Who is excited about this year’s SWE Capitol Hill Days? Everyone! Last month, SWE Executive Director & CEO Karen Horting visited Washington, D.C., ahead of the March Capitol Hill Days festivities to meet with Congressional staff, folks at the White House and attend the National Academy of Engineering’s Presentation Ceremony for the Charles Stark Draper Prize, a preeminent award for engineering achievement.
While Congress debated issues important to SWE and its members, Karen visited with staff to talk about how to create and change federal policies to incentivize the growth of efforts similar to SWE’s STEM Re-entry program. The Department of Labor has some programs that might support such efforts, and we encourage the federal government to reward these companies with tax incentives.
In addition, Karen and the SWE Team addressed federal research and education programs and supporting female STEM students and professionals. Participants in the Capitol Hill Days will be discussing similar topics with their representatives.
As part of the upcoming two-day Capitol Hill Day program, participants will learn about how to make the most of their meetings with their representatives. If attendees want to prepare, they can take the time to determine who their federal representatives are here. Then, they should visit their lawmakers’ websites to get a feel for what they spend most of their time talking about and how those issues connect with SWE concerns. The committees that senators and representatives serve on can provide a sense of what policies each legislator focuses on.
In addition to the issues that are being debated by various committees, Congress spends a considerable time each spring talking about how to spend federal tax dollars. The “budget and appropriations” season is always a busy one and SWE advocates will see many other groups in the halls of Congress during the day. The budget and appropriations process is a complex one and can be unpredictable. (Last year, SWE recorded a podcast on the process, and attendees may want to take a listen). In addition, you can learn “the basics” of the process here.
What else will advocates be talking about? Paycheck fairness. Supporting pregnant workers. Nurturing interest in STEM among young girls. Keeping female students and faculty safe on college campuses. To be sure, female engineers care about dozens of issues in front of Congress. Participants will be coached on what those are and how to prioritize them on the first day of the Capitol Hill Days event. But, the most important tip is a simple one. Comfortable shoes. The halls of Congress are long, winding and unforgiving in many ways.