consider becoming involved through the WOMEN website.


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