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Advocacy: A Pillar of SWE

Advocacy: A Pillar of SWE

Advocacy. It is not just one of the Society’s four strategic goals. It is part of who we are as an organization and has been essential to our identity since our founding more than 70 years ago.

karen horting head shot
Karen Horting, CAE
Executive Director and CEO
SWE worked with Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., and her staff for more than a year to draft the STEM RESTART act, a bipartisan bill. And I am thrilled to report that it was introduced on April 23.

A central component of our advocacy work falls under the umbrella of public policy. In April, SWE hosted our 13th Congressional Outreach Day. The event, while virtual this year, was a big success. We had 150 members, from 30 states and the District of Columbia, participate in virtual meetings with their legislators from both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The virtual format was embraced by many SWE members who stated that this was their first opportunity to participate given that the barrier of travel (and the associated cost) was removed.

We discussed adequate funding for STEM education and our opposition to last year’s changes to Title IX and the protections it provides women on campus to study and work in an environment free of sexual harassment and assault. And, unlike some years where the legislative agenda is unclear, SWE was able to advocate for some eight pieces of legislation. This included the STEM RESTART Act, a bipartisan bill that provides funding for small and mid-size businesses to offer paid returnship programs to midcareer women who have left the STEM workforce. SWE worked with Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., and her staff for more than a year to draft this legislation. And I am thrilled to report that it was introduced on April 23. A detailed blog post can be found at: https://bit.ly/3eNbqDS. SWE extends a heartfelt thank you to Sen. Rosen and Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., for all their support!

A second key component of our advocacy work is celebrating and making visible the accomplishments and contributions of women in the fields of engineering and technology. SWE’s awards programs are an important part of this work. With WE Local conferences in the U.S. postponed and our global WE Local conferences virtual, we created a WE Local virtual Awards Hall (much like we did for WE20) to acknowledge and celebrate all of our WE Local award recipients. If you have not visited yet, I encourage you to do so. You will be inspired by women and SWE groups around the globe. View the five videos, and leave notes of congratulations for friends, colleagues, or members who inspire you! Check it out at: https://welocal.swe.org/awards-hall/.

SWE’s awards programs are an important part of celebrating and making visible the accomplishments and contributions of women in the fields of engineering and technology.

And in this issue of SWE Magazine, you do not want to miss the 2021 installment of Women Engineers You Should Know (WEYSK). SWE’s WEYSK program was developed in 2015 to recognize women engineers who might otherwise go unnoticed. They may not be famous, but they have made impacts as both engineers and as individuals. Many of these women go out of their way to mentor other women engineers or younger students interested in STEM. Some of these women have provided support for and made significant contributions to major projects in areas of interest to society, health and medicine, infrastructure, national defense, or technology in general. This year, we are recognizing 10 amazing women!

Building a strong pipeline for the future

The last component of advocacy I want to highlight is our K-12 outreach — SWENext and all the things we do to support the next generation of women engineers and their adult influencers. With more than 5,600 SWENext members and 284 SWENext clubs globally, SWENext is a way for girls through age 18 to become a part of the SWE engineering community. SWENexters have access to programs, mentors, and resources designed to develop leadership skills and self-confidence to #BeThatEngineer and succeed in careers in engineering and technology.

SWENext members are invited to year-round virtual programming (and face-to-face events when safe to do so), have access to women engineers from myriad engineering and technology disciplines as role models and mentors, and are encouraged to participate in awards and recognition programs, to name just a few of the benefits. SWENext clubs are a way to connect with SWE members and other SWENexters in a local area.

A SWENext club can be any size with students in grades K-12. The club’s direction is up to the members.

Examples of club activities include — but are not limited to — conducting projects that use engineering to help people in their community, hosting outreach events for students in their community, and exploring career and college options. It also provides the opportunity for members to gain important leadership skills.

And, finally, the SWENext High School Leadership Academy (SHLA) inspires high school students to pursue careers in engineering and technology. SHLA provides high school students with year-round programming to bring awareness and inspire students to pursue engineering and technology careers. Training and development are provided in five essential tracks, including college preparation, STEM pathways, leadership, self-development, and inclusion and cultural awareness. This year, SHLA made a pivot to all virtual — and almost 800 girls are participating!

SWE’s advocacy goal is to be the preeminent advocate for females throughout the engineering and technology pipeline. The efforts I have highlighted are just some of the ways we are working toward a world of gender parity and equality in engineering and technology.

Karen Horting, CAE
Executive Director and CEO

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