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New Award Recognizes IEEE Society’s Work in DEI

It increased the number of women leaders and geographical diversity

5 min read
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For the past 20 years, the IEEE Instrumentation and Measurement Society has been working to become more welcoming and inclusive for women, members from outside the United States and Canada, students, and young professionals. Its hard work in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) has paid off.

IEEE IMS has increased its number of women leaders, conference speakers, and editors of its publications. The society also has expanded its chapters to other parts of the world. To encourage more students to join, it holds competitions and offers scholarships, and a mentoring program was created to attract students and young professionals.

The society’s efforts have been recognized with the new IEEE Technical Activities Board Award for Society/Council Impact in DEI. The award was established last year to honor an IEEE society or council that has encouraged DEI by developing activities, programs, and services that promote efforts in the area. IEEE IMS is the first society to be given the award.

“The society received the news [about the award] with great joy,” says IEEE Senior Member Juan Manuel Ramirez Cortés, the IMS president. “Being the inaugural recipient of the award is a true honor and serves as significant motivation for our ongoing DEI efforts.”

Increasing the number of women leaders

The society’s nominations and appointments committee is dedicated to recommending experienced women to serve in leadership positions.

In 1992 there were no women on the society’s administrative committee, AdCom, and only one member was from outside the United States and Canada. The committee is composed of elected officers and nonelected leaders.

The IEEE Instrumentation and Measurements Society by the Numbers

Total membership

3,820

Number of chapters

72

Number of student chapters

15

Number of technical committees

23

The oversight changed when IEEE Life Fellow Stephen A. Dyer joined the committee as editor in chief of the IEEE Transactions on Instrumentation and Measurement. He identified women and individuals from other geographic regions who were qualified to be AdCom candidates.

“A diverse AdCom promotes more effective and more engaging operational programs,” Ramirez Cortés says.

In 1999 Dyer’s wife, Ruth, became the first woman elected to the committee.

It then took a decade until a second woman was selected to serve.

Between 2010 and 2021 the society had between six and nine female voting members in leadership positions, including Ruth Dyer. The IEEE Life Fellow was elected the 2016–2017 society president and 2021 Division II director.

Since 2007, IEEE IMS has appointed at least one female undergraduate, graduate, or IEEE Young Professional representative almost every year to its AdCom.

Ferdinanda Ponci was elected in 2010 as the IEEE Women in Engineering liaison. The IEEE senior member was designated as the committee’s point of contact to the TAB’s diversity and inclusion committee.

The IEEE IMS AdCom now has seven vice president positions, Ramirez Cortés says, and every position has been held by at least one woman in the past 20 years. Seventy percent of the committee is from outside the United States and Canada.

Women members and individuals from different IEEE geographic areas who are experts in the society’s fields of interest have been encouraged to publish their research in the society’s publications and to serve as reviewers and associate editors.

Wendy Van Moer in 2015 became the first female editor in chief of the IEEE Transactions on Instrumentation and Measurement. In the past five years, the percentage of women who have served as associate editors of the publication has risen to 19 percent from 5 percent, Ramirez Cortés says.

“Diversity with regard to race, religion, gender, disability, age, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression brings the society scientific, technological, and cultural richness.”

Members of the society’s editorial board are from the 25 countries that have contributed the most articles to the society’s publications.

Women have served in roles such as chair of the society’s flagship gathering, the IEEE International Instrumentation and Measurement Technology Conference (I2MTC) and its distinguished lecturers program.

In June the society joined 21 other IEEE organizational units that took the IEEE Women in Engineering pledge to work toward “gender-diversified panels at all IEEE meetings, conferences, and events.”

IEEE IMS conferences have increased the number of female speakers and technical program committee chairs. Meanwhile, a diversity chair is appointed for each of the society’s conferences to ensure variety in the speakers, programs, and panels. Keynote speakers are from academia as well as industry—many of them women.

“The society wants to ensure that qualified women and other underrepresented groups have an opportunity to participate,” Ramirez Cortés says.

The society has about 3,820 members. Almost 9 percent are women.

three people posing for a portrait while holding a plaqueJohn Verboncoeur, president of the IEEE Technical Activities Board, presented the award to Dalma Novak [left] and Ruth Dyer at the February board meeting series. Novak is the chair of the IEEE TAB Committee on Diversity and Inclusion. Tom Compton

Diversifying geographic representation

Geographic diversity is an important factor in the society’s DEI efforts, Ramirez Cortés says. Conference locations are selected to increase accessibility and participation, he says. Within the past decade, I2MTC has been held three times each in Regions 1–6 (United States), Region 7 (Canada), Region 8 (Africa, Europe, Middle East), and Region 10 (Asia and Pacific), and once in Region 9 (South America).

“This action has promoted geographic diversity in both authorship of conference papers and society membership,” Ramirez Cortés says, “and fostered an inclusive environment for members of different cultures.”

Another way the society is increasing diversity is through its outreach program for chapters, which helps them thrive and establishes new ones. Liaisons for each IEEE region visit inactive chapters to help reestablish them, and they participate in active chapters’ events such as workshops and regions to encourage growth. The liaisons also seek out members who are experts in their field to participate in the society’s lecturer program so they can share their knowledge.

“The outreach program allows the society to address each region by following and respecting their geographical and cultural norms,” Ramirez Cortés says.

IEEE IMS in 2017 launched a three-year Africa initiative because it decided it needed more representation on the continent. The initiative is designed to improve services offered in Africa, increase membership, and add chapters. Since the initiative was launched, the society established its first African chapter, in South Africa, followed by one in Angola. A chapter in Ghana is in the process of forming. The society also has increased membership in Kenya, Nigeria, Tunisia, Uganda, and Zambia.

Supporting students and young professionals

Panels that cater to students and young professionals are part of IEEE IMS conferences. They cover how to become an IEEE leader, tips on finding a job, and related topics.

The society holds events for students at its conferences, such as a design competition, and it provides partial funding for travel. The winner of the design competition receives a cash prize and is honored at a luncheon.

About 12 percent of the society’s members are students.

IEEE IMS recently launched a mentoring program for students and young professionals that pairs young members with seasoned professionals in their field.

“The mentors work in academia, industry, and government,” Ramirez Cortés says. “Many of them are leaders in the society. They help guide participants throughout their careers, technical work, and getting involved in IEEE.”

Diversity with regard to race, religion, gender, disability, age, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, Ramirez Cortés says, brings the society “scientific, technological, and cultural richness.”

There are many DEI initiatives happening in societies like IEEE IMS across IEEE. Learn more on IEEE’s DEI website.

This article appears in the June 2023 print issue.

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