Photo by Megan LeGresley.
“WATT stands for Women Advancing Technology Through Teamwork, and it’s also a unit of power, which is quite symbolic if you ask me.”
Jackie Yangyuen and Allison Doami, third and first year Electrical Engineering (EE) students, respectively, are co-founders of WATT within the broader Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) at UCLA. Allison was inspired to start the club to connect with more women in her field. Along with wanting to meet women pursuing electrical engineering outside of class, Jackie explains they hoped to foster “a more inclusive environment for everyone.”
“It’s not that we want to exclude guys from this club. But I feel like minority groups might feel left out and out of place in IEEE, so we wanted to encourage more people to come and participate.”
Jackie considers herself a “proud feminist” and believes feminism is important for transforming society to where everyone is able to do things that “men have been able to do for centuries.” Especially after finding herself surrounded by guys in her science classes, Allison developed a greater identification with feminism as well. She has since endeavored to encourage women and girls to think about science differently. Her goal is for them to “be more confident in their abilities, even if they might feel like a minority in the field.”
Jackie doesn’t see any reason for women to be a minority in STEM fields. In fact, she stresses, “if you’re excluding half the world’s population, you’re excluding half the world’s genius and creative thinking. As women, we’re raised differently, so we can offer a very unique perspective in engineering. Engineering is all about innovation and scientific discovery and making something new based off what we already have. We definitely need that perspective.”
Allison and Jackie added there may be specific issues women see as needing to be addressed or particular areas that can be improved. Yet if there are no women in the field, then these problems may never be solved.
Jackie admits that during her three years as an EE major, she has encountered both positive and negative responses to her presence in a discipline dominated by men. She recalls one instance where a male classmate ripped her laptop out of her hands. He then proceeded to change her work and insert new code without her permission. Even describing it today, Jackie gets frustrated.
“It was disrespectful. Don’t just take my laptop from me because you think you can do it better. I felt very belittled, and I don’t want anyone to go through a similar experience such as that. We’re all equals here. We all have the same head between our shoulders.”
Allison affirms being the only woman in a row of men motivates her to succeed despite the tough competition for everyone. She and Jackie stress that in addition to individual persistence, women should help each other navigate the field.
“There’s not a certain quota of [women] that should be in engineering. Everyone should get an equal chance to pursue their passions and their dreams. Especially because engineering really does change the world.”