SWE Community Spotlight: LGBTQ+ and Allies Affinity Group

Each month throughout the year, we'll be spotlighting a different SWE Affinity Group (AG). For the month of June (and Pride Month!), we are excited to highlight SWE's LGBTQ+ and Allies Affinity Group!

Each month throughout the year, we’ll be spotlighting a different SWE Affinity Group (AG). The SWE Affinity Groups’ (AGs) mission is to bring together communities that share similar interests and backgrounds that support the diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) strategic goals of SWE.

SWE Affinity Group goals:

  • Develop a sense of community in the Affinity Groups fostering an inclusive environment where people discuss experiences in their engineering career, online and offline.
  • Provide professional development opportunities enabling and sponsoring leadership experiences, networking and mentorship.
  • Empower members through highlighting accomplishments and supporting diversity in the SWE Leadership pipeline, Awards, and Scholarships.

SWE Affinity Groups are organized into DE&I AGs and Business Interests AGs. DE&I AGs are focused on the needs of social minority populations and support initiatives tailored to serve these communities. Business Interest AGs are loosely centered around the members’ business environment and career experiences.

For the month of June, we are excited to highlight SWE’s LGBTQ+ and Allies Affinity Group, a DE&I AG.

Get to know the goals of the LGBTQ+ and Allies Affinity Group!

What are the overall goals of the LGBTQ+ and Allies Affinity Group?

The goals of the LGBTQ+ and Allies affinity group are to create community for LGBTQ+ members of SWE and advocate for LGBTQ+ affirmation and inclusion in SWE’s work and in engineering more broadly. We have a vision of a world in which all people feel empowered to live as their authentic selves and are supported by family, community and employers in doing so. We do this through mentoring, networking, and providing resources to SWE’s LGBTQ+ members to enable them to advance in their careers and in SWE.

Does the LGBTQ+ and Allies Affinity Group have regular meetings? If so, when and how often? What takes place during a typical meeting?

We host regular community events such as coffee chats to reach all of our members. Our leadership team meets on a regular basis to plan events, discuss pain points and advance new initiatives.

How is the LGBTQ+ and Allies Affinity Group working to reach and include new members?

We work with SWE to reach LGBTQ+ members through AllTogether blogs, email blasts and working with collegiate sections. Because collegiate members make up a significant portion of SWE members, and because younger people are increasingly likely to identify within the LGBTQ+ community, we have seen a great amount of interest in the AG and hope to continue attracting new members through our conference programming and social media.

Why is the LGBTQ+ and Allies Affinity Group important to its members?

As LGBTQ+ engineers, we know that engineering spaces were not built for us, and we have a role to play in disrupting existing spaces and creating new ones that are inclusive and affirm our diverse identities. The LGBTQ+ and Allies AG is a space for LGBTQ+ engineers to find community and connection in a field with a heteronormative culture.

Where would you direct those interested in joining or learning more about the LGBTQ+ and Allies Affinity Group?

Those who are interested in joining or learning about the AG can join our Facebook group or email list.

Meet some LGBTQ+ and Allies Affinity Group members!

Alexa Jakob

SWE LGBTQ+ and Allies affinity group co-lead, Alexa JakobElectrical engineering student

Co-lead of AG

SWE member since 2019

Alexa Jakob serves as co-lead of SWE’s LGBTQ+ and Allies Affinity Group and the President of the section at Cooper Union, where she studies electrical engineering with a focus on signals processing and minors in computer science and philosophy. A Goldwater Scholar and SWE scholarship recipient, she has been a SWE member since 2019 and received the 2021 WELocal Rising Star Award. Alexa interned at NVIDIA in hardware engineering in 2020 and returned this summer.

Melissa Rickman, Ph.D. (she/they)

SWE Community Spotlight: LGBTQ+ and Allies Affinity Group LGBTQ+ and allies affinity groupChemical Engineer

SWE member since 2021

Melissa joined Phillips 66 in 2014 after completing their Ph.D. in chemical engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder. She currently leads research projects focused on water conservation and groundwater remediation. Melissa loves that each day brings them a new challenge that allows them to learn new things—and as a bonus, she gets to work with truly fabulous people!

Melissa is a non-binary person and serves as Ally Development chair for our LGBTQ+ resource group, PRIDE66. Their goal is to help themself and others learn the words to be an effective advocate for those in marginalized groups. Good advocates help their coworkers feel comfortable bringing their fully authentic selves to work. As a person with post-concussion syndrome, she’s also passionate about raising awareness for those with mental health issues. Outside of work and the ERG, Melissa spends time with their partner Junior and training off-the-track thoroughbred racehorses to jump large objects and compete in a sport called eventing. Melissa is counting down the days ’til WE21!


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