Dozens of professional women engineers are now serving as sounding boards, cheerleaders and industry contacts for women CU Engineering students as part of a new pilot program with Ball Corporation.
The “Ball Sisters” program continues a long tradition of partnership between the Colorado-based company (and its philanthropic arm, The Ball Foundation) and CU Engineering (along with other CU programs) at a time when increasing female representation in the field is top of mind.
“Hopefully this program offers a low-stress, low-pressure relationship that can both support the women at CU as they complete their degrees and transition to industry, and provide insights to the Ball ‘sisters’ as to what female STEM students today are feeling and experiencing, which we can then use to make our own workplace even better,” said Allison Barto, a Ball engineer and co-lead of the Ball Women’s Resource Group.
At Thursday’s kickoff in the Gallogly Discovery Learning Center, about 40 female students were matched with engineers from Ball to start the conversation. In the coming months, the pairs will stay in communication through email and in-person meetings to continue sharing advice and ideas.
Sophomore Monica Chairez, a computer science major, said she was excited to make connections with one of Boulder County’s largest employers.
“This is a great opportunity because Ball is one of the companies I was looking at for the future,” she said.
Barto said women at Ball were energized to start the pilot program with The BOLD Center after learning about Dean Bobby Braun’s goal of reaching 50 percent female students in the next few years and, more broadly, making CU Engineering more diverse and inclusive. The Ball Foundation provides funding for several BOLD scholars.
She also was inspired after a chat with a Ball Aerospace summer intern who came from an engineering program that had already reached gender parity. The young woman was nervous about what to expect entering the workforce, having never been in the minority.
“It is natural there will be a lag between reaching gender parity in universities and gender parity in the workforce, so this concern raised regarding uncertainty over the transition is something that will need to be addressed for more and more women as they reach graduation,” Barto said.
Freshman Tashi Wischmeyer, an electrical engineering student from Memphis, Tenn., went to an all-girls school for 14 years and said entering the male-dominated engineering field had already been a change. She attended the kickoff with an eye to the future.
“I thought it would be a great opportunity to meet people in industry and ask relevant questions, because I don’t know a lot about what happens after graduation,” she said.