A Strategy to Move Us Forward

These pillars of focus leverage our strengths and value as an organization and keep us laser focused on delivering member and stakeholder value while strengthening and diversifying the SWE community.

The work of the Society is guided by a strategic plan that is reviewed and updated as needed every three years. The final year of the three-year period is referred to as a development year. With the ongoing pandemic, however, the Society paused that work for one year given the uncertainties in the world and to save resources. So rather than launching our development year in FY21, we launched it this year (FY22). The strategic plan development year includes reviewing an environmental scan and trend report, analyzing a variety of metrics from the KPI dashboard and other resources, and facilitation from an outside consultant with expertise in guiding membership associations through the process. The annual strategic planning subteam is managed by the deputy speaker of the senate and includes members of the senate, board of directors, and HQ staff. More details on the Society’s strategic planning process can be found here: http://senate.swe.org/strategic-planning.html.

The annual strategic planning subteam completed its work, presented it to the senate, and a motion was put forward to the board of directors to adopt the updated plan. The motion was approved at the March board of directors meeting. Now the board and HQ will develop an operations plan for FY23. Once the operations plan is approved, it will be communicated to all of SWE’s committees. The updated strategic plan has four pillars: Advocacy and Collaboration; Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB); Global Community; and Individual Growth and Excellence.

SWE’s mission in action

I am excited by the updated plan and the direction it takes the Society. These pillars of focus leverage our strengths and value as an organization and keep us laser focused on delivering member and stakeholder value while strengthening and diversifying the SWE community.

Recently, I had the opportunity to experience the power of the SWE Global Community. I was in India for an event with our WE Local India advisory board, sponsors and partners, and our local SWE India team. It had been almost two-and-a-half years since folks had the opportunity to meet face-to-face. And while WE Local Bengaluru had pivoted to virtual in February, local volunteers and partners felt strongly about gathering in person during the virtual event. Seeing the smiles, lively conversation, and nonstop taking of photos nearly brought me to tears.

This is SWE’s mission in action. In just 10 short years since our inaugural event in India, the SWE community has become a critical part of the personal and professional network for so many women in engineering. Imagine where SWE will be globally in another 10 years! Our community grows stronger and more valuable as we expand it around the world.

As many members know, the Society has been on a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging journey for many years, but in 2020 we hit warp speed. We continue to look for ways to increase not only our membership diversity (both visible and invisible), but also the inclusion and feeling of belonging for all our members. This year, the Society engaged a consultant to help us understand the systemic issues that may be holding us back from achieving greater diversity and inclusion within the organization.

One issue that emerged following one-on-one conversations, focus groups, and an all-member survey was the need to improve our culture. Therefore, in FY23, we will embark on a culture study for both the Society’s membership and our leadership. This work will be led by a subject matter expert who works with both industry and nonprofits to examine their cultures to see how their espoused values differ from what individuals are actually experiencing. This will tie together previous work that included training for individual growth and awareness (initially rolled out to SWE leaders, then all members) and analysis of organizational systems and processes. Watch for more details in the new fiscal year.

When it comes to Advocacy and Collaboration, a crucial component of this pillar is our scholarly research. In 2016, SWE hired a full-time researcher, and our portfolio of research has grown exponentially. In 2021, SWE partnered with Gender Scan. Gender Scan remains the only biennial survey that provides facts and figures on gender balance in STEM from education to employment. Thanks to a global portfolio of partners worldwide like SWE, in 2021 the survey reached more than 30,000 respondents from 117 countries. In the article “Mapping Gender Balance in STEM Internationally” in this issue, you will find a discussion of results focused on the experiences of women engineering students in North America and Europe, which is one component of the survey.

Additionally, in the coming fiscal year, the Society will be working with Gender Scan on a variety of specialized surveys in Europe and the U.S. We are also in discussions with European Women on Boards to partner on a STEM survey in Europe. For more information on SWE’s full portfolio of research, visit https://swe.org/research/.

Last, but certainly not least, is the Individual Growth and Excellence pillar. To jump-start the new fiscal year, we are launching a new Advance Learning Center platform. The new platform will have increased features, including badges and certificates, new methods of content delivery and integration to our member database for the building of member resumes based on content completion and participation in courses, webinars, and other on-demand content. Watch the weekly all-member email for more details.

These are just a few highlights of how we will be supporting and leveraging the newly updated strategic plan. We plan to add blog posts and a video or two in the coming months to keep members and stakeholders updated on our progress. I want to thank all members of the annual strategic planning subteam, the senate, the board, and our facilitators from McKinley Advisors for all your efforts to keep SWE moving forward and advancing our mission in this, our 72nd year!

Karen Horting, CAE
Executive Director & CEO
(she, her, hers)