Local IEEE Women in Engineering Groups See Record Growth Despite Challenges

Survey findings show the affinity groups are impactful, purposeful, and collaborative

3 min read
group of women
Illustration: iStockphoto

THE INSTITUTE Despite the coronavirus pandemic, IEEE Women in Engineering (WIE) had a successful 2020. It grew its affinity groups to nearly 950 even though most of its networking activities, workshops, seminars, and speaker panels were held virtually last year.

The local groups are formed in IEEE sections and student branches around the world. For the past several years, there has been a steady growth in the program, with about 50 new groups formed annually.

The WIE International Leadership Conference, which was held virtually last year, doubled its attendance over 2019. We engaged with more than 2,800 attendees from 95 countries.

Many of the successes resulted from actions taken in response to a survey conducted last year. The survey aimed to identify what WIE could be doing better for members, including ways to update them about activities in their communities and to engage with leadership at the local level. The WIE committee (WIEC) decided to embark on that titanic task, which was imperative to engage with the chairs of our affinity groups (AGs) worldwide.

We thank the 133 participants who took the time to complete the survey and share with us valuable information that will help WIE grow. Thanks also to the IEEE strategic research team for guiding the survey’s design, executing it, and compiling the results.

The survey feedback was constructive, rewarding, enlightening and, most of all, fascinating. We saw how the AGs are evolving, how our vision and mission is reflected in their activities, and how those activities require support at the WIEC leadership level.

WIE survey by the numbersThe percentage of growth of IEEE Women in Engineering affinity groups broken down by IEEE region.Illustration: IEEE Women in Engineering

FEEDBACK AND POPULAR EVENTS

Three-quarters of the chairs (76 percent) said they were satisfied with their group’s operation and volunteers’ commitment. More than 80 percent said they were able to meet their objectives, 80 percent have a sustainable action plan, and 87 percent engage in activities with a clear, long-lasting effect locally.

More than a third held activities at least once per month. More than 40 percent held activities less frequently.

Ninety percent of the chairs reported that they have a good relationship with their local IEEE section, while more than 80 percent said the same about their sponsoring IEEE organizational unit.

The chairs reported that the programs they held most often were summits that provided opportunities for networking, mentorship, and collaboration; different skills and development tools for female engineering students; tours of engineering-related facilities; and skill-building workshops.

Considering the input from the 32 percent of AG chairs who participated in the survey, the activities and projects engaged more than 10,000 members, volunteers, people from the local community, and others. It is clear that the AGs are impactful, purposeful, collaborative, and active.

RECOMMENDATIONS

When asked for ways to improve the AG program, the chairs suggested holding weekly meetings, encouraging diversity, and engaging more volunteers.

One popular recommendation was to build stronger relationships among members—which is gratifying to see. Building relationships is what will take us to the next level.

Overall the WIEC is glad to see that the AGs are keeping to the WIE mission and vision, which is to develop programs and activities that promote the entry into, and retention of, women in engineering programs. The mission includes supporting the development of women in their profession through activities that build their technical and professional skills.

FUTURE PROGRAMS

The respondents provided us with valuable input about what can we keep doing to support AG development, including activities that attract new volunteers.

Based on the feedback, we have been developing content that we are sharing on our social media platforms and website, such as monthly best practices posted on Instagram, or the case studies published in our website that could be replicated around the globe.

Based on the survey, it is safe to conclude that the AGs feel the WIEC’s support. But we also realize there are issues to track to help us fully understand and articulate their impact in our communities. The WIEC will be working with IEEE to update the L31 templates used to report AG activities, so we can continue to gather the information without needing to conduct more surveys.

We have a long way to go in terms of achieving our goals, but we have a vibrant community committed to doing so. We have to keep supporting activities, find new ways to reach members at a global level, and strengthen our communications channels.

Our volunteers are, as always, giving their best, and we are glad to give ours to keep growing together.

IEEE Senior Member Jenifer Castillo is the 2021 chair of IEEE Women in Engineering.

IEEE membership offers a wide range of benefits and opportunities for those who share a common interest in technology. If you are not already a member, consider joining IEEE and becoming part of a worldwide network of more than 400,000 students and professionals.

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