Earlier this year, hundreds of SWE members went to Washington, DC, to talk to their elected representatives about a number of issues important to female professional engineers, those pursuing their engineering degrees and future female STEM professionals. The issues were varied. Promoting the work-life balance important to female engineers; guarding against sexual harassment in federal programs and agencies; promoting the importance of investing in research and innovation; and, urging lawmakers to fund education programs important to future female engineers were among the issues members discussed. Want to know what SWE has been up to since then?
There have been a number of bills introduced that SWE cares about, and congressional offices have asked SWE to weigh in on legislative proposals and lend their support. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CS) introduced the 21st Century STEM for Girls and Underrepresented Minorities Act, with SWE’s support. The House Science, Space and Technology Committee held a hearing titled, “Achieving the Promise of a Diverse STEM Workforce,” and another on the Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act. (In fact, Representative Paul Tonko (D-NY) thanked SWE for its work on the culture of the STEM workforce and its adverse effect on efforts to grow its female ranks.) The Building Blocks of STEM Act is ready for Senate floor debate after approval from the Senate Commerce, Science and Technology Committee. As for some of the programs that Capitol Hill Day participants talked to their representatives about, the House of Representatives has passed a bill that increases funding for programs that invest in STEM teachers and programs—the very programs SWE members highlighted in March. All in all, the day’s asks have been answered in many Congressional actions since March.
In addition, SWE Executive Director & CEO Karen Horting has been to Washington, DC, herself—several times—to talk about the efforts of SWE with several different policy audiences. She has met with leaders of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy about the importance of supporting engineers interested in returning to their technical careers. It’s no secret that the White House is looking for ways to quickly give the country’s employers the technical workforce they need and cannot find. The work of the STEM Reentry Task Force falls in line with those goals, and Karen is continuing to discuss potential collaborations with the White House. Karen talked about Re-entry Task Force and its success on Capitol Hill as well, when she participated in a briefing hosted by the STEM Education Coalition on Workforce Reskilling in STEM Fields.
SWE’s advocacy efforts are ongoing, and involve so many supporters and efforts—meetings, letters, phone calls, briefings, weekend bill reviews and so much more. As the work of the 116th Congress and the Trump Administration continues, the organization will continue to forge new relationships, nurture existing ones and pursue policies that champion women and minorities in STEM. In the meantime, SWE members should consider coming to Washington, DC, in 2020. Details to follow…