Ice may have frozen over the Cherry Blossoms, but it did not stop the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) from holding our eighth annual Congressional Outreach Day in Washington, D.C. from March 15-16, 2017.
During the “Diversity and Inclusion Fuels Innovation” event, over 130 participants heard from experts in the field such as Dr. Patti Brennan, met with nearly 75 offices from both sides of the aisle, and had the opportunity to hear from champions for issues SWE cares about, like Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson. Both new and returning attendees were able to gain some new perspective on the new Administration, as well as the 115th Congress, and talk to lawmakers about the kind of engineering workforce that will maintain U.S. competitiveness and innovation.
While SWE’s “Day on the Hill” was March 16, the day before gave participants some information on recent policy developments and guidance on how to engage with staff and elected officials once on the Hill. The event started on March 15 at the Washington Court Hotel, just blocks away from Capitol Hill, where participants heard from experts and panelists on a variety of topics during daytime training sessions. (Congressional Visit Training sessions educate members and partners on how to discuss the advocacy topics effectively with the members of congress and staff.)
During the training session, participants heard from SWE leaders on public policy issues related to women in STEM, learned what to expect from the Administration and Congress during in-person visits, and engaged in a role playing activity to practice.
The evening after the training session, SWE hosted a Congressional Reception for attendees, congressional staff, Members of Congress and friends of SWE. SWE was also lucky enough to have The Honorable Eddie Bernice Johnson and The Honorable Paul Tonko stop by the reception and encourage attendees in their efforts to inform lawmakers about their own experiences and communicate expectations for policy decisions that support women engineers and technologists. Once again, SWE thanks The Honorable Dan Lipinski and his office, who has generously helped SWE organize the event each year.
The following morning was SWE’s official day on the Hill. Attendees heard from SWE leadership and one of the members of SWE’s Corporate Partnership Council (CPC), General Motors, who highlighted the importance of STEM, gender diversity in business and across party lines, and GM’s participation in the SWE / iRelaunch STEM Re-Entry Task Force program.
Participants in the event were then briefed by Washington Partners, LLC on the breaking news of the day: the Trump Administration’s proposed budget, which had been released only hours earlier.
Throughout its Congressional Outreach Day, SWE members referred to various talking points, which highlighted the importance of ensuring gender diversity to fuel the economy, maintain infrastructure throughout the United States, produce high quality STEM jobs, and to maintain equity in research. They also advocated for adequate funding for agencies and programs critical to the STEM fields.
To view pictures and social media posts of SWE’s Congressional Outreach Days, please search #SWEtalk or #SWEcvd on SWE’s Twitter account.
In the coming months, SWE will continue to post resources, tips, and articles on staying engaged in a wide variety of public policy and advocacy efforts.