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Society of Women Engineers

Advocating in the Workplace

Advocating in the workplace is part of SWE’s strategic goal to advocate for the inclusion and success of women in engineering and technology.

Published On: October 2015

Advocating In The Workplace … From SWE’s GRPP Committee

SWE’s strategic goal of Advocacy (“SWE will advocate for the inclusion and success of women, present and prospective, in engineering and technology”) includes advocacy of all kinds. While the SWE Government Relations and Public Policy (GRPP) Committee focuses most of our work in advocacy efforts related to the government, committee members recently brainstormed ideas for how women can be effective advocates in the workplace. Some of the suggestions include:

  • Advocate for women in the workplace by nominating them for awards that recognize technical achievements, career accomplishments, mentoring, diversity in hiring, etc. Look for award opportunities in many places, including through the annual SWE awards program, through your employer, or through other organizations. Recognizing a woman with an award not only honors her achievements, but also increases the visibility of women who are finding success on their own terms.
  • Advocate for equal treatment of all employees; make others in the workplace aware when they (inadvertently or otherwise) treat a woman differently than they would a male peer. An example would be a woman who is dismissed as a candidate for a lead position or an away assignment – without being asked – due to her perceived limitations because of family commitments. This situation happened to one of our committee members at her workplace; she reminded her manager that another employee should not be dismissed as a candidate for an away assignment simply because she had recently gotten married. The manager assumed this employee’s husband wouldn’t be able to relocate with her, and that she wouldn’t want to leave him. Our committee member called the manager on it, and told him that he really should give her the chance to consider the assignment and not assume anything about her status and preferences. The employee ended up taking the away assignment.
  • Advocate for other women in your workplace by participating in any internal Employee Resource Groups (ERGs); another committee member shared that her participation in her organization’s Women’s Intrinsic Network allows her to increase her network outside of engineering while mentoring women across the company on various issues. SWE currently has an initiative to align our work with that of existing ERGs, especially where our members overlap (search the hashtag #SWEmyERG).
  • Advocate for all employees by volunteering for opportunities that increase awareness of the importance of diversity and inclusion. One committee member shared her experience with volunteering for her organization’s new Diversity Initiative, and looking for small ways to create a more inclusive environment for all employees. Recently, she introduced the SWE Diversity and Inclusion Knowledge Cards, and shared two during an All Hands meeting for the whole organization; these cards each describe one aspect of diversity or inclusion, and include information from research studies about the topic. They provided a quick way to raise some of these important topics with all employees, and increase peoples’ awareness and understanding of the importance of diversity and inclusion.

There are certainly many other ways to be an advocate in the workplace. In the comments below, please share your thoughts and experiences!

Post written by:

Kaitlyn J. Bunker, Ph.D.

Society of Women Engineers

Region i Conference (iCON16) Co-Chair


 

Make sure to stop by SWE’s Advocacy Sessions at WE15:

  • Friday October 23 at 4:00 – 5:00 PM What is SWE Advocacy?
  • Saturday October 24 at 10:00 – 11:45 PM Creating an Inclusive Environment for Women
  • Saturday October 24 at 1:30 – 2:30 PM What Does Public Policy Mean for Women Engineers?
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