She's Inspiring Girls to Become Engineers: Meet Masroor Khan

Masroor Khan will serve as a senator for the National Society of Women Engineers.

Masroor Khan, a civil engineering major, will serve as a senator for the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), the national group that supports women who study engineering.  

It’s an honor to be elected a national SWE senator. Masroor was one of ten college students from across the nation elected to the senate, which charts the direction of the society. She will represent the Mid-Atlantic region of the country, which includes New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. 

As senator, Masroor, a senior who is president of the SWE chapter at NJIT, will vote on the national society’s bylaws and initiatives. She’ll also act as the liaison between SWE members in her region and the national senate. Ultimately, her mission will be to help women who are studying engineering to succeed both in their studies and in their careers. In this Q&A, Masroor explains why she is so excited about her newly elected office. 

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How did you become a SWE senator?

I ran to be an SWE senator in February by sending in a nomination. From my understanding, I am the first one from NJIT to become a collegiate senator. SWE is composed of ten regions; therefore, there are ten collegiate senators. I am one of those ten. Each region has two professional senators and one collegiate.

What will you do as a senator?

In general, as a senator I’d like to play a key role in the strategic direction and long-term goals for the society.

Will you travel around the country? 

I will be attending conferences. The upcoming 2014 SWE National Conference is in October in Los Angeles, where I’ll attend senate meetings and speak during the Region E meeting. The same applies for the regional conference, which will be held in Philadelphia at Drexel University. I will possibly have to go to Chicago sometime in January for a senate meeting; SWE is headquartered in Chicago.

Why do you think some girls and women shy away from engineering?

I'm not an expert on this, and it's a question that's up for much debate. But I think the reason they shy away from engineering is because of the way they were brought up and the way the media portrays the role of women in the workplace. Traditionally, men are seen or portrayed as doctors and engineers, and women are portrayed as nurses and teachers.

When or how did you become interested in engineering?

I became interested in engineering while I was in high school. Growing up, I was surrounded by family members who had careers in STEM, which influenced me to pursue a career in STEM. My father has a master’s degree in geology and works as a geologist and my mother studied pharmacy. When I was young, I wanted to be an environmental scientist.  My mom used to take me to Earth Day events in Jersey City, where there were several activities for children to teach them how to save the planet.

I also wanted to be an architect and to build bridges – I couldn’t decide what to do but civil engineering, my major, offered many choices for me. I could go into environmental or structural engineering; civil engineering is a broad field with several disciplines. I was also part of the ACE mentor program in Dickinson High School in Jersey City, where architects and engineers mentored students. That program not only influenced me to go into engineering but also to attend NJIT.

What issues are you most concerned about?

At the national level, I'll be focused on the rules and the bylaws of SWE.  Personally, though, I'm most concerned about promoting STEM to young girls. Engineering shouldn’t be seen as a “man’s job.” It’s obvious that STEM is a field where women are underrepresented. I really enjoyed the outreach activities that NJIT SWE has hosted; our most recent accomplishment was being awarded a grant from ExxonMobil to host “WOW! That’s Engineering.”  NJIT SWE was also named the 2014 Outstanding Student Group at the Highlander Student Achievement Awards.  As a member I’m glad I was able to play a role in inspiring young girls to become engineers, scientists or technologists.

By Robert Florida