Happy Holidays from SWE! It is safe to say we could probably all use a break to rest and re-energize after the long 2016 campaign season in the United States, especially those in the nation’s capital. As the dust continues to settle after an historic U.S. presidential campaign, every day brings more clarity as to who will be the new players in the White House influencing the education, research science and technology policy important to SWE’s 36,000 members.
SWE has long been a champion for pushing, pulling and lifting women into positions that seemed only destined for men not so long ago, so it is encouraging to see that President-elect Trump has nominated more than a few women to cabinet-level positions at the Departments of Education, Commerce, and at the United Nations. SWE—and the country—will have to wait and see if their policies will support SWE’s goals and are aligned to the goals of our members. As with any presidential transition, shifting priorities and people cause some anxiety. That is true for SWE and its like-minded advocacy groups in the STEM, research, academic and Title IX communities. There is no doubt that the outgoing administration made STEM policies, women’s issues and strong educational policies priorities. There is also no doubt that President-elect Trump has a different vision for federal policies that the organization has been tracking. Regardless, SWE hopes that offices within the White House such as the Council on Women and Girls and the Office of Science and Technology Policy remain influential in a Trump White House and that events like the Summit on Women and the White House Science Fair persist. (In fact, SWE has sent the President-elect and his transition team a letter outlining this desire and several others.)
While there will definitely be a new regime at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Congress has changed very little. Republicans continue to control both chambers, although there has been some change in their margin of control. For those concerned that a Trump White House might immediately enact the tenets of the candidate’s 100-day plan, remember that Congress will have to be collaborators on most of those plans. Further, the Democrats in the Senate continue to retain some leverage in that chamber, since almost nothing gets done without the approval of 60 members. (Republicans only control 52 seats.)
The outgoing Congress has met only briefly since Election Day. Members of both parties rushed out of town after barely avoiding another potentially disastrous government shutdown in early December. The Congress approved a short-term bill that will fund federal agencies through the end of April—which is seven months into the current fiscal year and, incidentally, after SWE’s Capitol Hill visits, which are tentatively scheduled for March. SWE members will be ready to visit with their congressional representatives to advocate for the organization’s priorities and programs once again. (Stay tuned for dates and registration information in January.)
SWE, its leadership and its members look forward to working with the incoming Congress and the new administration to strengthen America’s schools, apply Title IX to STEM fields and research agencies and programs appropriately, strengthen the STEM workforce by ensuring equal opportunity for women in STEM education and careers and give women and women engineers the tools and policies they need to integrate the various aspects of their lives and be successful on their own terms, for both career and family. As a candidate, Mr. Trump answered six questions from SWE on issues related to women in engineering and STEM. As president-elect Trump finalizes his team and agenda for the first 100 days of his administration, these pieces give SWE members an insightful glimpse into what the future might hold.
Regardless of your feelings on the 2016 election and its results, there is one element to consider—women continue to be underrepresented in the country’s public governments. For the more than sixty-six years that SWE has given women engineers a unique place and voice, the numbers of women who have successfully sought federal public office have increased. In 2016, 84 Members of the House of Representatives are women; 20 senators are. That means almost 20% of the 114th Congress are females at a time when women are more than 50% of the electorate, and this year, white, college-educated women arguably decided who would be our 45th president. However, the numbers of women on Capitol Hill, in state houses, on local school boards, in city halls, on city councils and other elected positions must grow. It’s more important than ever that the diverse views of women are considered in elections and governing. Who better to seek office than women engineers? Think about it…
There never will be complete equality until women themselves help to make laws and elect lawmakers. --Susan B. Anthony