Read This Month's Letter from President Melissa Tata

I hope you are as excited about the "Raising the Heights of Innovation" WE11 conference as I am. I am looking forward to terrific committee meetings, catching up with old friends, making new friends, recognizing our amazing award recipients, meeting our career fair exhibitors and celebrating SWE! I can’t wait to see over 400 enthusiastic young women and over 115 volunteers at our Invent It. Build It. event on Saturday, October 15, in addition to all the great programs showcased at the outreach expo on October 14. We are hosting 175 professional development sessions for all different career stages, so you are sure to find numerous sessions to enhance your skills. I am always inspired by our award recipients, and this year we are proud to distribute over $540,000 in scholarships.

If you can't join us in person at WE11, I hope you will attend via virtual participation, which was very successful in its first year at WE10. We will webcast all the plenaries and the keynote, and 12 popular concurrent sessions will be selected for replay after the conference.

"Raising the Heights of Innovation"  is a universal theme for us this year as I have had numerous discussions with leaders on ideas to engage our current members, ensure we continue to foster an inclusive environment, encourage more collegiate members to transition and entice new members to join. We’ve also discussed how we can expand our outreach efforts, increase interactions between collegiate and professional members and sustain strong relationships with all of our partners. We have added an article from a recent graduate on why they transitioned to professional membership and how they are enjoying their membership today. We would like to include you in providing feedback on our website improvements. Finally, the Board is tracking our ongoing status via a scorecard—I encourage you to review our phenomenal FY11 results.

On behalf of SWE, I attended an event focused on the "Career-Life Balance Initiative" at the White House on September 26. This 10-year plan, sponsored by the National Science Foundation and supported by the White House Council on Women and Girls and the Office of Science and Technology, promotes workplace flexibility policies to support America's scientists and their families. Joining me at this event were Siddika Demir, Past President, and Melissa Carl, SWE Washington Representative. In addition, SWE member and Graduate Member Coordinator Prinda Wanakule, who will receive the 2011 Outstanding Graduate Collegiate Award at WE11, attended the event and was invited to meet with the First Lady prior to the event to share her story. We also spent some time discussing best practices with two other event attendees: Vicky Rockwell, ASME President and Mary Kasarda, Ph.D, ASME member and associate professor.

At this event, the First Lady Michelle Obama spoke about the importance of supporting and retaining women and girls in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers to encourage growth and innovation. She highlighted that flexible workplaces contribute to our economic competitiveness and that this is not just a women's issue. Amongst the ideas shared were teleworking, family and medical leave and evaluating workers on quality of their work vs. when/where it is performed. Since I am working as a remote employee for Dell Inc. as a new mother, this message was particularly motivational to me.

After the First Lady, there was a panel discussion featuring Tina Tchen, executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls and chief of staff to the First Lady; Robert Birgeneau, the UC Berkeley Chancellor; Monica Cox, associate professor at Purdue; and Catherine Hunt, the R&D Director for External Science & Technology at Dow Chemical. This panel highlighted that in order to attract and retain the best and brightest candidates, effective policies highlighting entitlement for family-friendly policies are critical. More information on this initiative is available online, as well as a video of the event.

If you're interested in real-time updates on the phenomenal activities like the White House event that I attend on behalf of SWE, I encourage you to follow me on Twitter, @SWE_President. I'd love to talk with you about your SWE experience and I’ll be posting my whereabouts at the conference on Twitter too. As a reminder, our sponsors are critical to our success at WE11, so please take the time to listen to their speeches at the ice cream social and other conference events. Grab your gowns and business suits, and I'll see you for a memorable conference in the Windy City in less than a week!

melissaMelissa Tata
FY12 SWE President
president@swe.org


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