SWE’s Mission Continues to Find New Expression

From the spring to late summer, SWE’s mission was implemented both in the well-established, typical ways we have come to expect, and through actions that suggest additional pathways of expression and growth. With the spring issue of SWE Magazine, the “Women Engineers You Should Know” feature added to this annual series the stories of 15 women engineers who may not be household names, yet are influencing their disciplines, workplaces, and beyond, demonstrating that women engineers lead interesting and contributive lives.

Additional feature articles in the issue addressed both sustainability in agriculture and the global environmental conundrum of food waste, highlighting women who contribute their engineering and scientific know-how to develop solutions. Yet another feature story examined research conducted through Gender Scan, a biennial survey that provides facts and figures on gender balance in STEM. Here, we focused on one component of the survey: results comparing the experiences of women engineering students in North America with counterparts in Europe — opening an avenue for greater understanding of the issues women face globally.

In a similar vein, early July found members of SWE’s research advisory council conducting a roundtable discussion at Humboldt University in Berlin. Meeting with individuals from various organizations and institutions in Germany, Austria, and Belgium, the group discussed their experiences working and studying in STEM, bringing greater clarity to SWE’s grasp of the issues and of the policies that potentially could bring solutions. See “Gender Inequities in STEM Transcend International Boundaries.”

Marking a decade of SWE’s work in India, a blog post celebrated the progress that began with a symposium in 2012 and has blossomed into a network of thousands with regular events and professional development opportunities.

Summer 2022 also brought a U.S. Supreme Court ruling whose outcome reverberated throughout the country and the world: Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Immediately following this decision, SWE issued a statement. Yet, as the full impact of overturning Roe v. Wade became clearer, so did the need to revise the original statement.

As the introduction to the revised statement noted:
“Our intent with this [initial] statement was not strong enough given the gravity of the situation. To that end, to further demonstrate SWE’s past and recent actions, SWE is taking an additional direct action on the matter of reproductive rights and issuing a new statement.”

Essentially, the direct action is: “SWE will not sign any new contracts to host its conferences in locations where there are limits to reproductive and gender-based healthcare.”

At critical junctures in the past, SWE has taken comparable direct actions. Examples include SWE’s 1957 convention, when an African American member was denied entry to the hotel due to Jim Crow laws in the segregated South, and during the effort to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). At that time, SWE refused to hold its conventions in states that would not ratify the ERA. As SWE’s revised statement indicates: “While this form of direct action is rare, we believe the moment in history requires it.” Please see the full statement for context and details.

Traditionally, the SWE Forum has provided an opportunity to respond to articles or comment on topical issues. Communications are included on a space-available basis; we reserve the right to edit for clarity or to meet space requirements. All opinions are those of the writer and in no way the responsibility of the Society of Women Engineers or SWE Magazine.

Send comments, opinions, or observations to swemag@swe.org or by regular mail to: Letters, SWE Magazine, Society of Women Engineers, 130 E. Randolph St., Suite 3500, Chicago, IL 60601.

Yet another way to engage with the material in SWE is through the Society’s social media — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram, as well as the All Together blog.