Affinity Groups: The Next Chapter

The SWE Affinity Groups are an excellent opportunity to build a community, provide best practices and empower like-minded individuals.  As the network of Affinity Groups grows, there are opportunities for SWE members from all over the world to join the community, voice their opinions, and advance the diversity initiatives within SWE.
Affinity Groups: The Next Chapter

Affinity Groups: The Next ChapterThe Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Affinity Groups are communities of individuals who share the same interests and goals.  These groups help build community, provide professional development opportunities and empower and celebrate women from different paths of life.  The Diversity and Inclusion Affinity Groups align with protected classes under a US Federal anti-discrimination law.  This Affinity Group focuses on the needs of social minority populations and develop programs tailored to serve this community.  The Business Interests Affinity Groups are grassroots communities focused on a social and networking opportunities around common interests. The focus of these Affinity Groups is loosely centered around the members’ business environment and experiences.

In Fiscal Year (FY) 2019, the Affinity Groups expanded and created the Asian Connections Affinity Group under the Diversity and Inclusion Affinity Group and the Senior Member Engagement Affinity Group under the Business Interest Affinity Group.


Asian Connections Affinity Group

The new Asian Connections Affinity Group’s mission is to support and empower those with an Asian connection throughout their engineering/technology education and career and assist in building cultural awareness of the many Asian cultures and experiences for the general SWE membership and the STEM community.

In a recent All Together blog post, SWE member Jennifer Morikawa posed this question: why do we not see many Asian women in higher leadership positions even though Asians are not considered a minority in engineering?  Through open forum and advocacy, the Asian Connections Affinity Group will assist SWE in understanding the issues/roadblocks, cultural norms, perceptions, and priorities that keep Asian and Asian-American members from participating fully in SWE and serving in higher leadership positions. SWE members can learn how to remain authentic to one’s identity and become a leader in SWE and in their workplace without having to assimilate to what is seen as the characteristics of being a strong leader (in particular North America-based organizations). The Asian Connections Affinity Group strives to impact initiatives related to Diversity and Inclusion at all levels and create tools to help develop the leadership pipeline in SWE and in STEM fields. This Affinity Group will ultimately promote an understanding of the different backgrounds and challenges among the various members with an Asian connection.

The Asian Connections Affinity Group advocates for the understanding of the Asia region and challenges faced by immigrants and Asian Americans in the United States. Moreover, it supports the disaggregation of the Asian and Pacific Islander category into two categories so as to promote the inclusion of these distinctly diverse regions. Pacific Islanders are invited into the Asian group until such a time that they have their own affinity group. The Fiscal Year 2020 Asian Connections Affinity Group leads, Le Si Qu and Valerie Mencias, are very excited to lead this community. Please feel free to join the Facebook group SWE Asian Connections Affinity Group and start the conversation!


Senior Member Engagement Affinity Group

The Senior Member Engagement Affinity Group was a recommendation from the FY18-FY19 Senior Member Engagement Task Force.  This Affinity Group will be open to anyone who is a senior member (targeting 40 years old and up) or is interested in the needs, recommendations, and concerns of these members.  It will also be a pathway for communication to the Senate and Board, via the Director of Diversity and Inclusion. There were common themes that emerged from the Task Force, including the fact that SWE senior members have limited time, would like an ability for their voices to be heard, and have a deep commitment to giving back and wanting to connect at the local level. This Affinity Group will be an excellent way to share best practices for connecting and giving back to SWE.  Charlotte Wagner, a member of the Task Force, has agreed to lead the newly formed Affinity Group. If you have interest in joining the Affinity Group or have other input, please contact Charlotte at charcw@aol.com.


Upcoming Affinity Group Web Sessions

Another exciting announcement is the confirmation of a WE19 Session – “SWE Senior Members: The Journey.”  The session will include an overview of the new Affinity Group and break-out sessions to discuss the following interest topics (subject to change based on input from the social media discussions).

  • Fun Networking Events “Outside of Conference” to build the connection for Senior Members.
  • Improving the Conference Experience (networking, sessions, etc.).
  • Local Section Engagement (improving the local section experience for senior members).
  • Society Engagement (ideas for engaging experienced members in society level activities).
  • Senior Member Affinity Group (ideas to build a group that will sustain itself).

Another upcoming WE19 Session – “One Size Does Not Fit All Panel.”  Each diverse affinity is multidimensional, with a complex array of cultures, norms and pressures that influence those in the group differently. It’s important to explore the questions that can be asked to uncover assumptions and strive for true understanding of the individual experience. This panel will bring together representatives from the SWE Latinos, African-American, Native American and LGBTQ Affinity Groups to explore this multidimensionality and offer best practices to support creating an inclusive organizational culture.


Join One of Our Affinity Groups

As SWE continues to adapt its programs and services to stay relevant in the market and to reach the widest variety of member demographics, it is important to keep in mind that there is not a “one size fits all” approach when it comes to keeping members engaged.  The SWE Affinity Groups are an excellent opportunity to build a community, provide best practices and empower like-minded individuals.  As the network of Affinity Groups grows, there are opportunities for SWE members from all over the world to join the community, voice their opinions, and advance the diversity initiatives within SWE.  Please join and follow the groups on Facebook to learn about other upcoming events/activities and to participate in the conversation.

The ten SWE Affinity Groups are organized as follows:

Any questions regarding the Affinity Groups or creation of new Affinity Groups can be directed to ag-coordinator@swe.org.