Why Advocate Series: Bringing Advocacy to Life
This month for the “Why Advocate Series” we decided to shift gears a bit and dig a little further into the logistics of advocating. So, you know what you are passionate about and you have an idea of how you want to advocate, but where do you start? How do you build support and really bring your advocacy efforts to life?
This month we talked to Megha Garg, Senior Design Engineer and 6 Sigma Black Belt in the Dealer Service Excellence division at Caterpillar.
Megha is part of the SWE-Central Illinois section and shares a passion for an advocacy message we are all very familiar with – championing the inclusion and success of women, present and prospective, in engineering and technology.
To give this advocacy initiative life within her own SWE section, Megha and her advisor, Irma Khan, created a comprehensive advocacy committee, complete with all the pieces required to make an impact and bring their mission full circle. They started with SWE’s strategic objectives on advocacy:
- Lead advocacy efforts with government and through the media
- Provide resources for individuals to advocate for the Society’s mission and for themselves
- Create opportunities for and improve access to careers in engineering and technology by impacting those who influence career choices for women and girls
- Advocate with employers and academic institutions for the recruitment, retention and advancement of women on women’s own terms
These objectives provided the framework for the SWE-Central Illinois Section Advocacy Committee, in which Megha fulfills a leadership role. Here is a breakdown of the committee and roles:
Upward Mentoring Advocate
This advocate(s) identifies and mentors leaders within the community on the benefits of SWE membership. Community leaders include various organizations, academic institutions and employers – especially those who are role models for newer employees. Partnering with these leaders and sharing the SWE mission and benefits of membership furthers the groups reach and allows them to help more women in engineering who are looking for support and comradery.
Community Communications Advocate
This advocate(s) is the committee’s very own public relations arm – leading efforts through local news media. They communicate with local newspapers, magazines and other news sources to create buzz about SWE’s initiatives and benefits of membership. For example, every time the committee hosts a special event, the Community Communications Advocate reaches out to local journalists to get coverage of their event in the news.
Community Communications Advocates also interact with the SWE Facebook page by submitting articles and engaging in conversation. They also participate in other beneficial communications mediums such as All Together.
Community Relations Advocate
This advocate(s) establishes a strong network with local government and community leaders. Within their own local area, Community Relations Advocates at the SWE-Central Illinois section plan to arrange informational events with groups such as the Peoria County Speakers Bureau, Peoria City Boards & Commissions, Sustainability Commission, etc.
Inter-Society and Company ERG Advocate
This advocate(s) facilitates collaboration with external partners who impact and influence career choices for women and girls, such as Girl Scouts, school district, diversity and inclusion champions, and corporate/internal employee resource groups. Exposing both women and men to the benefits of SWE is key in spreading awareness and getting more women engaged in STEM careers.
This format provides a clear structure to the advocacy committee and allows each committee member to use their own strengths and skill sets to contribute to a piece of the overall objective – recruitment, retention and advancement.
“By advocating for the advancement of women on women’s own terms, we want to create a legacy for other newer women engineers,” Garg said. “We want to encourage them to stay in engineering and use SWE as a support network to boost their motivation and enthusiasm to keep charging forward, even in tough times. Our advocacy committee provides a structure to the mission and continues to drive it forward.”