A Survey of Women in Academia and the Role of a Multidisciplinary Professional Society


The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) is a global professional society of over 30,000 members with a mission to "Stimulate women to achieve full potential in careers as engineers and leaders, expand the image of the engineering profession as a positive force in improving the quality of life, and demonstrate the value of diversity"1. SWE is an organization that is deeply rooted in industry. The founding members were employed by firms that are a result of the industrial revolution, and thus the focus of its membership is on those that work for industry, consultants, and often themselves. This focus has unintentionally left a large population of its membership, the academic population, underrepresented and misunderstood. Early discussion at the board level in the mid 2000's indicated a willingness for a paradigm shift. However, the representation of academics on the board and other leadership roles has been lacking. This can be attributed to the lower numbers of this group relative to the whole, as well as the requirements of tenure that do not support the time and dedication to such an endeavor. A small but influential group of members, including a former board member, and a few involved at various levels of the society have been working toward increasing opportunities for women in academia (WIA). Some of the initiatives have been the societal support of the WIA committee, the addition of professional development opportunities targeting women in academic careers, providing recognition and awards, and aiding in networking opportunities. These all lead toward career advancement, making SWE more attractive to women engineers in the academe. To further our understanding of available opportunities and those opportunities that will make membership and active participation more attractive to members in academia, a survey was developed. Information gathered by the survey include demographics, perceived needs, and potential contributions the individual could make in furthering the creation of professional development opportunities for this population. This work is intended to share the results of this survey, using descriptive statistics, further developing our understanding of this underserved population within SWE.

Meeting Name

124th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition (2017: Jun. 25-28, Columbus, OH)


Chemical and Biochemical Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Engineering education; Engineers; Image enhancement; Population statistics; Surveys, Academic careers; Career advancement; Descriptive statistics; Engineering profession; Industrial revolutions; Large population; Professional development opportunities; Society of women engineers, Professional aspects

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Conference proceedings

Document Version


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© 2017 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jun 2017

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