As women engineers from around the world arrive in the Twin Cities for the 2018 Society of Women Engineers national conference, organizers hope they’ll look beyond the Minneapolis Convention Center.
“You have great job opportunities here. There are some really incredible engineering and technology organizations to work for,” SWE president Penny Wirsing says. “And it’s a really interesting and trendy place to live.”
The three-day conference, which kicks off Thursday, is expected to draw more than 13,000 attendees, which will make it the largest conference the Minneapolis Convention Center hosts this year. Accounting for food and lodging, the engineering conference could generate more than $8 million for the city, Meet Minneapolis senior director of destination sales Nathan Hermiston says.
It could also attract qualified job candidates.
“Having Society of Women Engineers in Minneapolis is a huge honor because not only do we get to show attendees all that Minnesota has to offer,” says 3M employment brand manager Kyle Thompson, “but we get to show them where 3M calls home for our global headquarters and all that 3M has to offer as an innovative place for a career.”
The presence of 3M and Medtronic was a major factor in bringing the conference to the Twin Cities, Wirsing says.
Featuring speakers, panels, interactive activities, and more, the conference is the largest gathering of women engineers across all disciplines and aims to provide a platform for females – from established veterans to curious youth – to connect with industry peers, explore career options and job opportunities, and discuss challenges in the work environment.
This year’s conference theme is “Let’s Break Boundaries,” a nod to the fact that women account for just 13 percent of working engineers today.
The conference includes outreach to girls in middle school and high school, as well as parents and teachers. A Saturday event called “Invent It, Build It” will pair engineering professionals with students for hands-on experiments that will help them understand what engineers do.
“They get to see what a real engineer woman looks like,” Wirsing says. “At the end of the day, it’s just so fun to watch them walk away with this new realization of what they can do.”
The conference will also feature a panel reviewing the latest research on minorities in engineering. It’s a conference tradition, but it gets tweaked each year to reflect the latest data.
For its part, 3M looks forward to the outreach to minority groups including young women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs.
“At 3M, we understand that STEM talent is imperative not only to our future success, but also to the communities we serve. We strive to reflect the diversity of our customers, suppliers and channel partners, and build on each individual employee’s abilities,” Thompson says. “Women in STEM, specifically women engineers, power our creativity and ideas.”