Participating in her school’s FIRST Robotics program gave Aiden Hadley the confidence to be a leader.
She also discovered her passion for problem solving, which would lead to an engineering degree from Oklahoma State University and a career with American Electric Power.
“I was a senior in high school and didn’t know what my major was going to be,” she said. “I got into FIRST Robotics and fell in love with the problem-solving aspect of engineering and the collaboration toward a common goal.”
“We knew the mentors’ wives and it was cool to see their support, but they were not the technical mentors,” Hadley said. “I believe that if a girl sees you as a mentor at a place like that they will be much more likely to join.”
On Friday, Hadley was able to take the initial steps to become that role model at a Society of Women Engineer’s conference.
WE Local Tulsa conference at the Renaissance Hotel & Conventional Center continues through Saturday. The program features more than 30 sessions, panel discussions, keynote speakers and a career fair with representatives from more than 20 companies.
“This isn’t just for women engineers. We host women in science, technology, engineering and math,” said Kristina George, an asset integrity engineer at Magellan Midstream Partners and the local host committee chair for the event. “It’s kind of a home for anyone in the technical fields.
“We’re trying to get more females in the future to sign up for engineering and stick to it.”
The breakout session that Hadley attended Friday morning was designed to encourage women to become mentors in programs like FIRST Robotics in an effort to recruit more girls into a career field that is often dominated by men.
According to the Society of Women Engineers, women make up 18.3 percent of engineering school graduates but only 11 percent of practicing engineers, and 30 percent of women who leave engineering fields after being in the profession cite workplace climate as a reason.
“If we are going to improve the work environment with more women, we’ve got to start down in the school age,” said Lane Matheson, director of the Tulsa Engineering Academy at Memorial High School.
“We persevered, and other girls could take the same path as us and find their way without having female role models. But would we make a difference if we recruit more girls and are there for them? I honestly believe that yes, we would,” she said.