Some members have expressed concerns about SWE hosting a major event in a state with restricted access to women’s healthcare and others have noted travel restrictions between their state and Texas (notably, universities and other publicly funded entities in California cannot provide travel funding to students from CA to attend functions in Texas).
We want to share more about the selection process of Houston, Texas, and its continued viability as a host city for SWE’s premier event.
Houston, Texas and the WE Annual Conference Selection Process
Houston was selected well before state-based travel restrictions were in place and prior to current legislation impacting access to women’s healthcare. The process of selecting a city to host a SWE conference involves years of planning and consultation with SWE’s Board of Directors, Conference Advisory Board (CAB), and various meeting and marketing professionals. Typically, plans are made 5-7 years in advance of an event. Outside of a force of nature (such as we saw with COVID-19 in 2020), SWE is not able to cancel contracts with host cities so close to an event without suffering a near catastrophic financial setback.
There are several factors we take into consideration when planning to host a WE Annual Conference including: number of SWE members near the city; the size of the convention center, hotel availability and location desirability. We ask: will enough SWE members find the location attractive, convenient, safe, and affordable enough to attend the meeting? To us, Houston more than meets those requirements:
- Houston is home to the second largest concentration of Fortune 1000 companies in the country (49) behind New York (72), many who are SWE corporate partners.
- Houston has more than 80,000 hotel rooms with approximately 8,000 located downtown.
- Houston (pre pandemic) hosted more than 400 conventions of all sizes annually.
- Additionally, there are approximately 2,700 SWE members in Texas, many within driving distance of Houston. We also have over 30 SWE Sections and Affiliates in Texas.
Houston, Texas as a Diverse Host City
Much like SWE, Houston is a diverse city with a strong community from around the world:
- 37.3% White
- 36.5% Hispanic
- 16.9% African American
- 7.5% Asian/Other
- 1.8% Other
By law, SWE is a non-partisan organization, and our selection of a host city or location does not affirm or negate political and/or partisan activity within the state. The political climate of states and countries varies greatly, and it is impossible to anticipate what will happen in the future, especially five to seven years in advance. It is also difficult to match a location’s political climate with what SWE members prefer—SWE members are not monolithic and represent the entire demographic and political spectrum around the world. SWE brings members and partners around the idea that all women and allies can work towards equity in engineering for women and those unrepresented in STEM. To be effective, SWE must be willing to exist and thrive within a wide variety of political and social contexts.
Support for attendance at WE22 & Alternatives to Attending in Texas
SWE HQ recommends attendees consider volunteering for WE22 to get a registration discount, applying for a registration grant to comp the cost of registration, or planning to seek travel support from non-public sponsors or their SWE section to attend.
For those who would prefer to not travel to Texas, SWE will once again host a hybrid conference as we did for WE21. Know that regardless of the format in which you participate in WE22, a world of opportunity awaits.