SWE Senate Series: Get to Know the Society Bylaws Streamlining Sub-Team

Learn about the role of the SWE Senate sub-team that is focused on reviewing SWE’s Society Bylaws. Make sure to check out all the posts in the Senate series, which detail what the other FY21 Senate sub-teams are working on this year.
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Continuing the series of blog posts about the SWE Senate’s work in FY21, this third blog post will introduce the work of the sub-team reviewing the Society Bylaws.  Bylaws are a foundational document that outlines member rights and the flow of authority within an organization as well as defining its structure.  The idea of a Society Bylaws review has been around for a while in SWE leadership discussions.  In fact, following the SWE governance changes, one of the recommendations in the Governance Implementation Plan from FY18 was to review the Society Bylaws for possible streamlining.  The task has been deferred previously due in part to other bylaws priorities, such as the recently completed rollout of the section agreements.

In FY20, the Senate Annual Strategic Planning Sub-team reviewed the Senate’s current responsibilities, including whether or not the Senate should continue to have the responsibility to amend the Society Bylaws.  That FY20 sub-team recommended that streamlining of the bylaws should be tackled prior to discussions about which group should own the Society Bylaws and vote on amendments.  The Bylaws Streamlining Sub-team was formed to work on that effort this year.

The FY21 Senate Society Bylaws Streamlining Sub-team is composed of the following Senators:

  • Lead: Kristine Barnes (she/her)
  • Vice Lead: Stephanie Loete (she/her)
  • Alison Bergmann (she/her)
  • Lisa Rimpf (she/her)
  • Heather Wiest (she/her)

The team is working closely with the Society Secretary, Sandy Pettit, and the Bylaws Committee leadership, Genevieve Kane (Chair) and Gail Dyer (Chair-Elect).  While the Senators are focused on the long-term interests of the Society and strategic concerns, the Secretary and Bylaws Committee provide critical insight into historical context as well as the expertise needed for any specific language changes.

In FY21, this Senate sub-team is taking a strategic look at the Society Bylaws to consider what information must be in the bylaws and what content could potentially be moved to procedures or other governance documents.  There are several objectives for the desired future state of the Society Bylaws.

  • Minimize the need for frequent amendments
  • Reduce structural barriers to the evolution of the Society
  • Grant authority to appropriate governing bodies
  • Develop an inclusive and flexible framework that supports future Society growth

The overall effort intends to make sure that the Society Bylaws reflect the current reality of the SWE structure and operations and easily accommodate future global growth.

Through the in-depth discussions and debate so far, the sub-team has confirmed that this is a significant effort that is unlikely to be completed this fiscal year.  The team developed a plan to focus on a few proposed bylaws amendments that can hopefully be brought to the Senate for a vote this year as well as mapping out areas for consideration of further work and discussion.

The team also recognized the need for careful consideration of where any content potentially removed from the Society Bylaws would go.  This includes ensuring that transparency with Society membership is maintained and any new or revised documents are ready along a similar timeline as an associated bylaws amendment vote, should it pass.

It’s an exciting opportunity to focus on an in-depth review of the Society Bylaws that has been under discussion for a while.  The team is working to help make sure the Society Bylaws are the intended framework for the organization and not seen as just an obstacle or obligation.

If anyone wants to learn more about the sub-team’s work or has questions, please feel free to contact anyone on the team or via email to senators@swe.org.

Author(s) Information

  • SWE Senate Series: Get to Know the Society Bylaws Streamlining Sub-Team Society Bylaws

    Stephanie Loete

    Stephanie Loete is a SWE Senator and Senior Life member serving the last year of a three-year term in FY21. She has been a volunteer leader in SWE for over 20 years, served as the FY16-17 Society Secretary, and is a member of the LGBTQ+ and Women in Government affinity groups. Stephanie works as a flight test engineer for the Air Force.

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