Mendell a Role Model for Future Workforce on International Women in Engineering Day

June 22, 2022 | Categories: News, Publications

Engineering offers good-paying, stable jobs and often interesting and hands-on work experience. The median pay is $95,300 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the job outlook through 2030 will increase by 14 percent—faster than the average industry.

Yet, despite this encouraging career landscape, as many as 40 percent of women who earn engineering degrees either leave the industry or never pursue the career pathway to begin with. As a result, women make up just 14 percent of the industry.

Kelly Mendell, the president of MIKEL, isn’t really surprised.

When she was studying industrial engineering at UMass Amherst, she was consistently one of very few—or sometimes the only—woman in the room. Young women interested in pursuing the field face a scarcity of role models and mentors, which can be critical drivers in opening doors for new opportunities.

Mendell was lucky. She had a built-in role model at home with her father, the engineer who started MIKEL.

“I decided to study engineering because I loved math and because my father was an engineer,” she said. “I didn’t know what engineering was, but I knew that I would always have a job and I wanted to be like my father.”

 

 

Like father, like daughter. Mendell now runs MIKEL and is a force in the industry. She was the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Rhode Island Small Businessperson of the Year in 2018, and serves as treasurer of the board for SENEDIA, the national alliance for defense tech, talent, and innovation.

She also serves on the Industry Advisory Board for the UMass College of Engineering, where she sees the tide beginning to shift. More young women are considering careers in engineering, and at MIKEL, the number of women applicants is on the rise.

“The ratio is definitely changing and that’s a good thing,” she said.

For the future workforce, having role models like Mendell will help accelerate progress, and MIKEL does its part to reach out to students and young professionals who are weighing their options. In November, Mendell will participate in a panel on Women in Engineering hosted by IEEE, and MIKEL has developed a lecture series that exposes high school and college interns to opportunities in undersea warfare.

Those kinds of outreach efforts can make all the difference, Mendell says.

“All it takes is one experience for a student in order to motivate them or inspire them and help them figure out what they want to do,” she said.