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Society of Women Engineers

Women in Engineering at the 61st Commission on the Status of Women at the UN

SWE joins a global conversation around the importance of women in engineering and technology, STEM education for girls, and equal pay.

Published On: March 2017
women in engineering

SWE Past President Stacey M. Delvecchio in front of United Nations General Assembly Room

From March 13-14, 2017, Stacey M. Delvecchio, who is a SWE Past President, attended the United Nation’s (UN) Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which is the “largest inter-governmental forum on women’s rights and gender equality” according to the UN. The priority theme of the 61st CSW is: women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work. Conversations around the importance of girls and women in STEM and equal pay dominated many of the official and unofficial exchanges that took place.

Equal Representation of Women in Engineering is Often the Norm in Emerging Markets

Delvecchio attended one session organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) entitled, “Women’s Empowerment in the Engineering World.” This session highlighted the global need for women and girls to persist in the field of engineering and technology. One panelist, Dr. Marlene Kanga, the President Elect of the World Federation of Engineering Organisations (WFEO), emphasized the role of culture and history in increasing the number of women in engineering.

Specifically, Dr. Kanga highlighted global trends that indicate it is more likely for women to enter and persist in engineering within countries with emerging engineering industries than it is for them to gain equal representation when they are fighting against a pre-existing culture that privileges men.

For example, Dr. Kanga pointed out that in the United States and Australia (where engineering has traditionally been a male-dominated field) women still represent a small minority of individuals in the profession. Yet, women are more equally represented within areas where the engineering industry is young, such as countries throughout Africa or Asia (such as Malaysia).

Equal Pay is a Global Issue for Women

women in engineering

#EqualPay signs appeared throughout the United Nations General Assembly Room

While women may be better represented in some major emerging engineering markets throughout the world, the issue of equal pay for equal work is felt by almost all women across the globe. Women throughout the world still earn 77 cents to every dollar that a man makes and gender-based wage discrimination is present in 99.6% of positions across all sectors.

To begin to combat this issue on a global scale, the United Nations launched the Equal Pay Platform of Champions at the CSW. The launch of this platform coincided with the start of the 61st CSW and long-time equal pay advocate and Academy Award-winning American actress, Patricia Arquette, came to advocate for the long-term success of the initiative.

SWE as a Global Force for Women in Engineering and Technology

women in engineering

UNESCO Women’s Empowerment in the Engineering World side event panel

As a global organization that seeks to promote the achievement of women at all stages of their careers, SWE is dedicated to advocating for the full representation of women in engineering and technology. To engage with the needs of women in emerging engineering industries, SWE hosted its second WE Local conference for women in Pune, India in March of 2017. SWE will also host its third WE Local conference for women in Europe in May of 2017 in Amsterdam.

SWE is also thrilled to be hosting its first ever event in Penang, Malaysia, which also took place in March of 2017, to support work around diversity and inclusion for women in engineering and technology in the engineering workforce.

With over 37,000 members across the world, SWE is committed to growing as a global organization with 19 International Affiliate Organizations and 26 Ambassadors. To learn more about SWE’s global work, please visit our website or our WE Local event page.

SWE is a member of the American Association of Engineering Societies (AAES), which is a member of the World Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO). Through this membership, SWE has access to this global group of engineering societies.  As a past president of SWE, Stacey M. Delvecchio represents AAES on the Women In Engineering Committee for the WFEO.

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