Jonna Gerken, a project manager in Manufacturing Engineering at Pratt & Whitney, has been named the president-elect of the Society of Women Engineers.
"I have been lucky to be involved with the Society of Women Engineers for over 20 years. It's been not only a great learning experience for me, but a great network of women that I have known for a very long time," she said. "We have been watching each other become successful over the years, watching our families grow up. It's a tight-knit group of people that I am honored to be a part of. So I am really excited about being president this upcoming year, and even more excited that United Technologies and Pratt & Whitney have been so supportive."
Starting in July, Gerken will be in charge of leading the society to achieve its goals.
"We have this awesome strategic plan that helps guide us throughout the next five to 10 years, and we really are emphasizing making sure that we are making progress in our areas of advocacy, globalization and professional development," she said.
Gerken is especially committed to advocacy. Through volunteer work, she encourages both young boys and girls to pursue engineering.
"We are finding that the earlier kids - especially girls - get interested in engineering, the more likely they are to stick to it," she said. "It seems that in the late elementary school, early middle school age something happens, where boys and girls tend to diverge on their interests. By bringing engineering in earlier, we can hopefully make sure that they continue that interest through college and become engineers."
In addition to inspiring kids, Gerken aims to inspire adults as well. Her theme for SWE this year focuses on reminding women of all ages to champion their engineering mindsets.
"This year's theme of 'Always Connecting, Always Engineering' resonates with me because I hear of so many women who either leave the engineering field or become stay at home moms, or take different paths and don't think of themselves as engineers anymore," she said. "When in reality they will always be engineers. It's the degree, it's the thought process, it is understanding how to solve problems. That's what makes you a good engineer.
"I'm really excited about being president this upcoming year, and I'm even more excited that United Technologies and Pratt & Whitney have been so supportive."