Carnegie Mellon Engineering

CMU SWE chapter does its part to further the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

CMU SWE chapter does its part to further the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

On December 10th, 1948, representatives from nations around the globe declared their commitment to furthering the cause of human rights by signing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. In honor of this critical event, the UN has declared the month of December to be Human Rights Month, in which the world pauses to consider what constitutes a human right and how these rights can be best upheld in our modern world.

The Declaration consists of 30 articles, each laying out a different right or freedom—religion, assembly, property, representation. And when discussing how and to whom they must be applied, the common word that ties them all together? Everyone.

Article 26 of the Declaration states: “Everyone has the right to education. ... Technical and professional education shall be made generally available, and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.” Unfortunately, in a world where the number of men in STEM-related fields vastly outweighs the number of women, it seems that equal access on the basis of merit still has a long way to go. Thanks to the Carnegie Mellon chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), however, article 26 is getting closer and closer to fulfillment.

Hyeon Ju Song, BME/ChemE sophomore and co-chair of the SWE High School Days program, learned early in her life where some of the roots of this discrepancy lie.

“When I was in high school, I was never exposed to engineering in my actual school,” she says. “My math teacher saw that I was good at math and enjoyed it, and recommended that I attend an event at Widener University. It was there that I met 200 other high school girls who were also good at math and science. My interest in engineering was sparked from thereon.”

It was this experience that led her to get involved with SWE when she came to CMU, and ultimately to take charge of SWE’s High School Day, along with her co-chair, ChemE sophomore Alisandra Welch—an event in which SWE invites 150 high school girls from across the greater Pittsburgh area to CMU’s campus to learn about engineering fields, participate in engineering-related activities, and share their passion for engineering with other like-minded young women. It is through this event and others like it that the members of SWE hope to inspire future classes of women to pursue their interest in STEM.

Society of Women Engineers High School Days

The 2015 event, held on October 23rd, opened with an inspiring keynote speech given by ChemE professor Annette Jacobson. Then, the girls traveled to the labs of various engineering professors from across the departments, including an ECE circuit lab and the lab of MechE Professor Steve Collins, where they got the chance to experience his work in the development of unpowered exoskeletons for human performance enhancement firsthand.

“Going into High School Day, I wanted all 150 of these girls to have the same kind of experience that I had when I was in high school,” Song says. “I wanted to expose them to the world of engineering to spark their interest early on and encourage them to consider studying engineering. We need more women in the field.”

Beyond Song and Welch’s efforts with High School Day, SWE holds events throughout the school year that aim to further the place of women in the field of engineering. These events include Middle School Day—an event similar to High School Day but for middle school students, held in the spring—the CIT Ball annual dance and celebration, and weekly social activities designed to promote camaraderie and encouragement among female engineering students.

Thanks to the efforts of SWE and organizations like them across the globe, each Human Rights Month that goes by brings the world one year closer to seeing the Universal Declaration of Human rights fully realized; not only for women in STEM fields, but for everyone.

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