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SWE Senate’s D&I Gender Inclusion Initiative Team Update

FY20 SWE Senator Kristine Barnes, PE, provides updates on the work that the Senate Diversity & Inclusion: Gender Inclusion sub-team is wrapping up for this year.
Get To Know Swe Senate’s D&i Initiative Team

The end of FY20 is almost upon us! A lot has happened since the Senate last sent out updates on our work. January seems so long ago now and while there is a lot of upheaval in the world, the Senate has been adapting and continuing to work through it all. I am pleased to update you on the work the Senate Diversity & Inclusion: Gender Inclusion sub-team is wrapping up for the year.

If you remember, our group set out to answer the question: should SWE broaden its mission and goals to include non-binary, gender non-conforming, and other under-represented genders within the Society outside of those who identify as women? I am pleased to report that the conclusion the sub-team came to and recommended to the Senate and Board was a resounding YES! As we look to the future of SWE, we see a place where all under-represented genders (including non-binary and gender non-conforming) in engineering and technology can find a place, resources, and a support network.

At the end of the fiscal year, the sub-team presented the following recommendations to the Senate and Board of Directors for consideration:

Short Term
Long Term
●   Create a new D&I statement to solidify support for other under-represented genders.

●   Use gender neutral or inclusive language in the development of the next strategic plan.

●   Begin to update eligibility for scholarships and awards to include other under-represented genders.

●   New content specific to gender inclusion to be added to the Advanced Learning Center and Conferences as time and resources allow.

●   Additional training and resources for HQ Staff and SWE Leaders to promote further gender inclusion.

●   Reviewing gendered language in the mission statement during the next revision.

In addition to those items, we have also recommended SWE expand the inclusion of pronouns in Senate and Committee Chair profiles as have already been included for HQ staff and the Board of Directors. SWE has already supplied pronoun stickers for conference participants for some time and we’ve asked to look into having the option of printing them directly on badges and also giving speakers the option to have them included in conference programming.

The sub-team did a lot of work and research to come to these recommendations. They scanned over 50 different professional, LGBTQ+, and STEM organizations to see how others were (or were not) working on gender inclusion. They looked back to the founding of SWE 70 years ago, the culture and climate that influenced the gendered focus of the Society formation and all the changes that have happened since then to expand, broaden, and progress the Society forward. They also had conversations with our Global Affiliates and Ambassadors, SWEs LGBTQ+ and Allies Affinity Group members, numerous small group and individual discussions at the SWE conferences held this year, and did a risk/benefit analysis of many different options for ways to strengthen our commitment to gender diversity and inclusion. We had many long conversations, challenged each other, and while we might have not always fully agreed on everything, we unequivocally agreed that to continue to consider ourselves D&I leaders, the one thing SWE could not do was nothing.

In addition, as we look at our future members, we see the next generation, Generation Z, is already here. Over half of our 40K+ members are collegiate members and based on typical generational divides, all current traditional collegiate students are a part of Gen Z with some of the oldest already entering the workplace! While Gen Z may look a lot like Millennials in some aspects, they outpace them and all other generations for knowing someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns. Over a third of them know someone who is non-binary or gender non-conforming. As these new engineers and scientists enter the workplace, further emphasis will be placed on gender inclusion and SWE is in a position to be a champion for this aspect of diversity and to advance towards our vision: A world with gender parity and equality in engineering and technology.

SWE may be a leader in D&I compared to other STEM professional societies, but our journey is far from over. The sub-team has made a number of recommendations to the Board, Senate, and HQ to further SWE’s commitment to D&I. Some we recommended can be completed quickly in FY21, but other changes will take longer to implement and final results might not be realized for a couple of years. I am proud of the work this team has done this year and am excited about SWE’s continued D&I journey.

I’d like to thank the entire team I’ve had the privilege of working with. They are dedicated SWE leaders that care deeply about the Society and its success in the future. We would also like to thank all the SWE members from around the globe who have helped contribute to our work this year. Your perspectives, input, and support were greatly appreciated!

Cecilia Breda (she/her) – Senator
Caity Hines (they/them) – Senator
Alexis McKittrick (she/her) – Speaker of the Senate
Lauren Pan (she/her) – Special Senator & LGBTQ+ and Allies Affinity Group Co-Lead
Danielle Schroeder (she/her) – Senator
Anna Sparks – Senator
Natalie Vanderspiegel (she/her) – Director of Diversity and Inclusion
DaNae’ Winston (she/her) – Senator

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  • Kristine Barnes, P.E.

    Kristine Barnes, P.E. is a Senator and Life Member of SWE with 20 years of SWE volunteer leadership experience. She is currently a Vehicle System Engineer for Full Size Truck programs and has worked for General Motors for over 5 years with numerous assignments within Body Engineering. Prior to working at GM, she worked in the nuclear energy industry for 10 years as a structural engineer at AREVA, Inc. (now Framatome) and was a technical expert in finite element structural analysis. Kristine is a licensed engineer in the state of Texas, holds a BSCE and MBA from Valparaiso University and an MSCE from Marquette University.