Engineering — a male-dominated field — can be “daunting for a lot of women,” said Mei Molinari ’24, a biomedical engineering concentrator.

“It can be challenging for them to break into engineering and (know) what resources are there for them,” Molinari, co-president of the Society of Women Engineers at Brown, explained. 

Through social and professional development events aimed at building community, SWE hopes to change that, Molinari said.

The student group, which offers women STEM students “a community of other female engineers,” is one of more than 400 collegiate and professional SWE chapters in the United States. 


For some, mentorship and guidance make SWE an invaluable resource before, during and after their time at Brown. 

Emilia Pantigoso ’26, SWE’s co-chair of professional development, has used the organization as a resource since she was 15 years old. 

“My high school was lucky enough to have an engineering course, (but) I was one of three women in the entirety of the course,” Pantigoso said. “I so desperately wanted to find community.”

While still in high school, she contacted another SWE chapter which provided her with the support to launch her high school’s Women’s Engineering Club. 

It was structured “entirely in the footsteps of SWE,” she said.

Not long after, when it was time to apply to colleges, Pantigoso was able to use SWE’s collegiate network to learn about her options. 

In fact, it was Brown’s SWE members who read through her essays and helped with her application to the University. 

“I likely would not have come to Brown if it weren’t for the women I met through Brown’s chapter of SWE,” said Pantigoso, who is now a Biomedical Engineering concentrator.

“I have never met a group of women more willing to help a complete stranger,” she added. “I don’t think anything … speaks more to their desire to push and continue to fight for our gender in this obviously male-dominated field.”

Megan Dansby Russell ’11, associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion at the School of Engineering, was a member of SWE during her time as a Brown undergraduate.


“I learned so much about what it means to persevere and what it means to really rely on your network and support each other,” said Dansby Russell, who double-concentrated in Electrical Engineering and Education.

Dansby Russell noted that the “culture of engineering” can dissuade students from seeking help from others.

“As a woman — especially as a first-generation woman of color — you sometimes have the notion that you don’t belong,” she said. “Or that if you struggle through something, clearly this is not for you.”

For Dansby Russell, participating in extracurricular activities such as SWE and Brown’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers was key to navigating the engineering environment and finding community to “talk casually about stuff that might not even be something related to engineering.”

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Dansby Russell also landed her first internship — and her first full-time job — through the connections she forged while attending SWE’s annual conferences, which bring together chapters from across the country.

Other members, such as Jessica Jacyno ’24, find community and career opportunities through “SWE-sters,” a mentorship program connecting younger students with juniors and seniors who have similar interests and career plans.

“My freshman year was really hard because of COVID,” said Jacyno, now a SWE co-events chair. “And (finding) connection was really difficult.”

For Jacyno, matching with a SWE-ster felt like “having (an) older sister” — one who can help navigate job searches, help find graduate school opportunities and get the inside scoop on courses and professors.

Along with the SWE-ster program, the group helps members find community and careers through LinkedIn and resume workshops, dinners, trivia nights and panels with the deans of Brown’s School of Engineering.

Every November, to ring in the holiday season, the group hosts an annual “Gingerbread House Competition.” In true engineering fashion, the gingerbread houses must be structurally sound enough to survive the Brown Design Workshop’s shake table. 

SWE also partners with other engineering affinity groups to co-host community-wide events such as the annual Engineering Winter Formal and recruitment events. 

“We try to bridge all of these minority groups so that we can foster a space where people … feel excited and confident to pursue this concentration,” said Nova Dea ’24, SWE diversity, equity and inclusion chair.

Off campus, SWE also works with younger students to improve accessibility to engineering education.

“We do everything from events with elementary and middle school kids, just introducing them to engineering … to tips on the college application process,” said Caroline Snyder ’24, SWE outreach director.

Through SWE’s partnership with the Girl Scouts of Southeastern New England, troops can visit Brown and participate in SWE-hosted events to work toward their “STEM career exploration” and “Inventor” badges. 

SWE also offers tours and activity sessions to students at the nearby Nathanael Greene Middle School. “We gave them a whole tour of the building and tried to get them excited about what we do,” Dea said. “They all got super excited, especially when we showed them our F1 racing car.”

Snyder told The Herald that following COVID-related disruptions, the group hopes to create more long-term partnerships with local schools like Vartan Gregorian Elementary School and Hope High School.

Members shared their enthusiasm for the group’s initiatives this year and in the future.

“We’ve got energy. We’ve got great passion. We’ve got great drive. I’m excited to see what happens going forward,” Jacyno said.

Since the beginning, the group has been “women supporting women,” Pantigoso added. “Brown SWE … is the epitome of just continuing to fight for that.”

Bishakha Oli

Bishakha Oli is a staff writer for the University News section covering the diversity and student groups beats. In her free time, she enjoys learning new languages and making ceramic bowls!