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A Pathway to Holistic Development and Professional Growth for Women of Color in STEM

SWE’s latest report highlights the crucial role its Collegiate Leadership Institute plays in shaping future leaders in engineering and technology.
A Pathway to Holistic Development and Professional Growth for Women of Color in STEM

The Society of Women Engineers (SWE), known for promoting diversity and inclusion in STEM fields, recently published a detailed report on its Collegiate Leadership Institute (CLI) illustrating how CLI is changing the game for women in STEM, with a special focus on empowering women of color to lead and innovate.

CLI’s mission is to equip collegiate members with the skills, knowledge, and leadership abilities that will enable them to become global leaders in their engineering and technology careers and to serve as a future pipeline for leaders in the SWE. Through virtual year-round programming, CLI aims to motivate, train, and support SWE collegiate members to successfully transition to the engineering workforce by providing valuable learning opportunities in order to accelerate the success of students entering the engineering and technology workforce.

The report, drawn from surveys and focus groups, not only underscores key aspects of the CLI program, but also demonstrates SWE’s ongoing commitment to these principles. It presents a comprehensive analysis, addressing crucial research questions, which unveils CLI’s substantial influence on the educational and professional paths of women in STEM, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds.

This study provides valuable insights into the positive effects of CLI, confirming its role in advancing SWE’s mission. Using a mixed-methods approach, SWE has discovered important findings on how CLI influences women’s journeys in STEM, further highlighting its importance in achieving the organization’s goals.

The Power of CLI: Shaping Aspirations

Findings indicate CLI’s pivotal role in motivating women to take their academic and professional aspirations in STEM to the next level and goes beyond direct inclinations toward STEM graduate studies.

  • 9% of CLI participants credit the program for influencing their decision to pursue a STEM graduate degree.
  • CLI effectively boosts STEM ambitions among participants.
  • 70% of participants value the program for its insights into the professional engineering landscape.

Tailored Approach to Diversity

The CLI’s impact varies significantly based on the racial and ethnic backgrounds of its participants, effectively demonstrating that the program’s tailored approach to diverse backgrounds helps ensure that women from all walks of life can benefit from it.

  • CLI’s impact varies based on participants’ racial and ethnic backgrounds.
  • South Asian participants, Multiracial, and Hispanic or Latino/Latina/Latinx groups show significant influence from the CLI program.
  • CLI fosters inclusivity in STEM by resonating with individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds.

A Pathway to Holistic Development and Professional Growth for Women of Color in STEM

The Influence of Undergraduate Institutions

Another intriguing finding is the correlation between the type of undergraduate institution and the influence of the CLI program.

  • Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) have a higher influence rate from CLI (23%) on pursuing STEM graduate studies.
  • Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs) have a lower influence rate (8%).
  • 41% of PWI students already decided to pursue STEM before CLI, while 39% of HSI students reported CLI didn’t influence their decision.
  • CLI’s impact varies depending on the type of institution, highlighting the complexities of empowering women in STEM across diverse academic settings.

CLI’s Unique Curriculum: A Key to Success

The success of the CLI program can be attributed, in large part, to its unique curriculum.

  • CLI’s success is attributed to its continually refined curriculum based on participant feedback.
  • The program addresses often-overlooked topics in STEM education.
  • CLI remains responsive to the evolving needs of its participants, effectively influencing women’s STEM ambitions.


SWE’s Collegiate Leadership Institute has proven to be a formidable force in empowering women in STEM. The organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusion shines through in the comprehensive report, which highlights the program’s profound impact on shaping the academic and professional journeys of women in STEM, particularly those from underrepresented groups.

By leveraging a mixed-methods approach, SWE has provided valuable insights into the CLI’s influence, emphasizing its ability to inspire women from diverse backgrounds to pursue graduate STEM studies. As the CLI continues to evolve and adapt its curriculum, it remains a beacon of opportunity for aspiring women in STEM, fostering a brighter, more inclusive future for the field.

You can read the full Collegiate Leadership Institute report for more insights and in-depth findings and visit the CLI page to learn more about the program. Read more about related research on our SWE Research site.

This research was supported by a grant from the ARDC Foundation.

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