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Women in STEM club members listening to Abbie Cochell '17 speaking

Abbie Cochell was young and felt out of place when she first entered the engineering field.

The 2017 graduate of Providence Day knew the career she chose was made up of mostly men, but she says she didn’t realize how difficult it would be to talk with them.

Abbie Cochell '17 speaking to the Women in STEM club

She reached out to a mentor, who told her to learn enough about different topics. For example, she learned a little bit about football and basketball. She also read up more on pop culture.

“Mentoring is really important,” Ms. Cochell told a group from the Women in STEM club on Monday in The Stable. “Learn as much as you can from them.”

Helpful tips and inspiration - they’re what the leaders of the club were hoping for when they invited Ms. Cochell to speak. She’s an assistant electrical engineer at Burns & McDonnell and works in transmission and distribution with experience in project development and protection and controls substation design.

Burns & McDonnell is a 100 percent employee-owned engineering, construction, and architecture firm with offices across North America, including Charlotte and Atlanta, where Ms. Cochell lives.

“It is important for Women in STEM to have speakers like Ms. Cochell because it helps to inspire our members and show them that they can reach their goals through hard work even in male-dominated fields like STEM,” Sophomore Taylor Pochick, who is one of the club’s leaders, says. “Speakers also give super helpful tips for girls in high school wanting to go on any career path, and they also share their stories and experiences throughout their careers.”

Ms. Cochell spoke to participants about her job and how to find mentors.

“It is helpful to learn about an average day in their jobs and have more information on their specific career,” Taylor says. “I personally find I learn a lot about the types of jobs in the STEM field after listening to a speaker.”

The electrical and electronics engineers workforce in 2021 was 246,124 people, of which 9.55 percent were women and 90.5 percent were men, according to Data USA. However the Society of Women Engineers reports there has been an increase in the number of women working in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields in the United States.

For example, in the 1990s, women represented percent of the architecture and engineering workforce. By 2023, the percentage of women professionals in those fields had grown to 16.7 percent, but they are still underrepresented compared to their male counterparts, according to society.

“I hope our members can get a sense of what it is like in her job as an engineer and also learn about her experiences throughout her life and things that helped her or made her journey more difficult,” Taylor says. “Above all, I hope they feel inspired by her path and feel as though they can achieve their goals.”