Philadelphia Expects $10M Economic Impact from WE16
This article by reporter Michelle Caffrey was originally published in the Philadelphia Business Journal.
The world's largest conference of female engineers, WE16, will land in Philadelphia in October, and bring an estimated economic impact of at least $10.1 million with it.
The Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau based the dollar amount on 5,000 attendees at the Society of Women Engineers, or SWE, annual conference, but organizers said they expect nearly double that amount will descend on the Pennsylvania Convention Center come Oct. 26.
More than 300 employers will be part of a career fair at the conference – an event SWE Executive Director and CEO Karen Horting said is a prime opportunity for women seeking to make a career pivot, land a senior level position or enroll in an advanced degree program.
Philadelphia's central location in the mid-Atlantic region, where many SWE members are located, helped draw the conference to the city, although Horting said there wasn’t one particular reason they chose Philly as their gathering ground this year — there were many.
The area's plethora of big-name corporations, universities that draw the next generation of engineers and the city's history of innovation, made selecting Philadelphia a no-brainer, said Horting.
"Between the concentration of industry in the area as well as academic institutions that have engineering programs, that was a big plus to us," said Horting.
She also pointed to the area’s long history of hosting breakthroughs and groundbreaking discoveries, from the first major wire-cable suspension bridge to the first pretzel factory, as an additional draw.
"When you think of engineering and tech, there are certainly a lot of firsts in Philadelphia, so i think from the engineering perspective it’s also very appealing," said Horting, adding that while the conference was planned before the city hosted the Pope's visit last fall and this summer's Democratic National Convention, the positive press Philadelphia received helped to draw even more attendees.
"Both events put the city in a really nice light, and so that always helps that people have a positive feeling about the venue," she said.
The conference is expected to bring more than 9,000 women in the engineering field to the city from Oct. 27 to Oct. 29, when they’ll gather at the Pennsylvania Convention Center to further the organization’s mission of encouraging women to pursue and persist in STEM fields, as well as help employers break down conscious and subconscious barriers in the workplace that drive female engineers away. A State of Women in Engineering event will lay out SWE’s most recent research into women’s role in the industry on Oct. 29 at 1 p.m. Those statistics will be especially valuable for employers looking to recruit more female engineers, Horting said.
"If we’re doing all the things we’re doing to help women but we’re not partnering with employers it won’t have as a great as an impact as if you’re all working together," she said.
While there will be more than 300 educational sessions inside the convention, members will also have the chance to get out in the field and see engineering technologies at work. There are planned tours at corporate facilities including The Dow Chemical Company, PSE&G, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Fairmount Waterworks and even Eastern State Penitentiary.
Horting expects many to take advantage of the city’s historical attractions, and it’s likely the influx of visitors will have positive ripple effects on the rest of the city as well. The Convention and Visitor's Bureau's estimate, based on nearly half the attendees the conference now expects, would mean attendees would generate 6,780 total room nights at city hotels.
Additionally, the conference will also host 500 local girls from grades 6–12 for SWE's annual "Invent It. Build It" program to expose young students to STEM careers and concepts.
"It’s a chance for them to hear what it’s really like to be an engineer," said Horting.