As I write this column, it’s a beautiful spring day in Chicago. But something is amiss. The world as we know it has changed, seemingly overnight. We are experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. Physical distancing and sheltering in place are the new normal. Mass gatherings from global conferences to local church services have been put on hold, borders are closed, and travel has essentially ground to a halt. We are realizing how much we took basic human interaction for granted. The stress and anxiety are palpable.
That is why I feel so fortunate to be part of the Society of Women Engineers. Yes, we have been impacted. But we have myriad ways to stay connected with the SWE community.
Make use of our outstanding virtual resources from our Advance Learning Center; our Diverse podcast series; or SWE’s 24/7 news source, All Together. The Advance Learning Center has hundreds of webinars and eLearning courses for every career stage. Topics such as finding a mentor, being a good mentor, global collaboration, and communication tools for engineers are just some of our newest offerings. And many sessions provide participants the opportunity to earn CEUs. For SWE leaders, there are more than 30 training modules available in Advance. Brush up or learn a new skill to enhance your leadership skills portfolio.
It’s also a great time to check out some of the terrific content from SWE Magazine, which is all available in a mobile-friendly format. Learn about “Fixing the ‘Broken Rung’ in the Ladder to Success” or “The Community College Pathway: A Closer Look,” both found in our State of Women in Engineering 2020. The award-winning content of our magazine is the perfect antidote to the barrage of cable news and the perfect way to keep up to date on the relevant issues impacting women in engineering today.
Did you know that SWE has a full-time researcher on our staff? While you are sheltering in place, this is the perfect time to read up on all the latest research about women in engineering. Visit research.swe.org. You will find data on K-12, higher education, and the workplace. For instance, our Women in Engineering: Talent Pulse Report, 2019 is a collaboration with People at Work. SWE conducted a survey of women engineers in the workforce to understand what they seek from employers. The findings from this survey of more than 2,900 women engineers helps uncover areas of focus for employers who want to improve the employee experience for women in engineering and technology at their organizations. In upcoming issues of SWE Magazine, you will find more content highlighting SWE’s research and our collaborations with other research organizations.
With schools shuttered, this is the perfect time to engage a young girl in engineering with the many virtual SWENext resources. Or how about supporting the formation of a SWENext club in your local community? There is plenty of time to gear up before classes resume in the fall. Check out the SWENext club application at https://tinyurl.com/rbnyh78. The next generation of women engineers needs you.
Let’s not forget SWE’s growing network of affinity groups, launched 10 years ago. These groups are a great way for members to share knowledge, concerns, and experiences with one another and SWE partners and to provide feedback to SWE leaders on making the Society more inclusive and valuable. SWE affinity groups are building community, providing professional development opportunities, and empowering like-minded individuals. Visit https://swe.org/membership/affinity-groups/ to learn more or to join an affinity group.
But we’re not done. A terrific way to connect virtually with SWE and other members is to serve on a committee. The call for committee members is now open. Whether you have a small block of time or a wide-open schedule, we have opportunities. We’re looking for collegiates, professionals, and retirees. Committees provide the occasion to build new skills or share existing skills. Everyone is needed!
What do the coming months hold for SWE? Well, we are tightening our belts and sharpening our pencils to maintain our financial health and ensure a good, strategic financial road map for the future of the Society. We know that our WE Local calendar for 2021 will likely look different than we planned. Four conferences from 2020 have been postponed and rescheduled for 2021. Some leadership meetings will likely become virtual to save venue and travel costs, and new programs may be placed on hold for six months to a year as we see the long-term impact of the pandemic. But as we celebrate our 70th anniversary, I know the Society will get through this challenge as we have in the past. Together we are community and together we are SWE.
Karen Horting, CAE
Executive Director & CEO
“Closing Thoughts: Community in Times of Crisis” was written by Karen Horting, CAE, SWE Executive Director & CEO. This article appears in the 2020 spring issue of SWE Magazine.
Read more from the 2020 spring issue of SWE Magazine:
- Feature: Toward More Accessible Work Environments
- Feature: Engineering for Good
- Feature: Inclusive Design for Living Longer
- Feature: Women Engineers You Should Know
- SWE Forum: From Congressional Visits to the “New Normal” Brought by COVID-19
- Opening Thoughts: Access: A Matter of Human Rights
- News & Advocacy: COVID-19: STEM Strikes Back
- News & Advocacy: Momentum, Authenticity, and Pivoting: The State of Women in Politics
- News & Advocacy: Visiting Congress During a Global Health Crisis
- News & Advocacy: People
- Career Pathways: Shelter-at-Home Orders Put Spotlight on Disability Accommodations
- President’s Note: Joy and Relevance in the SWE Mission
- Life and Work: Is Sitting the New Smoking?
- Reinvention: From Fixing up My Home to Helping Others Construct Theirs
- Media: Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men
- Viewpoint: Then and Now: Personal Reflections on Accessibility
- In Memoriam: Marta Kindya, 1946-2019
- Scrapbook: Announcing a New Arrival