One of the few women in her field of electrical engineering,
Muriel is quick to point out that the number of women in STEM fields is not at all where she thought it would be at this point.
“For the profession to remain unbalanced is just not workable,” she says.
“And it’s not only that there’s not enough women going into it (engineering),but it’s also that the profession is not working out for them. It’s a huge loss of talent.”
Muriel is often one of the only women in a room or on a team. Not only does this isolation make it difficult for a woman to find her place, it also breeds an environment that is “very resistant” to women.
She explains that sexist behavior is fairly common and pervasive in everything from hiring committees to awards panels as women are evaluated within the field.
For example, a female engineer will often be asked how much of her work was contributed by her advisor or her boss; a man will not receive these questions.
“It takes a more collective and institutional and societal courage to call people on it,” Muriel says.
“You have to call them out. We need a zero-tolerance approach to these things.”
Even in college, Muriel was frequently the only woman in her classes. She says Alpha Chi Omega provided much-needed support.
“Having that sisterhood to me was everything,” she recalls. “And having those friends for life has been utterly amazing.”
Even more amazing for Muriel has been the fact that she now gets to share this sisterhood with her daughter, Josephine Simmons, a collegiate member of the Kappa Nu (Carnegie Mellon University) chapter.
“I encouraged her to look at Alpha Chi, but I didn’t want to be pushy,” Muriel laughs.
“I was so thrilled when she told me she chose it.”
Mother and daughter even share the same executive board position experience,
with Josephine now the vice president intellectual development and Muriel having served as the equivalent vice president scholarship in her college days.
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