The Society of Women Engineers joined with other professional societies to express concern on pending state-level legislation that would harm diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.
By Anne Perusek, SWE Director of Editorial and Publications
In solidarity with one another, in late April SWE joined with professional societies to release letters to specific state legislators in Florida and Texas. The letters expressed serious concerns regarding legislation that would undermine efforts toward diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM education. Such legislation could impact the activities of the societies’ campus sections/chapters, as well as professors and university staff.
“We know that innovative solutions come from diverse teams,” said signatory Karen Horting, CAE, SWE’s executive director and CEO. “With the many grand challenges facing our nation and the world, we need more engineers than ever before,” she added.
The rationale behind the joint effort was clear: “As engineering societies, it is so important that we stand together to make sure our universities continue to recruit and graduate a diverse student population and support and retain diverse faculty and staff,” Horting said. “We will not stand for misguided attempts, be they intentional or inadvertent, to eliminate funding for the on-campus programs and organizations that support these diverse students pursuing engineering degrees.”
Each letter contained a link to a live letter that continues to collect signatories. Four state senators from Florida and four from Texas received the letters. They were chosen based upon their positions in the state senates, which included chairing finance and education committees or membership on such committees.
At press time, the list of signatories had grown to 19.
Dear State leaders,
On behalf of the national engineering professional societies signed below, we are writing to express our views about pending state legislation targeting diversity, equity, and inclusion. We have concerns about proposals impacting our on-campus chapter members and engineering faculty and staff supporting students pursuing careers in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
Particularly, we are concerned with legislative language that could be interpreted as eliminating access to funding resources for student organizations and engineering education programs due to the nature of their mission and which would disenfranchise underrepresented communities in STEM on college and university campuses. This would undermine the quality of K-12 STEM, engineering education at all levels, the workforce, and U.S. competitiveness.
We are non-partisan non-profit organizations dedicated to attracting, advancing, and increasing the participation of students in historically underrepresented groups in STEM including but not limited to Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, women, and persons with disabilities, in all STEM disciplines and emerging technologies. Collectively, our societies serve more than 100,000 members, providing young professionals with diverse backgrounds who are either first-generation college students, military veterans, people identifying as disabled, transfers from community colleges, or come from families with minimal resources. For thousands of engineering educators, we provide them with resources, professional development opportunities, and peer-reviewed research to expand their education and better support students.
Our missions are to build highly skilled generations of STEM leaders by focusing on often overlooked communities and providing them access to nationwide networks of endless mentorship, career, and professional development benefits that fortify their road map to successful and fulfilling jobs. Together, we add an essential component to meeting the dire need for a stronger domestic pipeline of a skillful workforce in STEM and all related national security industries in the U.S. economy.
To further our collective missions of growing the STEM education and workforce pipeline, our societies engage with local communities at high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools to support, enhance, and complement current K-12 STEM learning. Through community outreach, our members connect with young students to increase STEM education access and awareness, while improving pathways to college readiness. Our members reinforce these pathways at the higher-education level through research grants, academic journals, conferences, and professional development workshops that support faculty preparing future engineers, including those from traditionally overlooked groups who help to ameliorate America’s engineering shortage.
We strongly recommend that the state legislature does not intentionally or inadvertently risk cutting off funding for student chapter organizations and sections, and higher-education engineering programs supporting students from diverse backgrounds. The critical role that our organizations play in growing the short-term and long-term STEM education and workforce pipeline is critically beneficial to the State’s economy.
We appreciate the opportunity to share our recommendations and thank you for your consideration of our priorities.
Interim Chief Executive Officer
Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE)
Kathy Renzetti, CAE
American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES)
Ershela Sims, Ph.D.
Women in Engineering Proactive Network (WEPAN)
Jacqueline El-Sayed, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer/Executive Director
American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE)
Chief Executive Officer
National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE)
Karen Horting, CAE
Chief Executive Officer
Society of Women Engineers (SWE)
Michael Milligan Ph.D., P.E., CAE
Executive Director Chief Executive Officer
Carolyn M. Sommerich, Ph.D., CPE, FHFES
Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES)
Lawrence Sloan, MBA, FASAE, CAE
Chief Executive Officer
American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA)
KISS Institute for Practical Robotics (KIPR)
CEO & Executive Director
Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE)
Jahi Sauk Simbai
President and Executive Director
National Association of Multicultural Engineering Program Advocates, Inc. (NAMEPA)
President and CEO
National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME)
John R. Janowiak
Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Heads Association (ECEDHA)
James J. Robinson
The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (TMS)
Craig Scott, Ph.D.
Inclusive Engineering Consortium (IEC)
Cynthia A. Reinhart-King, Ph.D.
Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES)
The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)