“We Built This,” our recently released 65th anniversary eBook, offers a vivid tour of our storied history, revealing the hard work, spirit and dedication of the women who paved the way for SWE to become the organization it is today. But just what does the Society those women founded in 1950 look like today? What have we built? All Together recently sat down with SWE Executive Director and CEO Karen Horting to talk about SWE’s journey and what the promising future holds for the 65-year strong organization.
All Together: “So what are your thoughts about SWE’s success over these past 65 years?”
Karen Horting: “Having just looked at the eBook relatively recently and looking at SWE as it stands today-to think, from this small cohort of men and women back in 1950 that met at Camp Green, to see the organization we’ve become in terms of numbers and impact, I was really very proud of everything the society has accomplished. When you look at the number of members, and the conference, and the magazine, and the scholarships, you can see the results of this incredible growth, and you truly get the sense that our founders would be proud of the Society as it stands today. ”
AT: “What is it about SWE that has continued to attract members over the years?”
KH: “I think it’s the community, and the fact that you have this opportunity to connect with women in the profession at all career stages, which you just really don’t have at any other place. I’m always amazed at our conference, where there are these amazing, accomplished women, who are leading Fortune 500 organizations or are in senior ranks of the military or government, and you can just go up and talk to them. I don’t know of any other place where you can have a such a strong community, where you can have that level of connection, like you can with SWE.
“The fact is, for most of our members, they’re still one of just a few in their department or on their team-I think to be able to come to a place where everybody understands your situation, everyone can be a role model, or mentor, or peer, I think that’s pretty powerful. And I think that’s what attracts people and why so many members stay engaged with SWE for so long. There’s really no other organization like it for women in engineering.”
AT: “The Society has begun to spread internationally in recent years-what is it about SWE that you think will appeal to people around the world?”
KH: “I think it will be a lot of the same things we’ve seen here in the U.S. Since we started doing our international events I’ve been talking with more women outside the U.S., and they’re just amazed by the inclusiveness of these events. They can come together and be part of this community where they can find this instant connection.
“It’s one of those things where you never need an icebreaker, you never need something to get people talking. It’s like you just get them together and they’re immediately talking, sharing, asking questions-to be able to come together and be a part of that community is really powerful.”
AT: “Where do you see SWE by the time the 70th anniversary arrives?”
KH: “We’re just going to keep on this upward trend. I think it’s good for the profession, it’s good for the world if there’s more diversity in engineering. We know that we need more women to pursue and stay in the profession to have that diversity of thought. So, onward and upward-I want to be able to do more scholarships, grow the conference, do more events, grow membership, and just have more and more women become part of this community, which I think will impact the retention and success of women in the field, which is, as a global community, what we need.”