Wentworth Women Finding Strength Through Campus Clubs and Leadership

March 6, 2019

Portrait of three women students

In the bright, airy atrium of the Center for Engineering, Innovation and Sciences, three students laugh and joke with each other as if they’ve been friends since birth, but they only just met recently. The students—Taylor Frothingham, Julie Penn, and Fatima Hussein—individually lead various clubs for women at Wentworth and each belong to the other’s clubs.

Frothingham, a junior in Electrical Engineering and the chair of the Women’s Council, jokes about her busy schedule to Penn, a senior in Mechanical Engineering and president of Society of Women Engineers (SWE). Penn laughs and reminds her of a class they both took while Hussein, a senior in Computer Information Systems and co-president of Women’s Institute for Leadership Development (WILD), chimes in with another comment. This comradery is all a product of having met through these clubs and finding support through them.  

STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) classes and industries have been traditionally dominated by men. While those demographics are gradually shifting entering such an environment can be daunting without the proper support system.

All three women do emphasize the positive work Wentworth has conducted to foster a better sense of community and belonging for women. Referring to her Electrical Engineering program, Frothingham talks about the female professors that made her feel more welcome.

“It made it easier for me to learn because I had these amazing role models, she says. “Wentworth does an amazing job at hiring good female professors.”

Penn’s confidence was boosted even further after she joined SWE, later becoming the group’s president. Being around other women and having “a shared community of shared experiences helps foster that [confidence],” explains Penn, an opinion shared by Hussein and Frothingham.      

“I think the clubs allow you to make friends. I’ve made new friends and I’ve found new role models,” says Frothingham, adding that the clubs have inspired her to act as a role model to other women. “I wouldn’t have met all these super empowering people if I didn’t join clubs on campus.”

Clubs and organizations driven by underrepresented groups of students including WILD, SWE, and the Women’s Council, as well as organizations like the Multicultural Student Association and National Society of Black Engineers, help to provide a space occupied with likeminded students and allies. Frothingham adds that though a certain club might be run by women, “men are also a support system.”

“When you look at the leadership [at Wentworth], it’s split 50/50 [between men and women],” says Hussein. “It just shows that women want to go into those leadership roles and want to be in those leadership roles.”

The three credit Annamaria Wenner, dean of students and vice president of Student Affairs, for her strong voice. “We really lucked out,” Penn says of Wenner, who she counts as a big influencer in the representation that women receive at Wentworth.

Women-centric organizations at Wentworth hold their own in distinction while overlapping in members and underlying goals, making it more accessible to join multiple clubs without feeling overwhelmed. They act as less of a group of separate clubs and more like a family, say Penn, Hussein, and Frothingham, blending into one another and sharing traits and experiences.

“We’re not a tree, we don’t each have clubs on different branches,” Frothingham says. “We’re vines, we’re all intertwined. We’ll always grow back, we’ll always grow together.”

--Sarah Sherard

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