Why I Study Inclusion in Engineering Education

As the year closes, I am reflecting on my journey into being a graduate student and how I found a topic of research that I am passionate about. My name is Andrea Haverkamp, and I am currently a PhD candidate in environmental engineering at Oregon State University, and also minoring in Queer Studies. These academic fields have blended together in an exciting way as I now study inclusivity and equity in the engineering classroom. 

I have been in engineering for almost 12 years now, between two degrees and several jobs and internships in engineering. Before coming to college, I really wanted to be a high school science teacher. At the urging of my family and teachers I ended up majoring in chemical engineering. I discovered once starting my undergraduate degree that the culture of engineering towards women was often diminishing and the classrooms were not as diverse or welcoming as in other spaces. I am a gay woman as well, creating what some would consider a “multiply marginalized” identity. After hearing a number of gay jokes during class and already being shy, I began to not openly discuss my dating or outside life to my classmates. LGBTQ+ people and women face unconscious bias and stereotypes wherever we go and they can both blend together in uniquely uncomfortable ways for gay women. I also remained hidden during my environmental engineering internships out of fear and lack of diversity initiatives in engineering. When I graduated and started my first job as a process engineer I began to experience the common hurdles that women and LGBTQ+ people in the workplace overcome every day. I was talked over, had projects taken from me and given to men on our team when the projects proved promising or expanded, and had co-workers make comments about me and another woman’s appearances. The attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people were often unfriendly too – I heard coworkers during lunch make “gay jokes” and say discriminatory statements towards a machine operator who was transgender. I continued to not discuss my identity or social life at the workplace, as I feared these statements would make my life as a woman in engineering even more difficult. I once heard a senior engineering manager make highly discriminatory statements towards immigrants as well. The lack of inclusivity made me uncomfortable. I felt very alone in caring about these topics and became very detached from my work.

I had the opportunity through this employer to obtain a Master of Engineering degree as part of a employee development program. It was during this degree program that I took a life changing course – Engineering Education Research. This topic was completely new to me, as all of my courses revolved around mathematics, physics, fluids, and other typical chemical and environmental engineering topics. During this course I was first exposed to the rich research topics that engineering educators and sociologists are studying across the country. Topics range from conceptual learning (how to best learn engineering), engineering philosophy (what is engineering?), and engineering equity and inclusion (the professional climate for underrepresented groups). I had never known that engineers worked on this!

Taking this course, I learned that the negative workplace and classroom experiences of LGBTQ+ people, women, and people of color were not something I was imagining. These were very real dynamics that other engineers were studying and researching. This research even has the support from large National Science Foundation initiatives to create a diverse engineering profession. I learned that this research community is growing, with degrees specifically in Engineering Education starting to appear at universities. The professor of this class saw my enthusiasm and we began to meet in office hours frequently. I became very passionate about this topic but sadly, once I graduated, I had to return to the job where these research topics of inclusion and equity felt very real. He told me that I should consider staying for a PhD to join this research field. It felt daunting as someone who had only studied chemical and environmental engineering. I was so fresh to the topic of education that I didn’t believe I could do it.

The turning point in my professional life came during a new position I had as a project engineer. When touring one of our workplaces I came across a cubicle which faced the hallway. On this cubicle wall (belonging to an engineer) were cartoons with highly negative, and what I saw as offensive, cartoons disparaging women, LGBTQ+ people, and the indigenous peoples of North America. I was furious! I made documentation, talked to management, contacted our equal opportunity office, and the cartoons were taken down. I realized that I felt a calling to make sure that this and the other things I had witnessed would never happen again.

Within the year I left that job and was accepted to a PhD program to work on a topic I was passionate about – diversity, equity, and inclusion in engineering education. My experience as a member of the LGBTQ+ population informed my research proposal to highlight and document the experiences of undergraduate students and identify the strategies they use to succeed in the classroom. I am excited by the work I do every day. In addition to engineering, I am pursuing a PhD minor in Queer Studies which compliments my research. I finally feel like I found a place in engineering where my real-world experiences can merge with my research to make a better future in engineering. As a high schooler I wanted to teach science, and now I see my true life calling, which is to become an inclusive and welcoming educator in engineering.

Organizations such as SWE, and specifically GradSWE during graduate school, have been instrumental towards my own success and professional development. I cannot change what I saw and experienced the past decade, but I have found a place in my career where I can affect change on many levels through my work. Together we will create an engineering that uplifts all of us!

 

If you are interested in contributing in any way to GradSWE’s Diversity & Inclusion team (such as assisting in blog posts, brainstorming ideas, sharing ways we can become more inclusive, or developing outreach initiatives) please contact Diversity & Inclusion Liason Andrea Haverkamp at gradswe.dil@gmail.com We look forward to working with you!

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Towards a Gender Expansive Engineering – Part Two, Ideas and New Practices for Inclusion

By Andrea Haverkamp & Rachel Tenney

If you are interested in contributing in any way to GradSWE’s Diversity & Inclusion team (such as assisting in blog posts, brainstorming ideas, sharing ways we can become more inclusive, or developing outreach initiatives) please contact Diversity & Inclusion Liason Andrea Haverkamp at gradswe.dil@gmail.com We look forward to working with you!

Part One can be found at this link.

According to genderspectrum.org, “gender-expansive” has the following definition:

An umbrella term used for individuals that broaden their own culture’s commonly held definitions of gender, including expectations for its expression, identities, roles, and/or other perceived gender norms. Gender-expansive individuals include those with transgender and non-binary identities, as well as those whose gender in some way is seen to be stretching society’s notions of gender.

We offer a few ideas on how we can move forward in our work to be more gender expansive and gender inclusive:

1: Beyond the Binary – including nonbinary engineers 

At SWE, we welcome all engineers into our organization. This includes nonbinary engineers who do not to identify as men or women. When collecting records in the workplace, the lab, or in our research, let’s provide more than two demographic choices. Below is an example of a gender-inclusive demographic question from the Human Rights Campaign:

 

What is your gender?

  • Woman
  • Man
  • Nonbinary / third gender
  • Prefer to self-describe  _______
  • Prefer not to say

 

In all we do, let’s provide more than two options for gender. This small shift increases our gender inclusivity. It allows nonbinary and gender diverse engineers to not feel  invisible, but instead recognized.

2: Gender expansive teaching and inclusive language

If we normalize the use of gender neutral language, we all will feel included. Women, nonbinary individuals, gender nonconforming individuals, those of us with complicated relationships to womanhood, and those of us with different understandings of womanhood. As detailed in the overview of this post, gender is complicated, and reasserting binary gender difference actually limits all of our potential.

We can use gender neutral pronouns for our peers and in our gender activism. They/them/theirs are the gender pronouns that are singular and solidly rooted in the English language. This is proper English as described by Merriam-Webster. You likely say it all of the time without realizing it. Before calling someone “he” or “she” we can ask for their pronouns or say “they” by default. We cannot tell what someone prefers if we never ask. On that note, if you accidentally misgender someone, use pronouns they don’t prefer, or are corrected, simply acknowledge the mistake and move forward. Additionally, integrating gender-inclusive language into your vocabulary is easier than you think–replace “guys” with “y’all,” “folks,” or “friends.” If you are comfortable with your gender identity, it is also a good idea to share your pronouns with others when you introduce yourself. For example, “Hello, my name is Logan, and I use they/them pronouns.” This practice helps create a safe environment in which all people who may want to share their pronouns for any reason are able while normalizing the practice of sharing your own and using others’ pronouns.

Interested in learning more about gender neutral prefixes beyond Mr. or Mrs. such as Mx.? Check out this handout available from MIT which explains various honorifics that affirm nonbinary people. Brienne Harbin’s article Teaching Beyond the Gender Binary in the University Classroom is another essential resource to explore practical strategies for gender expansive inclusion. She provides vocabulary and the following list of best practices for STEM educators, many of which can be apply to workforce interactions as well:

  • Only call roll or read the class roster aloud after providing students with an opportunity to share their requested name and pronouns, and what they care to disclose to the class.
  • Allow students to self-identify the name and pronouns they prefer.
  • Set a tone of respect on the first day of class as part of the course expectations and connect this discussion with honoring one another’s requested names and pronouns.
  • Acknowledge when you’ve made a mistake about someone’s pronoun and correct yourself.
  • Honor students’ requested names in all university settings including (but not limited to): office hours, classroom, student group meetings, or when speaking with other faculty or staff.
  • Politely provide a correction whether the person who was misgendered is present or not.
  • Do not ask personal questions of gender non-conforming people that you would not ask of others. Such questions include inquiries about a gender non-conforming person’s body, medical care, former name, why or how they knew they were gender non-conforming, their sexual orientation or practices, their family’s reaction to their gender identity, or any other questions that are irrelevant to the classroom context unless the student explicitly invites these questions or voluntarily offers this information.
  • Do not disclose students’ gender identity unless you have obtained their consent.

3: Becoming educated and aware of gender diversity

Overall one of the most powerful things we can do as women or allies to those who do not identify strictly (or at all)  as women is to become educated. he resources, education, and legal & policy implications at genderspectrum.org. The article “Understanding Gender” is powerful in its discussions of the dimensions of gender, its difference from sexual orientation, and what to do with that knowledge. Central is understanding that our physical body parts are not gender.

While our gender may begin with the assignment of our sex, it doesn’t end there. As described by genderspectrum.org, a person’s gender is the complex interrelationship between three dimensions:

  • Body: our body, our experience of our own body, how society genders bodies, and how others interact with us based on our body.
  • Identity: our deeply held, internal sense of self as male, female, a blend of both, or neither; who we internally know ourselves to be.
  • Expression: how we present our gender in the world and how society, culture, community, and family perceive, interact with, and try to shape our gender. Gender expression is also related to gender roles and how society uses those roles to try to enforce conformity to current gender norms.

Each of these dimensions can vary greatly across a range of possibilities. A person’s comfort in their gender is related to the degree to which these three dimensions feel in harmony.

Understanding these facets of gender and integrating the above ideas are initial steps we might take together to expand gender inclusion in engineering. The paper began with language we may be using too often that alienates or prevents nonbinary, LGBTQ+, or gender diverse women in engineering. Here is what inclusive and gender expansive comments might look like in the future:

“Hi friends!” “Hey y’all.” “What a wonderful person.” “An accomplished individual.” “They are not only a parent, she’s an engineer.” “Gender diverse individuals in engineering bring unique skills.” “We need to hire more engineers that bring gender diversity.”

 

If you are interested in contributing in any way to GradSWE’s Diversity & Inclusion team (such as assisting in blog posts, brainstorming ideas, sharing ways we can become more inclusive, or developing outreach initiatives) please contact Diversity & Inclusion Liason Andrea Haverkamp at gradswe.dil@gmail.com We look forward to working with you!

Towards a Gender Expansive Engineering – Part One, What’s the Gender Binary?

By Andrea Haverkamp & Rachel Tenney

If you are interested in contributing in any way to GradSWE’s Diversity & Inclusion team (such as assisting in blog posts, brainstorming ideas, sharing ways we can become more inclusive, or developing outreach initiatives) please contact Diversity & Inclusion Liason Andrea Haverkamp at gradswe.dil@gmail.com We look forward to working with you!

 

Gender in engineering is an important and much-discussed topic. This might be why you are reading this blog. Organizations such as Society of Women Engineers (SWE) exist specifically due to the underrepresentation and marginalization of women in engineering. However, gender is much more broad than just a simple two-category dichotomy of men and women. We would like to be sure that in our efforts to increase gender inclusion and gender diversity in engineering that we are paying attention to those different from us – women with complicated relationships to gender and nonbinary (third-gender category or otherwise not men/women identified) engineers.This is why SWE is welcoming not only to those who identify as a woman, but to everyone on the gender spectrum – including male allies. This is why we find this to be an important topic to our inclusivity in GradSWE.

The trouble with centering a gender binary

“Hi ladies!” “Hey girls.” “What a wonderful woman.” “An accomplished woman.” “She’s not only a mom, she’s an engineer.” “As women, how do we do engineering?” “Women in engineering bring unique skills.” “We need to hire more women.”

Did you know that many individuals in the LGBTQ+ community identify as a third gender option, or even construct their identity outside of the gender system all together? Nonbinary is defined by the National Center for Transgender Equality  in an article titled Understanding Non-Binary People: How to Be Respectful and Supportive:

Most people – including most transgender people – are either male or female. But some people don’t neatly fit into the categories of “man” or “woman,” or “male” or “female.” For example, some people have a gender that blends elements of being a man or a woman, or a gender that is different than either male or female. Some people don’t identify with any gender. Some people’s gender changes over time.

People whose gender is not male or female use many different terms to describe themselves, with non-binary being one of the most common. Other terms include genderqueer, agender, bigender, and more. None of these terms mean exactly the same thing – but all speak to an experience of gender that is not simply male or female.

Developing an inclusive culture around gender in engineering means we may need to move beyond just advocating for women. As women, we understand what it is like to be underrepresented and undervalued. Nonbinary individuals in engineering perhaps experience a sharper brunt of gender discrimination. As women, we are aware of sexism in society that often permeates its way into the workplace and classroom. Anti-LGBTQ and anti-trans sentiments can also exist alongside sexism – and a specific form of sexism, known as cis-hetero-sexism, combines all three together into what can become a chilly climate for transgender, nonbinary, or gender nonconforming engineers.

Studies show that engineering may be the chilliest climate out of the STEM disciplines for LGBTQ+ engineers, and LGBTQ+ engineering professionals report greater discrimination than other occupations in our federal government.1,2 In particular, we wish to draw attention to “gender binary discourse” that can exist within higher education and engineering.3 Put simply, gender binary discourse is discussion and activism that only recognizes two simple gender options. “Men and Women” or “Ladies and Gentlemen.” Think of the last time you filled out gender in a survey – were there two options? Three? Four? When presented with just two options certain individuals such as nonbinary or gender nonconforming people feel left out and excluded. In our gender activism perhaps it is time to adopt approaches that welcome other gender minorities such as nonbinary or genderfluid engineers alongside other LGBTQ+ or gender nonconforming women.

Want to learn more about what we can do as a community to open up our culture for a broader gender spectrum? Click Here for Part 2 of this post which has ideas on how to incorporate these concepts into your organization or daily life.

If you are interested in contributing in any way to GradSWE’s Diversity & Inclusion team (such as assisting in blog posts, brainstorming ideas, sharing ways we can become more inclusive, or developing outreach initiatives) please contact Diversity & Inclusion Liason Andrea Haverkamp at gradswe.dil@gmail.com We look forward to working with you!

  1. Z. Nicolazzo, Trans* in College: Transgender Students’ Strategies for Navigating Campus Life and the Institutional Politics of Inclusion. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, 2017.
  2. J. Yoder, A. Mattheis, “Queer in STEM: Workplace Experiences Reported in a National Survey of LGBTQA Individuals in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Careers. Journal of Homosexuality, vol. 63, no. 1, 2016.
  3. E. Cech, LGBT Professionals’ Workplace Experiences in STEM-related Federal Agencies. 122ndASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, 2015
  4. M. Wittig, “One Is Not Born a Woman.” Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global Perspectives. Ed. Carole R. McCann and Seung-Kyung Kim. New York: Routledge. 246-250, 2013.

Recruiting and retaining minority students: How current graduate students can help

As graduate students, it can feel as though we have little power to change institutional practices that would increase diversity in a meaningful way. However, my own experience has shown that current graduate students can take action to encourage their university to add or improve diversity initiatives. I wanted to take this blog post as an opportunity to highlight some successful initiatives being implemented by universities across the country and then to suggest some ways that we, as students, can help enact change. It is my hope that by sharing these ideas, they can be adopted in more places and further improved.

Recruitment

Many universities are beginning to recognize that an effective way to attract talented minority applicants is to simply make the effort to recruit at conferences and universities with many minority undergrads. Universities already send representatives to conferences, and by choosing to recruit at new places, they are able to diversify their applicant pool and make a PhD seem attainable.

In a similar vein, some universities have begun hosting diversity preview weekends for minority students. I know that such a weekend was key in my decision of where to go to undergrad; thus, I am hopeful that such programs will similarly help convince more minority students to pursue a graduate degree. Yale University recently started a pilot program of this sort after a couple of students decided to meet with the graduate school’s diversity office to suggest it. Many other universities are also looking for ways to increase diversity on campus and may similarly be open to such a program. If you are mentoring any minority undergrads, then I would highly encourage you to direct them to Científico Latino, which lists many more programs of this sort, including ones at Georgia Tech, Ohio State, and MIT.

Retention

One of the frequent comments I have received from administrators when trying to increase diversity and inclusion on campus has been that it is “impossible” to get faculty to do anything. Therefore, I am always incredibly inspired (and heartened) by programs that have successfully motivated faculty to support diversity initiatives. A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Sherilynn Black, the Associate Vice President of Faculty Development at Duke University, when she came to campus to speak about her success increasing the acceptance and inclusion of minority graduate students at Duke. (If you’d like to hear Dr. Black speak about persisting in STEM as a minority, then check out her inspiring talk from the 2016 SACNAS Conference.)

I was particularly impressed by her continual insistence that faculty members should be taking a larger role in creating a supportive environment for minority students and that the burden of diversity work should not be placed on the students themselves. This was particularly inspiring, as she has actually managed to increase faculty buy-in through “culturally-aware mentoring” workshops that faculty are required to attend if their graduate students are on certain grants.

These trainings are successful, in part, because they make faculty members aware of their own culture and background, and thus more accepting of where their student’s background might be different. Furthermore, they assume that most faculty members do want to be effective mentors and frame the trainings through this lens. Duke has also put together an extensive site devoted to mentoring, if you’d like to check out more resources on this topic.

Suggestions for making these a reality

If you’d like to increase minority graduate student recruitment and retention at your university, here are some tips from my own experiences to get you started.

  1. Collaborate with the other diversity groups on campus: As my mom used to say, “many hands make light work;” besides, many voices raised together are harder to ignore. To that end, my gradSWE section increases our reach by collaborating with other diversity groups. These groups have connections with administrators beyond the ones we normally interact with, who can help provide funding or institutional support for our ideas. Furthermore, these groups intimately know the problems facing their own members; together we can craft solutions that support all under-represented groups.
  2. Start at the department level: I have found it much easier to encourage faculty who I already have a relationship with to come to diversity events. Additionally, I have found that trainings at the department level can increase buy-in, particularly when the department chair is supportive of the events.
  3. Find sponsors and advocates: Finding the administrators or professors who care about these issues–and are willing to champion them–can make all the difference in turning your recruitment and retention ideas into reality. In addition to providing funding, they can also encourage their colleagues to support your initiatives and attend trainings.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask: If you have ideas of how you can improve your department or school, schedule a meeting with administrators to share them. From my work on our university’s Title IX board, I learned that oftentimes, administrators don’t realize something is a problem for graduate students because no one has spoken up. Even if you are unsuccessful in pitching your idea, you may find some other program that you can help implement or lay the groundwork for the next person who makes a similar request.
  5. Don’t give up: While many schools profess a commitment to increasing diversity, it is an uphill battle to realize change. Administrators will often be unwilling to make large changes, but keep advocating for and supporting your fellow graduate students. Together, we will be able to realize more inclusive graduate programs.

Other ideas?

I’ll end this blog post by inviting you to share with me any additional programs that you know of that have been successful in increasing the recruitment or retention of minority students. If you email these stories to me at gradswe.dil@gmail.com, I would love to feature them in further blog posts. Whether it is something your university’s diversity office has implemented or a program run by your SWE section, please send it my way.

 

 

Introducing SWE’s Affinity Groups

In my first blog post, I mentioned SWE’s Affinity Groups (AGs); over the past semester, I have been in contact with the lead for each AG to learn more about each and to learn some ways that grad students can get involved. It is my pleasure to share this information with the gradSWE community through this post.

What is an affinity group?

Claudia Galván, the SWE Affinity groups lead, says:

“The SWE Affinity Groups (AGs) are communities of individuals who share the same interests and goals… The focus of these groups is to build community, provide professional development and recognition opportunities.”

The affinity groups are currently being reorganized and have been grouped under two umbrellas:

  • Diversity and Inclusion Networks: Latinos, African-American, Native American, LGBTQ
  • Business Networks:  Women in Government, Entrepreneurs, Small Business and Global Engineers.

More information about this reorganization and the affinity groups themselves will be in an upcoming SWE All Together article.

How can I get more involved?

If after reading the descriptions of the AGs below, you would like to get more involved with one, then Facebook is a great way to see what specific events and activities a given AG is up to. If you have more questions, then email Claudia Galván (ag-coordinator@swe.org) and she would be happy to answer them.

A current priority of the AGs is building their leadership pipeline; they are looking for leads for Building Community, Professional Development and Awards.  If getting involved with a given AG or the program as a whole sounds interesting to you, then email Claudia Galván, SWE AG Lead (ag-coordinator@swe.org).

Meet the AGs:

African-American AG

The African-American AG is led by Rose Margaret Itua, Associate Professor of Engineering, Ohlone College. The group is focusing on developing the partnership with NSBE (SWE and NSBE have a joint membership!) and bringing a voice and representation of the African-American Community into the industry.

Follow them on Twitter #SWEAfricanAmericanAG and  #SWExNSBE or like them on Facebook: : https://www.facebook.com/groups/1726422537620243/

Entrepreneurs

The Entrepreneurs AG is led by  Courtney Sanders, Entrepreneur at ExecuVentures and Katherine Culbert Co-Founder at K and K Process. The Entrepreneurs AG is focused on creating a community to share resources and help support startups in various stages of development. Their current priority is to build the entrepreneurs community to show that entrepreneurship is a viable career path for female engineers.

Follow them on Twitter: #SWEEntrepreneursAG or Join their FB Page:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/188431004915171/

Global Engineers

The Global Engineers, led by Davida Gondohusodo located in Jakarta, Indonesia, is a global community which consists of SWE international members including expats and Friends of SWE to develop a network and provide professional development and empowerment opportunities. During their first year, the priorities of the Global Engineers are to:

  • Build the leadership team,
  • Understand the needs of the global (non US) community,
  • Work with the ambassadors and senators to come up with an overall international strategy aligned with the SWE Membership Committee Goals.

You can join their facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1101289266633848/

Latinos

Ivelisse Del Valle Figueroa is the Co-chair of the Latinos AG Affinity Group. Their group comprises of people from Latino backgrounds and diversity allies. Their goals is to build a community of SWE Latino members, and provide professional opportunities and empowerment. This year they are providing visibility to their members by spotlighting them on their Facebook group and encouraging their members to engage in speaking opportunities and award nominations. They are also highlighting SWE’s partnership with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). Graduate students may find a lot of opportunities through their AG, including: learning about speaking opportunities to talk about their research and getting recognized for their work. They are eager to engage more graduate students and would love to hear from gradSWE members on how to do this better.

Here is the link to their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1796372620644033/

LGBTQ and Allies

LGBTQ & Allies AG is led by Marcie, an Electrical Engineer at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning (LGBTQ) students and employees face unique challenges in college and in the workplace, and this group is focusing on helping members navigate those challenges, as well as being a resource to SWE leadership. The privacy and safety of our LGBTQ members is key. The group is growing the partnership with the National Organization of LGBTQ Scientists and Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP), and bringing a better understanding, voice and representation of LGBTQ engineers in the industry and within SWE.

Follow them on Twitter: #SWELGBTQAG and join their FB group:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/1408337772528054/

Also, since privacy is important, anyone can have their name added to the LGBTQ and Allies email list by contacting Claudia.  Emails are sent with the list blind copied.

Native American

The Native American AG is led by Laura Smith-Velazquez, Sr. Systems Engineer/Cognitive Scientist at Rockwell Collins. Native Americans represent a very small percentage of engineering graduates and face unique challenges including lack of critical mass. The group is focusing on developing the partnership with AESIS and bringing a voice and representation to the Native American Community in the industry.

Follow us on Twitter #SWENativeAG and join the SWE Native American FB page, https://www.facebook.com/groups/18843, 1004915171/

Small Business

The Small Business Affinity Group is led by Stephanie DeCotiis, Senior Project Engineer at H2M architects + engineers, and Heather Bernardin, Senior IT Consultant at KSM Technology Partners. Employees of small businesses have their own dynamics and challenges. This group is focusing on building a network and sharing resources to support SWE members who are employees of small business.  This group also seeks to be a resource for information and feedback of the small business perspective to other SWE committees and groups.  This AG is new to SWE and is in its first year.  If you’re interested in participating, please follow along on social media, or reach out to the group leads.

Follow along on Twitter: #SWESmallBusinessAG and join their FB page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/SWESmallBusinessAG 

Women in Government

The Women in Government AG is led by Dr. Ruth Jones, Mishap Investigation Specialist at the NASA Safety Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Women in Government in Engineering are a strong contingency focusing on supporting and developing women in the engineering profession within the government framework. Join Women in Government AG- https://www.facebook.com/groups/1845889725680220/

 

 

 

How we all benefit from increasing diversity

Last month I planned a symposium entitled “Equity in the Job Search” that integrated career advice with discussion of the biases facing women during the job search. Part of the philosophy behind this symposium is that since everyone exhibits gender bias, we can’t address the problem in lasting ways without including people of all genders in crafting solutions. However, as I have realized through planning similar events in the past, getting men to attend a “gender” workshop is challenging. Sadly, this difficulty is only more prevalent for other underrepresented groups.

As part of my push to get more male grad students to attend this symposium, I wrote a motivation page about the many benefits of diversity. This blog post expands on those thoughts, illustrating how a more inclusive culture has far-reaching benefits for everyone in an organization. I hope that this post will be useful to anyone trying to convince those around them that diversity issues are relevant beyond the members of underrepresented groups.

The benefits of increasing diversity can be seen by comparing the financial performance of diverse companies to that of their less diverse counterparts. Scientific American clearly lays out several studies that have illustrated this effect:

  • After Orlando Richard, a professor of management at the University of Texas at Dallas, and his colleagues surveyed executives at 177 national banks in the U.S., they found that for innovation-focused banks, increases in racial diversity were clearly correlated with enhanced financial performance.
  • After examining the influence of gender diversity on the performance of the top firms in Standard & Poor’s Composite 1500 list, business professors Cristian Deszö of the University of Maryland and David Ross of Columbia University showed that firm value increases by $42 million with women in top management positions.
  • Similar effects can be found by examining companies across the world: a team of researchers at the Credit Suisse Research Institute found that among 2,360 companies, those with at least one woman on their boards delivered higher average returns on equity and better average growth.

Diversity helps increase creativity and improves company performance because numerous studies have shown that heterogeneous groups prepare better and more thoroughly consider all evidence. Furthermore, social diversity makes it more likely for diverse perspectives to be voiced and considered. This is critical for innovation, which requires looking at problems in new ways.

Inclusion is necessary to realize the benefits of diversity—such as mutual respect, improved conflict resolution, and increased creativity—and to avoid tension between diverse social groups. It is crucial to ensure that these benefits are sustained in the long term. Quotas and other initiatives to increase minority hires can increase the number of women and other minorities in the workforce, but inclusive workplace cultures are necessary to ensure that those hired stay and advance.

Moreover, an inclusive culture doesn’t just benefit the minority—it creates a more attractive workplace for everyone involved. This has proven particularly true for millennials.

However, if those in the dominant group aren’t included in conversations about diversity, then they often lose sight of its benefits or view inclusion as a zero-sum game that puts them at a disadvantage.

I believe that by including members of a majority group in conversations of diversity we can help reduce the impression of diversity initiatives being “us vs them.” This is not to say that we should let those in dominant groups control the conversation about diversity, but that more lasting change can be accomplished by including all players.

I hope that moving forward, we can change the conversation about diversity by showing that everyone benefits from more inclusivity.

International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day! International women’s day commemorates the movement for women’s rights.

American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) released an interview of Jonna Gerken, current SWE president. In the interview Jonna discusses the challenges and opporutnies that women engineers are facing today. She notes that company culture is one of the biggest challenges.

Jonna also discusses her priorities for her term as SWE president. The three main priorities are professional excellence, advocacy and globalization.

Reading her interview, its clear that company culture needs to change and finding advocates and allies might be the way.  To read the interview in full or learn more about International Women’s Day, please see the links below!

Link:

https://www.astm.org/standardization-news/?q=first-person/swe%E2%80%99s-2018-president-talks-about-women-engineering-ma18.html

https://www.internationalwomensday.com/