Q&A with Kyra Seevers
Updated: Oct 12, 2020
In honor of Pride Month, we spoke to a couple of our members who identify as LGBTQ+ to get their thoughts on how our LGBTQ+ sisters have been accepted within the engineering space and how we can all be better sisters and allies. This interview was conducted with Kyra Seevers via email.
Do you feel that the LGBTQ+ community faces unique challenges within the fields of engineering and engineering technology (both in college and professionally)? If so, what is one such challenge and how does someone overcome it?
I think one of the largest challenges of being LGBTQ+ in a field like engineering or engineering technology is that it is one more thing stacked against you, especially if you are already in the gender minority. Being in such a male-dominated field is already othering enough, so when you add on another underrepresented identity, it can feel like you are truly alone. It is much easier to lose motivation and question if you really have a place in the industry. One way to overcome this is to build community, whether virtual or in person. Find a support network that can validate your identity. It can give you the confidence to succeed even when your environment is telling you otherwise.
Can you talk about some of the diversity/inclusion initiatives that you've been a part of? What did they focus on? How did they accomplish their mission? Do you believe they are effective and/or what else would you like to see change?
For as long as I have been in Phi Rho, I have served on the Panhellenic Diversity and Inclusion Committee. As a part of that committee, I helped to lead initiatives in feminism, disability rights, and LGBTQ+ acceptance. While change has been slow and difficult, I have found that things are starting to change in the Panhellenic Council - most recently when I advocated for the creation of Panhel sponsored LGBTQ+ support events every semester and advocated for Panhel to create partnerships with the Disability Resource Center, performing accessibility audits of bylaws, and accept accommodations for all sorority events. In the time I have spent on the committee, I know that we have been effective in challenging people to think outside their own biases, providing education and leadership training, as well as events for visibility. I have seen change, I just work towards a future where even more robust and sweeping change will occur. Within Phi Rho, I believe that our chapter has changed immensely for the better, including my and other E-board members’ efforts to create a permanent Diversity and Inclusion officer position who can serve as a go-to reference on making our chapter a more inclusive place. Sororities have much further to go in terms of visibility, openness, and acceptance, but I take pride in knowing that I am doing my best to advocate for all of the people in Phi Rho.
Has Phi Sigma Rho provided you any sense of community or support as a member of the LGBTQ+ community? If so, how?
Phi Rho has hands down been my greatest supporter as a member of the LGBTQ community. My sisters are not only my greatest friends, but they are my greatest sounding boards. When I felt completely disconnected from the LGBTQ community, Phi Rho brought me many sisters who were experiencing the same emotions. On a national level, a Phi Rho alumna was the first person to introduce me and other sisters in my chapter to the national Out for Undergrad Conference, which connected me to networking and professional development opportunities I could have never dreamed of. Phi Rho provided me with the support network that encouraged me to come out and be visible at every opportunity, and continues to inspire me to this day.
What can sisters in Phi Sigma Rho and in the greater engineering community do to be better allies for their peers in the LGBTQ+ community?
I think that the biggest thing a sister of Phi Rho can do is educate themselves. So often we put the burden of education on the underrepresented community itself, when in reality, more than anything we need allies to be educated and check in on us. We need sisters to make their chapters welcoming places where there is no fear of judgment from the start. Sororities often have an image of being exclusive to people who are different - make policies that allow for all varieties of gender expressions and sexual orientations. If you are an ally, make that known to your chapter or alumni association, telling those around you that you are there for support and encouragement. You really have the power to change someone’s life.