Get to Know SWE Senate’s D&I Initiative Team

Learn about the role of the SWE Senate team that focuses on Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) initiatives, and stay tuned in the coming weeks for more blogs in this Senate series, which will detail what the other FY20 Senate sub-teams are working on for SWE this year!
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“Get to Know SWE Senate’s D&I Initiative Team” was written by Kristine Barnes, FY20 SWE Senator.


Since the series of blog posts about the Senate has begun, I hope you have gained a bit more insight into the type of work that we do to further promote SWE’s mission and vision. In this fourth post in the series about the work of the FY20 Senate, I am going to introduce you to the team working on a specific topic within the Diversity and Inclusion space for this year.

SWE was founded 70 years in 1919 ago by women who were looking for a place within the profession of engineering. At that time (and long before), they were being actively encouraged not to study engineering. While we have made major strides in diversifying the fields of engineering and technology since SWE’s founding, gender parity in engineering and technology remains elusive. SWE’s own internal journey towards better overall diversity and inclusion is ever evolving and leadership is keenly aware we can and must do better.

SWE has already encoded diversity and inclusion into many aspects of the Society. One of our core values is creating an inclusive environment and “diversity and inclusion” represents one of the four pillars in our strategic plan.

As SWE’s Senate is the strategic planning body of the Society, we look at initiatives that have a long-term impact on the direction of the Society.  While there are many facets to diversity and inclusion, the Senate decided to focus this particular initiative on considering the inclusion of other under-represented genders (those who don’t identify as women) in the LGBTQ+ community within the Society’s mission and strategic plan.

The FY20 Diversity and Inclusion Initiative team is comprised of the following members:

  • Kristine Barnes – Senator and Sub-Team Lead
  • Cecilia Breda – Senator
  • Caity Hines – Senator and Sub-Team Lead
  • Alexis McKittrick – Speaker of the Senate
  • Lauren Pan – Special Senator & LGBTQ+ Affinity Group Lead
  • Danielle Schroeder – Senator
  • Anna Sparks – Senator
  • Natalie Vanderspiegel – Director of Diversity and Inclusion
  • DaNae’ Winston – Senator

This month, the new scholarship application has gone out with updated language to continue to clarify the inclusion of members of the transgender community who identify as women. But the question has been raised: where does that leave those who don’t identify as a binary gender? As we grow globally, how can we continue to embrace and include cultures that recognize third gender and non-binary people?

That is the question this team seeks to answer: should SWE broaden its mission and goals to include other under-represented genders within the Society outside of those who identify as women? The team is looking at a variety of options, impacts, risks, and benefits to the Society as well as doing an environmental scan of other organizations and their approaches to non-binary gender inclusion. We fully understand the nuance around this question and are committed to giving it the time and consideration it deserves.

This does not imply that work in other aspects of diversity and inclusion are done—far from it. As different groups within SWE work in and around diversity and inclusion, this is one of the important topics for us to consider as we look towards the development of our next strategic plan in FY21.

I am excited to lead this group through the remainder of FY20 and would like to thank Caity Hines for their leadership of this group in the first half of FY20. I look forward to sharing our work around this topic with you along the way as we continue to support SWE’s vision of “A world with gender parity and equality in engineering and technology.”

About the author:

Kristine Barnes portraitKristine Barnes is a FY20 Senator, has previously served as the Chair of the Finance Committee, and has been a member of the Strategic Planning team for a number of years. She has been a volunteer leader at various levels of SWE governance for almost 20 years, initially as a collegiate member and now as a professional member. Kristine is a Life Member of the Society and works for General Motors in Warren, MI.


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