STEM disciplines will benefit from the wider range of perspectives and approaches to problem solving that can take place when women and other marginalized people are no longer underrepresented.
The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) is an organization that aims to empower and support women in the field of engineering. Through its advocacy efforts, SWE has helped to break down barriers that have prevented women from fully participating in the engineering profession.
Promoting equity in engineering is a core component of SWE’s mission. Despite progress made over the years, there is still a significant gender gap in the engineering profession. According to data from the National Science Foundation (NSF), women make up only 14% of the engineering workforce in the United States.
One of the most important aspects of this advocacy are efforts to promote policies and practices that support women in engineering, especially with the U.S. federal government. This includes advocating policies that endorse work/life balance, such as flexible work arrangements and parental leave. SWE also promotes pay equity in engineering, where women are often paid less than men for the same work. And bringing women back to the engineering workforce is now center stage, through our work that resulted in the drafting and introduction of the STEM RESTART Act (S.662/H.R.1403).
SWE members returned to Washington, D.C., for two days in March for congressional visits. It was the first time the event was held in person and in the U.S. capital since 2020. Two days of festivities kicked off with welcoming remarks from FY23 SWE President Dayna Johnson, P.E. An informal poll of the audience showed that a number of first-timers were in attendance, hoping to build on several legislative wins in 2022 for SWE. Please see the news article in this issue, “Congressional Outreach Event Resumes in D.C. after Two-Year Absence.”
In addition to our public policy work, the Society’s recent advocacy has increased our focus on addressing the challenges faced by women of color in engineering, who are significantly underrepresented, facing both gender and racial bias. SWE’s efforts include developing resources and programs specifically for women of color in engineering, and creating more inclusive workplace environments. The Women of Color Engineering Collaborative (WCEC) is one example. Created with NSF funding, WCEC’s 20 member organizations work cooperatively to provide the resources that organizations need to address the issues that impact women of color in engineering. Visit https://www.womenofcolorengineers.org/ to learn more and find out how to get involved.
The importance of SWE’s advocacy work for equity in engineering cannot be overstated. By promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the engineering profession, SWE is helping to create a more vibrant and innovative field. STEM disciplines will benefit from the wider range of perspectives and approaches to problem solving that can take place when women and other marginalized people are no longer underrepresented.
SWE’s advocacy work is addressing systemic inequalities in the engineering profession. By promoting policies and practices that support women and other underrepresented groups, SWE is working to create a more equitable profession where everyone has the opportunity to succeed. Interested in becoming more engaged in our advocacy work? Consider joining the public policy affinity group that launched this fiscal year. Visit http://affinitygroups.swe.org/ to learn more!
Karen Horting, CAE
Executive Director & CEO