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Aspire to Inspire

Aspire to Inspire

“Aspire to Inspire” is the theme for our FY22 and of course WE21. It is also a theme that embodies our SWE members and partners.

karen horting head shot
Karen Horting, CAE
Executive Director and CEO

The Society will continue to pivot and innovate to meet the needs of our members and stakeholders as we advance our mission. The gathering in Indianapolis will likely be smaller than previous conferences, but it will not be short on inspirational content from leaders and subject matter experts.

The global pandemic continues to change the way we all work, attend school and, quite frankly, live our lives. With the launch of the COVID-19 vaccines earlier this year, we all hoped that by the fall we would be returning to normal. But that is not the case. So, like we have done for more than 18 months, the Society will continue to pivot and innovate to meet the needs of our members and stakeholders as we advance our mission.

With that in mind, WE21 will be like no other conference in our past 71 years. This year the conference will be a hybrid. We will host an in-person event in Indianapolis for those ready to travel and connect in person. Health and safety will guide everything we do during our time in Indy. SWE is utilizing the CLEAR Health Pass to ensure attendees are either fully vaccinated or have had a recent negative COVID test. Room sets and the exhibit hall will accommodate social distancing and masks will be required. We will also have a virtual component for those unable to join us in Indiana.

Wisdom for work and life

The gathering in Indianapolis will likely be smaller than previous conferences, but it will not be short on inspirational content from leaders and subject matter experts. Each day will feature a live-streamed keynote from a leading woman engineer. If you are like me, these keynotes, while all very different, never cease to inspire me! I leave each one of them with a few nuggets of wisdom for work and/or life. There are also six Inspirational Insight sessions (previously known as Mega Sessions). From racism and its compounding effects on underrepresented groups, to the importance of sustainability in today’s engineering innovation, to radical candor and creating a culture of feedback, these sessions are not to be missed. The Inspirational Insight sessions are also a great way to earn CEUs.

If you are attending in person, how about kicking off the day with morning yoga? Many of us became inspired during the pandemic to be more mindful of our health and the importance of self-care. If your own care has taken a back seat recently, morning yoga would be a wonderful way to turn that around and practice some mindfulness. And the one thing many of us have missed the most is the chance to make new connections. Be sure to check the schedule for the many meetups and receptions happening throughout the week. You will have a chance to connect with SWE’s many affinity groups, committees, and other special interest groups. These gatherings are an opportunity to not only be inspired but to inspire other members. Your words of wisdom or encouragement may be just the thing a fellow attendee needs.

Perhaps the biggest source of inspiration at WE21 — SWE’s more than 500 award recipients! Since hosting large banquets is still not possible, we will once again host the Virtual Awards Hall to recognize all of our individual and Mission Award recipients. Congratulate friends or colleagues by leaving notes for them within the Awards Hall. Last year, more than 7,500 individuals visited the Awards Hall, leaving more than 2,700 comments for award recipients. SWE FY22 President Rachel Morford, along with co-host Eva Saha (returning from WE20), recognizes recipients through a series of four videos. In addition, recipients of the most prestigious awards provide video remarks. I encourage everyone to view these videos. As an only child dealing with the health issues of aging parents, I am constantly inspired by the remarks from SWE’s 2004 Achievement Award recipient, Dr. Kristina Johnson. During her remarks, she shared how she leaned on her colleagues when her mother was very ill. Her organization was at a critical juncture for securing funding. But she decided that she only had one mother and spending time with her was more important. She said she never regretted that decision. I will forever be grateful to her and the inspiration she gave me for balancing work and life.

Whether WE21 will be your first SWE conference or just one of many you have attended, I can assure you that you will not be disappointed. In person or virtual, you will both inspire others and be inspired. Let’s all Aspire to Inspire!

Karen Horting, CAE
Executive Director and CEO

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