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SWE’s 2024 Congressional Outreach Days: SWE on the Hill

In March 2024, over 100 SWE participants advocated for policies aimed at fostering an inclusive STEM workforce. Learn more about their strategy, legislative priorities, and experiences in Washington D.C.
Photo of the Capitol building in Washington D.C.

Last month, the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) once again convened its annual Congressional Visit Day on March 20-21 with over 100 members and staff. Over two days in Washington, D.C., SWE participants continued their tradition of advocating for policies aimed at fostering a vibrant and inclusive STEM workforce that embraces diverse perspectives and identities.

Karen Horting, CAE, executive director and CEO of SWE, has previously emphasized the importance of in-person advocacy for achieving SWE’s mission. “It was really important for us to be here because it is important for members’ voices to be heard,” Horting said. “It’s also important that we advocate for STEM policy, STEM education, and equity in STEM.”

Participants hailed from across the country, with significant representation from Michigan, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. To equip attendees for their meetings, policy veterans and newcomers alike underwent comprehensive training led by Della Cronin and Austin Hall, SWE’s representatives in Washington, D.C., from the Bose Public Affairs Group.

This session provided an overview of the current state of the Hill, discussing the makeup of the House and Senate, the struggles of the 118th Congress, and the legislative scramble to prevent another government shutdown. They also covered the best practices for meetings with congressional staffers, including making actionable requests and leveraging personal experiences.

Della Cronin, Bose Public Affairs Group, Dana Weinstein, Principal Assistant Director & Special Advisor for CHIPS R&D, Victoria Rubin, US House Science, Space and Technology Committee
Della Cronin, Bose Public Affairs Group, Dana Weinstein, Principal Assistant Director & Special Advisor for CHIPS R&D, Victoria Rubin, US House Science, Space and Technology Committee

The training session featured speakers working in the intersection of policy and technology, who were familiar with the legislative areas of interest to SWE. These speakers provided updates on initiatives within their offices that might interest Society members and serve as avenues to broach SWE’s own policy goals with staff members.

Dr. Dana Weinstein, special advisor for CHIPS R&D with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, discussed her journey from electrical engineering at Purdue to technology policy. Through the Krach Institute for Tech Diplomacy, Dr. Weinstein continues to help technical experts educate Hill staff on the dangers and opportunities in new and emerging technologies.

Victoria Rubin, senior professional staff at the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology (HCSSST), discussed the implementation of the CHIPS and Science Act as well as STEM-related legislation going through the HCSST and new initiatives like quantum workforce development and the House’s bipartisan AI Task Force. Rubin also discussed workforce re-schooling, one of SWE’s main legislative goals. She encouraged Society members to ask personal questions to staffers to build stronger connections.

SWE staff also brought their expertise to bear with Director of Research and Impact Dr. Roberta Rincon sharing research on the State of Women in Engineering 2024. Nicola Mohan, senior manager of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, addressed one of the most pressing issues SWE chapters are facing, state-level anti-DEI&B legislation, soliciting member feedback on how DEI&B legislation is impacting them.

FY24 SWE President Alexis McKittrick, Ph.D., highlighted the significance of members’ expertise in advocating for STEM-related legislation. She emphasized the importance of personal stories in conveying the importance of specific bills and budget requests to lawmakers.

That evening, SWE hosted a reception on Capitol Hill, where SWE members mingled with interested staff. Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), an engineer and legislator, attended and spoke about the importance of SWE’s work for improving equity in the engineering field and strengthening the vital STEM workforce needed to keep America economically prosperous.

Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) speaking at the SWE reception
Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) speaking at the SWE reception

While each SWE member discussed their own experiences, stories, and goals, SWE had several legislative goals for 2024. The key point is continuing SWE’s history of advocating for public policies that promote equity in the research lab, classroom, and workforce. SWE supports access to STEM education from pre-K through college and beyond, including federal investments in STEM education programs and efforts to grow the capacity of minority-serving institutions.

At the top of SWE’s priority list is the STEM RESTART ACT (S.662/H.R1403). The STEM RESTART Act is a bipartisan bicameral bill that prioritizes funding to small and mid-sized businesses to provide paid opportunities for mid-career professionals who left the STEM workforce, prioritizing individuals from underrepresented populations, including women, Black and Latino STEM professionals, and those in rural areas. This could be a huge boon to retaining women in engineering positions.

Stacey DelVecchio, past SWE president and president of StaceyD Consulting, has now attended 13 SWE congressional outreach events and said that this congressional visit did not disappoint. “I love this event,” DelVecchio said. “Not only does my time on the Hill allow me to see the influence SWE has, but it also gives me great personal satisfaction to feel like I’m making a difference. With SWE’s persistence through the years, I’ve seen bills we’ve advocated for come to fruition and seen my confidence in speaking about them expand. Our elected officials need to hear from us. Thanks to SWE for making this happen.”

SWE Past President Stacey DelVecchio with Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL)
SWE Past President Stacey DelVecchio with Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL)


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