Founding a Women’s Engineering Society at your University

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WES Student Groups are a fantastic community of like-minded engineers that work to create diversity and equal opportunities within engineering. These groups are open to any students who want to support this goal.  To further this aim, the groups hold a huge variety of events including networking, lectures, workshops and socials.

Below are the FAQs to help you start your group written by students for students. 

By Hannah Bernard-Bell

Additional content Jennifer Glover 

These tips are based on experiences at the University of Nottingham – please check with your Student Union and department as things may differ slightly.

Founding your Society

Usually you will need a minimum number of ‘interested’ members to found a society (our uni required 25 members but check with your SU as it can differ) – therefore it is important you start to network with your friends and course mates – get the word out there that you are founding this society and ensure you have interest from the student body.

​​​​​​It will be helpful to have the support of a member of staff – they can help pass you on to the relevant staff members around the university. It would be worth finding staff members who are current members of WES – this shows their interest and passion for WES and they can be a valuable asset during the setting up and running of the society.

You will need a staff contact who is a member of WES for the affiliation process.  If your University is an Education Partner this may be covered by that. 

The SU may require you to present your society to other society presidents at a large meeting. This presentation is vital to getting established as you must convince majority of presidents to vote for your societies’ establishment. Come to the meeting prepared and be ready to be asked questions about why your society should be established.

To affiliate your group, you need:

  • At least two student members of WES as officers for the group (ie chair, vice-chair, secretary, treasurer).  
  • Support of one academic member of staff who is a member of WES to act as the group sponsor.  
  • To complete Application forms :
  • The guide can be found here

Running your society

​​​​​The first term is one of the most important terms for your society. It is vital to get the word out about your society and what you do. Therefore it’s important to start planning early. Before term starts you should have a list of events.  You don’t need to have specific dates/times, but you should be able to show your new members what you have planned. Get in touch with other societies at your university, they are often keen for event collaborations.

  • Fresher’s/Welcome Fair
    • This is the perfect opportunity for you to attract new members – remember to be enthusiastic and engaging at the stall
  • Welcome Event
    • I recommend holding a ‘Welcome Event’ around 1 or 2 weeks after the start of term. This event is for members/interested persons to come along to learn about what you do and who you are. Prepare an engaging presentation and ensure all of your committee members are present to network with potential members. We found it beneficial to offer some food and refreshments to help attract students.
  • Volunteer event guide 
    • WES has produced a guide to event planning used by the student groups and clusters which can be requested from the office, email

We found Facebook and the University emailing list to be the most effective form of communication. But different universities will have favoured social media. Approach the SU to get a WES University email set up.

We also have an instagram account and get a lot of engagement with our Instagram stories. When we have a big event coming up (or are at the beginning of a new term) we like to put posters up around the department (check with your department about where you can put up posters) and we even handed out flyers in our cafeteria to increase our reach. It is important to advertise early as students tend to have hectic schedules and can easily forget events.

Don’t worry if some of your events attract less members than normal – event attendance can fluctuate massively – this can be due to coursework/exam load and other events going on at the time. It is helpful to ask your department if they have a list of the major coursework deadlines for each course so that you can plan your events around these.

When founding a society you are required to form a committee without having properly launched. Therefore, our first committee consisted mainly of our course mates. It is therefore important to find a group of students interested in helping you launch the society and being on the first committee. As our society gained more traction over our first year, by the time we came to elections, our committee members came from a range of engineering disciplines. You want to have students from a range of engineering disciplines on your committee as it allows the society and its events to appeal to all engineering types.

  • To enable you to provide your members with a fantastic range of engaging events, it is almost certain that funding will be required. Have a look for external sponsors (many companies are excited to support societies involved in female empowerment), within your SU (student unions have funds set aside to help support societies), within your department (approach your department head as they may have spare funds available). Additionally, your University may have special schemes in place, such as our ‘Student Experience Fund’ from which you can apply for funding for specific events. For example, they helped us fund our places at the WES Student Conference.
  • The University Groups Board has a produced a top tips guide written by student groups for student groups which all affiliated groups can have access too here.

Good Luck!

Hannah Bernard-Bell

President and Co-founder

Women’s Engineering Society – University of Nottingham

April 2020


For additional tips written by the University Groups Board  please click here.