IEEE Women in Engineering Leads a Pledge to Make Speaker Panels More Gender Balanced, By Lisa Lazareck Asunta
THE INSTITUTE How many times have you been to an IEEE conference and didn’t see someone like you speaking on a panel—demonstrating leadership, explaining technology, and engaging with the engineering community? For women, this is a common and frustrating occurrence.
In a survey IEEE conducted in 2017 about its female members’ experiences in the workplace, respondents reported that female speakers and panelists were underrepresented at tech conferences, and few were asked to serve as the event’s general or technical chair.
“You have to see it to be it,” tennis great Billie Jean King said in a 2017 talk about the importance of a U.S. federal civil rights law that protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs. King said young girls were inspired when they saw other females participate in sports.
The same can be said about women in technology. Research shows that when it comes to keeping females in the engineering field, the importance of belonging, mentorship, and seeing someone like yourself in positions of leadership is key. If women never see a female keynote speaker at a conference, chances are they will start believing that they will never get that opportunity.
The IEEE Women in Engineering group has been working to change things. WIE is a global network of IEEE members and volunteers dedicated to promoting female engineers and scientists, as well as inspiring girls around the world to follow their academic interests in a career in engineering and science. As of March, WIE had nearly 12,200 female members; more than 5,900 men; plus 2,800 individuals who didn’t disclose their gender in their IEEE membership profile. WIE has more than 960 affinity groups in 100 countries. It also has ambassadors throughout IEEE at every level of leadership. Read more