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Preserving Community and Delivering Value During Extraordinary Times

Preserving Community and Delivering Value During Extraordinary Times

Whether from the office, the kitchen table, or halfway across the world, we are connected, supporting one another to learn and grow in difficult times.

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

I do not think any of us could have predicted how long the pandemic would last or the incredible impact it would have on our daily lives. Yes, the vaccine brings new hope, but new variants, global health care inequities, and misinformation about the vaccine continue to hamper efforts to bring the pandemic under control. Despite these challenges, however, the SWE community has continued to thrive and play an important role in maintaining a sense of community and belonging for our members and stakeholders, while also serving as a source of credible resources for information on women in engineering.

A big step in providing this kind of credible information is being supported by a National Science Foundation (NSF) INCLUDES planning grant. Together with the National Society of Black Engineers and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, in June SWE held the first convening of the Women of Color in Engineering Collaborative (WCEC). Currently, 27 organizations are participating in the project. The goals of this planning grant are to:

  • Establish the WCEC, a partnership network of professional engineering associations and STEM-based companies dedicated to addressing systemic barriers that prohibit equitable work environments for women engineers of color.
  • Create a shared vision focused on dismantling systemic barriers that impede the retention and advancement of women engineers of color.
  • Develop a strategic plan to guide WCEC activities.

Reaching parity in engineering cannot be accomplished by approaches that solely focus on the recruitment or “fixing” of underrepresented groups; rather, efforts that connect and energize people, cross divides, and drive systemic change toward equity are needed. We look forward to serving as that conduit to drive change.

A community of support around the world

To provide support for our global community, for the first time we held our global conferences virtually. Working with an incredible group of volunteer leaders in both India and Europe, we hosted two events that attracted more than 2,200 attendees who participated in a total of 84 inspirational keynotes, sessions, and networking events. Moreover, more than 35 organizations were part of the career fair in India and the networking exhibition in Europe. The enthusiasm from participants was tremendous, and feedback from both attendees and sponsors was very positive.

Whether attending from the office, the kitchen table, or halfway across the world, we were connected — supporting one another to learn and grow during difficult times.

In addition to the global conferences, we hosted more than 80 webinars in India and an additional eight virtual workshops in Brazil, Canada, and Europe. Our network of global affiliates and ambassadors also grew. In fact, one global ambassador shared in an email to staff how in a year filled with transition and challenges, SWE was the one thing that kept her going. It was her constant. I couldn’t help but smile and think of SWE Past President Jessica Rannow and how that was the theme of her year. Yes, SWE is your constant. At our very core, we are a community of support.

At SWE, we are intentional about showcasing women engineers from all walks of life. It’s important for young girls, who want to have a positive impact on the world, to see and hear from diverse women.

Lastly, in a year where we had to pause all of our in-person outreach, and most classroom education was remote, it was more important than ever to highlight the contributions of women and all underrepresented minorities. We need more people in the pipeline who come from diverse backgrounds and bring diverse perspectives if we are going to solve the next grand challenge we have yet to imagine.

At SWE, we are intentional about showcasing women engineers from all walks of life. It’s important for young girls, who want to have a positive impact on the world, to see and hear from diverse women. I am issuing a call to action: Consider being featured in the SWENext newsletter or participating on a SWENext High School Leadership Academy (SHLA) panel. When you see the enthusiasm and engagement of the young women in these programs, you will recognize that it was time well spent.

I understand that it is difficult to stay positive given the current state of the world. But as a member of the SWE community, you are making a positive difference in the lives of current and future women engineers and the profession. Thanks for sticking with us!

Karen Horting, CAE
Executive Director and CEO

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