Exhibit celebrates five decades of women in engineering

Sally Ride

Sally Ride

BLACKSBURG, Va., Jan. 31, 2007 – "Petticoats and Slide Rules," a historical exhibit on women in engineering from the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), is currently on display in the lobby of Hancock 100 and will remain at Virginia Tech through March of 2007.

This unique historical exhibit explores the evolving role of women in engineering by celebrating women’s technological achievements, personal experiences, and equal rights struggles. It also relates the story of the Society of Women Engineers, the first American national engineering society incorporated and dedicated to promoting women in engineering and science.

The exhibit is sponsored by Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering, the Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity, the Women’s Center, the Women’s Studies Program, and AdvanceVT.

“Petticoats and Slide Rules” do go hand in hand, as the dynamic history of women engineers illustrates. This idea was first presented in 1952 to the Western Society of Engineers, during the celebration of the “Centennial of Engineering” in Chicago. There, engineer Margaret Ingels presented her speech “Petticoats and Slide Rules.” As a member of the newly founded engineering group, the Society of Women Engineers, she enlightened her audience with stories of women “trailblazers” and “pioneers,” in order to pay tribute and spread the word that, indeed, there were women engineers predating the “blue jeans” era.

The interactive history exhibit featuring materials from the SWE historical collection at the Walter P. Reuther Library of Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich. Developed by archivists at the Reuther Library and made possible by a grant from the Ford Motor Company Fund, this traveling exhibit was first displayed at the Reuther Library in conjunction with the 2002 Society of Women Engineers annual conference, and has traveled to various locations across the country since.

Photos, videos, interviews and artifacts highlight over five decades of promoting equal opportunity for women in engineering, as well as inspirational stories of women who paved the way for future generations.

For more than 50 years, the Society of Women Engineers has fostered a diverse engineering workforce and the idea that women can be engineers, actively working to increase the number of female engineers. That mission continues today, with a membership of more than 19,000 individual professionals and students from 22 countries, more than 300 student sections, and over 100 professional sections organized in 10 geographic regions.

More information on the Virginia Tech Chapter of the Society of Women Engineers may be found on their website.