Feature Stories 2022: Supporting Women in Science & Engineering

Recipients of the Women in Defense scholarship
Feature Stories 2022: Supporting Women in Science & Engineering
Supporting Women in Science & Engineering

Alumni and defense industry professional join forces to support female science and engineering students

Diane Phillips was often the only female in her engineering classes when she graduated in 1984. Today, she works to ensure that women studying science and engineering at UMass Dartmouth have the support they need to be leaders in the industry.

Phillips is the vice president of Boston Operations for Joint Research and Defense, a leading science and engineering firm in the chemical and biological defense industry. Her colleagues from the Women in Defense–Greater Boston Chapter professional group brought their shared vision for supporting aspiring female engineers to UMassD. They collaborated with the College of Engineering to create an opportunity to introduce current students to defense industry careers and help them to acquire the professional development skills needed to be successful in the traditionally male-dominated fields of science and engineering.

The Women in Science & Engineering event, now in its third year, connects students with defense industry professionals and alumni to network and share their career experiences. The event has included speed networking with students, panels of experts speaking on various career topics, and a virtual interactive workshop on negotiation skills. 

“The basic challenges associated with gender bias in the workplace still exist,” said Phillips. “By showcasing positive role models and creating paths for females to excel, I hope we can overcome these obstacles for all.”

“Despite many efforts at the national level to increase the interest of all students in STEM, women continue to be underrepresented in the STEM workforce,” said Jean VanderGheynst, dean of the College of Engineering. “This partnership aims to build networking and professional development skills.

In 2020, the College of Engineering & Women in Defense Scholarship was established in conjunction with the event through sponsorships Phillips and the group’s organizers secured from Raytheon, Beacon Interactive Systems, General Dynamics, and other companies. Six UMassD students pursuing engineering, computer science, and bioengineering have since received the scholarship.

As the partnership continues, Phillips hopes to plan discussions on additional career topics to students with a diverse slate of professionals and leverage relationships with industry partners to create paths of entry into the workspace.

Based on content originally developed by Adrienne Wartts for College of Engineering Winter 2022 newsletter. See also Empowering women in science & engineering and Diane (Belcher) Phillips '84: The power of networking.