Female engineers from Mississippi Power taught high school girls about careers in engineering Wednesday at the company's iCan! Girls in Engineering conference in Hattiesburg.
Sumrall High School juniors and seniors learned about different types of engineering through hands-on projects like making lip gloss, bath salts, shoes, circuits and cars.
"It kind of opens your eyes to what engineering really is because you kind of have this thought or idea about it, and you're like 'Engineering? I don't to like be working with robots,'" 11th grader Rachel Green said. "But actually, it's not just that. It's way more in depth than that, so today really kind of opens your eyes."
Nicole Faulk, vice president of customer service and operations for Mississippi Power, said the company's hosted this program for about five years, and it is an opportunity to make engineering fun.
"You can tell, the group of girls is having a great time," Faulk said. "Our engineers have a great time, and it's something that we look forward to every year."
Faulk said it is important to educate young women in Mississippi about what careers in science, technology and engineering can look like.
"It is absolutely important to do that in Mississippi," Faulk said. "There are so companies here in the state that need engineers and need female engineers. We were telling the ladies earlier today their career is bright. If they choose engineering, it opens so many doors for them, and especially as a female engineer because there's not many of us. And people want us. When they look at the diversity within their work group, that's very important to have a diverse work group, diverse thought, in that group, so it's great."
Green said, "They were talking about how they look for women and minorities to be hired in the workplace because they said that they want the work place to reflect their customers. So it's a great opportunity to get into it and show that you can excel just as well as anybody else."
Junior Kailey Gresham said promoting women in male-dominated careers like engineering is something she thinks society as a whole should focus on.
"I think it's very important," Gresham said. "They were saying that more men are engineers than women, and I really support my girls. So I really think that's a very big thing in our society that women should pursue that."
Faulk said, "Oftentimes, they just need to see another female as a role model that they can actually be an engineer. Most of the time, I think people think of engineers as being a male-dominant world, so being able to see somebody that looks like them and is successful in a career and understand what we do, (helps them understand) being an engineer is wide open."
Faulk said she knows personally how important it is to have a mentor.
"I've had so many role models throughout my career, and it totally makes a difference to be able to sit down with people and say, 'Hey, I'm experiencing this. Did you ever experience this? What did you do?' That can be from a male or a female, but oftentimes, it's very helpful when it is somebody that looks like me or is a few years out from me. I can say, "OK, you look like me. You think like me. What did you do?'"
Wednesday was also the first time Green and Gresham said they could see themselves becoming engineers.
"I like math stuff, so like accounting, but I know engineering has a lot to do with math," Green said. "She said that industrial engineering deals with a lot of math. So that would probably be the best option for me. She said they like to improve things, make things better. I love to do that. I love to solve problems."
Gresham said, "Sumrall is very small, and you get kind of an isolated feeling. I love it to death, and I bleed blue and gold. But sometimes you get kind of trapped in that little small town. But when you step out and you learn about it in the actual facility and you learn from people who actually work here, it's a different feel. I thought about going into business, something in that because it's a broad subject. In here, I found out that I actually could do both, and I didn't realize that there were that many opportunities. It's really awesome."
Faulk said showing these high school girls there are so many option is why she was in Hattiesburg on Wednesday.
"It's important for me to be here with these students today to show them I am an engineer," she said. "I started out as an engineer. I started out as many of these young ladies here did, but management is also an option. Being able to progress and being able to see women progress and be leaders in a company, I think, is equally as important as being an engineer in a company."
Wednesday iCan! event is only the second one in the state Mississippi Power has hosted this year.