Over the past few years, SWE has increased its commitment to creating safe places within its community for transgender and gender-non-conforming individuals. At WE22, like at other events, we will do the same, through offering the Rainbow Lounge, encouraging the use of pronouns on badges, and promoting other trans-inclusive policies, such as bathrooms open to all based on gender identity. We continue to look at our efforts to see where we can improve.
We are aware that recent policies and legislation put in place in TX over the past year (around transgender affirming care and women’s healthcare) do not align with SWE values. To that end, the SWE Board of Directors and CEO will send a letter to Governor Abbott letting him know that we will not be bringing any future events to Texas, given the unwelcoming environment in the state for women, transgender, and gender non-conforming individuals.
While we will not bring future events to Texas while current legislation is in place, our existing commitment to host WE22 does not allow us to cancel or move the event without catastrophic financial consequences. (This is different from the situation we found ourselves in in 2020, when the in-person meeting restrictions due COVID-19 allowed us to renegotiate our contracts for a future date.) SWE signed the contract to host WE22 in Houston, Texas in July of 2016.
SWE is a non-profit, mission driven organization and comments that indicate we prioritize making money above our mission are misplaced. We have an obligation to be good financial stewards to preserve the Society’s financial resources. In doing this, we can advance our mission through our programs and services.
SWE has over 3,000 members in Texas and many of our employer partners have their headquarters or large facilities in Texas. For SWE to thrive, we must continue to navigate the challenging circumstances we often find ourselves in and provide a space for our members, all of differing opinions, to come together around the mission of advancing the engineering profession. We will do everything possible to make those attending WE22 feel safe, welcome, and included. For those that choose not to attend, we hope you will participate in the hybrid event virtually.
Check out this SWE Board of Directors letter to Texas Governor Abbott.