'It takes a community': Women in engineering rally to extinguish burnout

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How can women minimize stress and avoid burnout in the workplace? Keeping multiple calendars, traveling and separating work from your personal life are all ways to keep stress at bay, according to five panelists at a College of Engineering event on Wednesday.

The How to Avoid Burnout panel was hosted as part of Women in Engineering week. Several engineers, including College of Engineering Dean Elizabeth Loboa, spoke about their personal experiences with juggling a work-life balance and how they de-stress.

Burnout is a prominent issue for women in the workplace, according to an announcement for the event by the Office of Diversity and Outreach Initiatives. “Women report having significant levels of anxiety and stress caused by their work, as well as stemming from a lack of motivation and inability to progress.”

The panelists spoke on the importance of taking care of one’s mental health and how to set boundaries when it comes to the workplace. Each panelist had different ways in which they handle stress that comes with being a woman in engineering and, for some, being a mother.

Heather Hunt, a biological engineering professor at MU, said she runs to prevent burnout. She also said that she has 13 calendars in order to stay organized. These calendars range from her work life to her daughter and husband’s schedules.

College of Engineering Dean Elizabeth Loboa said she separates her work and private life. She keeps her work life organized, but she plans nothing when it comes to her personal life because she said that it is important to “enjoy ... the moment.”

She stressed the importance of keeping family time sacred and to do what you love and what you need to be happy.

“We are all different in terms of what makes us happy,” said Noor Azizan-Gardner, who has advocated for diversity and inclusion on campus, at the panel.

Christina Mosnick, a recent graduate of MU and an Esri software developer, has a different approach. Her stress reliever is to take flight, and she enjoys international travel.

“I’m very good at leaving work at work,” she said.

Mosnick also discussed the importance of taking care of one’s mental health. She recalled how stressed she was in school versus now that she’s in her career.

“A lot of times, burnout occurs because your expectations have changed,” she said. “I think that taking that time for mental wellness helps you to evaluate those expectations and evaluate where you are in your life.”

The panel ended with a discussion on how to overcome struggles. The engineering panelists said they don’t let the title of engineer define them.

The panelists encouraged students to push themselves and to analyze a situation before acting. There will be different outcomes depending on how they approach a situation, they said, so it is up to that person to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Loboa stressed the importance of having a support system or a good group of “girlfriends.”

“It takes a community to help us press forward,” she said.

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