Who knew that a brief mention last fall on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” would take SWE all the way to the star-studded TIME 100 Gala on April 21 at Time Warner Center in New York City? Certainly not SWE president Elizabeth Bierman, who found herself on the red carpet in New York amongst many of the honorees named to TIME’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world-including John Oliver.
Oliver helped raise awareness of SWE in September 2014 when he encouraged his viewers to donate to SWE’s scholarship fund. Soon after, donations came pouring in from around the world.
Oliver’s ability to raise awareness of social and political issues through in-depth research and biting comedy is why he was named in the TIME 100 list. Because he had such a huge impact on SWE, TIME approached Bierman to write a brief reflection on Oliver for the magazine’s TIME 100 issue-an offer she was more than happy to accept.
To top it off, Bierman was invited to represent SWE at the 2015 TIME 100 Gala, which gathers hundreds of luminaries in politics, business, philanthropy, technology, culture, sports and science. All Together asked her what it was like to rub elbows with celebrities and the impact John Oliver and TIME 100 have had on SWE.
AT: What was it like meeting John Oliver?
EB: He was so kind and genuine. He was so pleased that TIME asked SWE to write the article. He mentioned they [‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’] really did their homework to find us and our scholarship program.
AT: What was it like being in a room with the most influential people in the world?
EB: It was very humbling to say the least. But I was surprised to find that people were excited to meet me since I wasn’t a singer or actress.
AT: Do you think SWE’s involvement in TIME 100 will affect the Society?
EB: John Oliver’s mention of SWE on ‘Last Week Tonight’ seems to be just the tip of the iceberg. It introduced SWE to millions of viewers. In addition, our involvement in TIME 100 has helped us connect with top influencers who are passionate about our work. I met with Elizabeth Holmes, the world’s youngest female self-made billionaire and a true visionary-she founded Theranos, the world’s leading biotech company. As we were introducing ourselves, she mentioned she wants to talk with SWE because she has some ideas. How cool is that? Similarly, I spoke with actress Emma Watson who we know supports women engineers; she was as excited to meet me as I was her. I sat with Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, and he also expressed an interest in becoming involved with SWE.
AT: Your name will forever be associated with TIME 100. What has this experience meant to you?
EB: It has meant a lot to me personally, because this is such a blessing for SWE and getting our name out there.
AT: Looking back at your experience as SWE president, I imagine this experience ranks at the top of most memorable moments. What other moments have impacted you the most?
EB: WE14 was amazing! I am also very proud of our efforts to go global.
Bierman will continue to make incredible memories as the Society of Women Engineers’ president through June of this year.