The Right Support

Women players are still dealing with ill-fitting shoes and equipment that are often designed for men or children rather than women. But that is changing.

As the SWE Magazine staff worked on this issue in early September, the 2023–2024 American football season was beginning. Professional football is one of my favorite sports to watch, and I especially enjoy hearing the players introduce themselves by their name and the school for which they previously played. That name-school, name-school cadence went through my mind as I edited the list of scholarship recipients in the awards section of this issue (“Spotlight on Collegians”): Alexandra Jack, University of Michigan. Cassie Agren, Syracuse University. Aammarah Gage, University of California, Los Angeles. It was incredibly inspiring.

The intersection of sports and engineering is a repeated theme in this issue. As contributing writer Sandra Guy explains (“In Support of Sports”), women’s sports have been gaining significant popularity in recent years; records are being broken in achievements, viewership, and sponsorships for all manner of professional and collegiate-level sports this fall.

Yet, as Guy discovered in her research, women players are still dealing with ill-fitting shoes and equipment that are often designed for men or children rather than women. But that is changing, thanks to women engineers and others who are researching, designing, and producing athletic equipment specifically for women. It is hoped that athletic gear designed by women for women will be more dependable and effective.

Fall is not just the season of football, of course, but also the season of new beginnings; the end of summer calls us back from vacations or remote work environments to school and office —sometimes both. This fall, things are a bit unnerving in the workplace. Many employers are demanding that employees return to the office at least a few days per week — even companies that made working from home ubiquitous during the pandemic, such as Zoom and Google.

That turn of events, which tends to impact women and caregivers most, is particularly harsh coming as it does on the heels of thousands of layoffs at some of those same high-tech firms. Those layoffs were reported to have affected women more than men, and that would be bad news for women engineers and technologists. But as contributing writer Seabright McCabe points out in her feature, “Coming Back From Tech Layoffs,” the real news is more nuanced. It seems that yes, more women than men were laid off from those high-tech firms, but many of those women did not occupy high-tech roles; many worked in human relations or similar positions.

Be that as it may, the layoffs arrived just as many women were finally able to return to the job after taking pandemic-related detours. McCabe’s expert sources offer advice on how women who have been affected by career breaks — whether from layoffs or the pandemic — can make a successful comeback now.

Our third feature continues the magazine’s exploration of doing the right thing for the right reasons. Following our digital-exclusive article, “When Women Blow the Whistle,” published with the Conference 2022 issue, and the Fall 2023 issue’s feature on how engineers can act as responsible stewards of the technology they create, this issue includes an examination of the ethical conundrums that can face engineers and how they might handle them. In her first article for SWE Magazine (“Maintaining Engineering Ethics”), contributing writer Lisa Owens Viani explains that upholding the highest ethical standards sometimes means having the courage to speak up when things go amiss. Viani discovered that engineering professors and practicing professionals both have a role to play in ensuring that women engineers are supported as they do so.

SWE is known for its support of women, and our annual conference is a testament to that support. You’ll find plenty of it at WE23, whether you attend in person in Los Angeles or virtually. We hope to see you there.

Laurie A. Shuster
Society of Women Engineers