SWE Senate Series: Get to Know the RISE Sub-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 FY21 Senate sub-teams are working on for SWE this year!
Swe Senate Series: Get To Know The Rise Sub-team

In our continuing series introducing the strategic initiatives being worked on by the FY21 SWE Senate, today we will learn about the Racial Inclusivity for Society Equity (RISE) sub-team which is seeking to further SWE’s mission and vision through the Diversity & Inclusion Strategic Goal to champion diversity in the engineering and technology professions and will promote an inclusive environment.

  • Strategic Objective 4.1: Increase the diversity of SWE’s membership to reflect the representation of female engineers and technologists.
  • Strategic Objective 4.2: Foster an inclusive culture to increase the diversity of SWE leaders.
  • Strategic Objective 4.3: Research, define, and communicate the key focus areas of diversity and inclusion for SWE’s emerging markets.

With the swell of momentum for racial justice following the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many others in 2020, it has become clear that there is still a lot more work ahead to improve racial equity in the world around us. SWE leadership recognized that it is time to take a hard look at how our organization can better serve racial minorities.

SWE issued a request for feedback from members where many expressed their candid concerns and personal experiences of feeling excluded. Consequently, SWE’s leadership felt that the Society could and should do more to create an inclusive atmosphere for members of color. Within the Senate, we decided that now is the time to establish a strategic approach to how SWE can further improve to create equity for minoritized members with consideration for:

  • Representation
  • Specifically addressing issues raised by BIPOC members
  • Creating a culture of inclusion at all levels
  • Removing barriers and bias

The FY21 Racial Inclusivity for Society Equity team is comprised of the following members:

Drawing on the expertise of the FY21 Special Directors and SWE’s Research division, the RISE Sub-Team is looking at how to ensure that SWE is delivering on our mission and values of inclusivity and trust, as cultural and structural improvement is needed in all levels of SWE for racially minoritized groups. The FY21 goals for this team include:

  1. Build an inclusive organization and more supportive culture for minoritized members and stakeholders;
  2. Equitable engagement and service for minoritized members;
  3. Establish clear expectations for a multi-year program of improvement.

In the first half of the year, our research has been seeking to assess the Society’s current structure and practices, understand the SWE presence at HBCU’s and HSI’s, and benchmark against other highly inclusive groups for best practices in outreach and services that aid racial minorities. In the remainder of FY21, our team will work to determine methods to attract and better support people of color and identify short-term actions to implement immediately. In addition, we hope to include a root cause assessment and plan for FY22 to begin working corrective actions.

Looking back at SWE’s 71 year history, the Society has a strong record of demonstrating inclusiveness to people of color. The first Black SWE member, Yvonne Young Clark, joined in 1952 and notably in 1957 SWE took an Anti-segregationist stance at the Houston conference to ensure her participation. Clark served on SWE’s Executive committee and was honored as a Fellow and Distinguished Engineering Educator.

Women of color have contributed to SWE through service in SWE leadership roles at many levels, including as Society President:

  • 1992-1993: Anna Salguero, 30th SWE President, 1st Latina SWE President
  • 1997-1998: Gloria Montano, 35th SWE President, 1st Asian-American SWE President
  • 1999-2000: Sherita T. Ceasar, 37th SWE President, 1st Black SWE President
  • 2003-2004: Alma Martinez Fallon, 41st SWE President, 2nd Latina SWE President
  • 2004-2005: Violettee V. Brown, 42nd SWE President, 2nd Black SWE President
  • 2009-2010: Nora Lin, 47th SWE President, 2nd Asian-American SWE President

Since 2015 SWE has established partnerships with other Engineering Societies that focus on racially minoritized groups including the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) which serve to meet mutual goals through a collaborative effort to benefit members including offering discounted joint Society memberships. Currently, SWE is working to add additional diversity organizations as partners, including the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE).

In FY16 the SWE Multicultural Committee was incorporated into the Membership Committee and the SWE Affinity Groups (AG) were formed including the Diversity & Inclusion AGs for African-Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans. In FY19 the Asian Connections AG was added. The Affinity Groups help SWE to connect members and highlight contributions from minoritized demographics.

SWE Research has led or collaborated on a number of studies specifically to understand gender and racial bias in STEM including Climate Control: Gender and Racial Bias in Engineering and joint SWE NSBE Research Ignored Potential.

On May 31st, 2020 SWE published a statement Taking a Stand for Diversity and Inclusion to denounce systemic racism. At the WE20 Virtual Conference, SWE hosted numerous sessions that specifically addressed the experience of women of color and highlighted diverse voices, including:

  • Year One as a SWE Affinity Group (Asian Connections AG)
  • “Hidden Figures” – Surprise Findings from NSF and Other Sources
  • Lost in Translation – How to Maximize Your Asian Culture
  • Succeeding as an “Only” in the Workplace
  • Overlooked Talent: Women of Color in Engineering
  • Mucho Gusto: Meet the Latinos AG
  • We’re Here and We’re OWER: Introducing Intersectionality in Your Community
  • Unlocking Asian American Leadership Potential
  • Black Girl Magic: Managing Myths and Microaggressions

The RISE sub-team recognizes that this is the start of a journey and there is much work to be done in the years to come. I am honored to serve as a leader of this team. Any member who would like to contribute your perspective or learn more about what the Sub-Team is working on is encouraged to reach out to members of our team or via email to senators@swe.org.


Related content:

Author(s) Information

  • SWE Senate Series: Get to Know the RISE Sub-Team RISE sub-team

    Bianca McCartt

    Bianca McCartt is an FY21-FY23 Senator. Bianca has been an active member of the SWE for 20 years, serving in a variety of volunteer positions including as FY19 & FY20 Co-Lead of the SWE Latinos Affinity Group. She works at GE Aviation.

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