SWE President Pushes Past “Imposter Syndrome”

Maria Kelly explains how circuits work to a middle schooler at a STEM event. SWE sponsored a workshop. Sarah East/UNM
Maria Kelly explains how circuits work to a middle schooler at a STEM event. SWE sponsored a workshop. Sarah East/UNM

“There’s a lot of struggle with imposter syndrome and feeling like you’re not up to par with your peers, even though you are and that can be difficult,” said The Society of Women Engineers President Maria Kelly.

Kelly pushes past “imposter syndrome,” and utilizes her position to help give other girls in the Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics program a sense of confidence.

Since high school, Kelly knew she wanted to have a career in STEM.

“I really enjoyed my math and science classes, and I was always an academically motivated individual, so I was looking forward to the challenge (of) going into engineering,” Kelly said.

The University of New Mexico senior is studying chemical engineering with plans to graduate in May she said.

Currently Kelly leads UNM’s SWE chapter to focuses on conference travel, professional development and community outreach she said. Kelly participated in extracurricular activities in high school and felt like it was natural to join the women engineering group at UNM she said.

“As I started getting involved, I really fell in love with it,” Kelly said. “I loved the idea of giving back to the community and taking time on weekends to instill that same perspective and interest in young girls in the community.”

Emily Hopkins helps a middle schooler with their homemade circuit at Expanding Your Horizons, a STEM event at UNM. The conference focused on providing science activities for girls in grades 5-12. Sarah East/UNM

According to UNM’s SWE website, they aim to provide the community with a strong support system available to all STEM students.

“I know a lot of people in SWE who have faced the stigma of ‘women can’t do engineering,’” Kelly said.

Emily Hopkins manages public relations for the SWE chapter. She says she can relate to Kelly’s struggle with imposter syndrome.

“The other day someone came up to me and told me that I was one of the smart kids in class, and I was feeling like I was one of the dumb ones,” Hopkins said. “It’s just a weird misconception that girls tend to have and I think a lot of girls have that issue of having confidence.”

Keeping girls interested in STEM is one of Kelly’s goals in SWE, she said.Kelly said she wants to be a role model showing that a woman can be interested in science and math.

Maria Kelly (left) and Emily Hopkins examine a circuit at Expanding Your Horizons. Members of SWE helped young girls interested in STEM make their own circuit. Sarah East/UNM.

“In elementary school, girls are just as interested in math and science as boys, but once they hit middle school, something happens and the rate of girls being interested in STEM drops dramatically,” Kelly said. “We want to make sure we reach out to young girls in the community and high school students to make sure they know there are girls and women in STEM.”

SWE hosts general meetings, socials and other community events. There is also more information about their organization here.

Sarah East can be contacted on Twitter @saraheast67