By Kimmie Collins
Oct 8, 2021
Of the millions of engineering positions in the United States, only about 15 percent are currently held by women, according to U.S. Census data. Indiana State University senior Barb Healy is determined to not only join their ranks, but to inspire others to follow in her footsteps.
Closing the gender gap in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) careers is part of why the engineering major from Greenup, Illinois, is so passionate about Women in Stem Professions (WISP), a student organization that connects female students to career opportunities through networking and community events. Healy served as president of WISP last year.
“Women are a very low percentage of people in STEM,” Healy said. “It’s a man’s world and we need to help build each other up and support one another.”
Though she’s always had an affinity for building designs, Healy didn’t have many opportunities to explore engineering in high school, which is why she was so excited to lead the WISP’s flagship event: the annual FIT for the Future conference.
The conference brings high school females to Indiana State to explore opportunities in STEM careers and discover what ISU’s programs have to offer.
“We’re bringing awareness to the community of the different jobs that are out there, showing that women can do these jobs and there’s nothing that should hold them back,” Healy said.
Held virtually, the 2021 conference looked different than it had in years past, but still provided a unique educational experience. Participants were mailed a conference t-shirt and a STEM kit equipped with everything they needed for the experiments. The students were offered a choice of three kits: a DC motor, a starfish dissection, or an inertia test kit.
“The conference is STEM focused, but I hope the girls walked away with the confidence to follow the career path of their choice no matter what obstacles stand in the way,” Healy said.
Healy strives to help current Sycamores succeed as well. For the last two years, she’s mentored peers across campus, including tutoring for physics courses in the science building and for engineering courses through the College of Technology’s North American Lighting Student Success Center. Healy also serves on the College of Technology Dean’s Student Advisory Council.
The council hosts events to create a supportive atmosphere within the college, including initiatives during National Engineering Week and on Give to Blue Day.
Working closely with empowered leaders in the College of Technology has prepared Healy to explore the world of engineering beyond campus. For the last year, she has interned at A & R Mechanical Services in Urbana, Illinois. The company provides services that include site utilities, demolition, concrete and paving, and excavation. Healy helps the company with small estimates on project bids and participates in competitive bid meetings.
“By learning management skills and construction processes, the internship will help me become a well-rounded engineer,” she said. “When designing structures or systems, I will understand and anticipate possible outcomes with learned experiences.”
As she begins her senior year, Healy is shifting her attention to focus on her upcoming Fundamentals of Engineering exam. When she passes the exam, she’ll officially be an “Engineer in Training” until she has four years of experience and passes another exam to become a Professional Engineer.
Soon, Healy will be designing buildings or drainage systems in her dream job. For now, she’s building the foundation for her future success, seizing every opportunity to grow and inspiring others to follow in her footsteps.