WEPAN is a non-profit educational organization founded in 1990 that advocates to fully embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion to meet the demands of today's innovation and performance-driven business culture. Dedicated to advancing cultures of inclusion and diversity in engineering higher education and workplaces, WEPAN connects people, research, and practice to increase participation, retention and success of women and other underrepresented groups in engineering from college to executive leadership. Dr. Stephani Page, WCEC organizational representative for WEPAN and member of the WCEC Leadership Team, provides her perspective on the WCEC’s role in promoting diversity and inclusion in the engineering profession.
Why is the WCEC important?
Women of Color represents a broad group impacted simultaneously by racialized and gendered access to opportunity and advancement. When we consider avenues to advancing diversity, inclusion, and equity for Women of Color in Engineering, our solutions and our determination of the effectiveness of our solutions must consider the aggregate and disaggregate experiences across aspects of identity within “women of color” along with other overlapping axes of marginalization. The WCEC applies this approach as it seeks to achieve change through collaboration and community along many critical points in the engineering ecosystem. Building a committed collective aids in approaching this work in ways that are sustainable and that seek to fix the system rather than deeming Women of Color as people who need to be “fixed” in order to traverse the system.
What is one activity that your organization is doing that aligns with the mission of the WCEC?
WEPAN is led by Women of Color Engineers and supporting the advancement of Women of Color is a core mission of the organization. WEPAN’s Women of Color Summit (WOCS) “recognizes that, while critical to STEM fields, Women of Color are often underserved, under-resourced, and undervalued in their respective fields.” The programming of the WOCS seeks to address this observation by bringing together Women of Color and those who authentically support Women of Color to share narratives, data, and actionable knowledge in order to support Women of Color thriving and advancing in their chosen fields.
How can engineering organizations better support women of color?
Engineering organizations must be prepared to disrupt the status quo in order to better support Women of Color. We know the negative impacts of “professionalism”, microaggressions, disparate pay, opportunity hoarding, etc. Engineering organizations can lead the way to disrupt the cultures and practices that give rise to inequities. The WCEC has worked to create a strategic plan that addresses the major challenges faced by Women of Color in Engineering spaces – this is truly a great place to start.
Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: Empowering SHPEtinas in the Workforce
Hispanic Heritage Month is a time of celebration, reflection, and recognition of the invaluable contributions made by Hispanic and Latino individuals to our society. Among these remarkable individuals, we find the inspiring SHPEtinas, a term coined by SHPE (Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers) to represent Hispanic women in the workforce who are making waves and transforming industries.
What is the SHPEtinas Program?
The SHPEtinas Program is an integral part of SHPE, dedicated to accelerating and affirming Latina representation at all levels of STEM corporate and academic leadership. Its mission is to encourage Latinas to pursue higher education and careers in STEM, recognizing the unique perspective they bring to solving the world's most pressing problems while creating new, influential role models for future leaders.
A Legacy of Empowerment
From boardrooms to laboratories, from classrooms to construction sites, SHPEtinas continue to break barriers and leave an indelible mark on the professional landscape. They embody the rich tapestry of cultures and backgrounds that make Hispanic Heritage Month such a vibrant celebration of our shared history and future aspirations.
Strength in Unity
One of the most remarkable aspects of SHPEtinas is their unwavering commitment to unity and mentorship. They are champions of empowerment, actively seeking ways to uplift their fellow women in the workforce. Through mentorship programs, networking events, and peer support, they are fostering an environment where success knows no bounds.
Resilience and Innovation
The journey of a SHPEtina often mirrors the stories of countless Hispanic trailblazers who've come before them. In the face of adversity, they show resilience that knows no bounds. Their unique perspectives, honed by the rich tapestry of their cultural heritage, ignite innovation, and inspire positive change in every industry.
Creating Pathways for the Future
During Hispanic Heritage Month, let's take a moment to reflect on the achievements of SHPEtinas and the incredible potential they bring to the workforce. Let's celebrate their diversity, their leadership, and their unwavering commitment to shattering glass ceilings. As we honor the past and look to the future, we salute the SHPEtinas who continue to inspire us all. Together, we can create a world where every talented individual, regardless of their background, can achieve their dreams.
Join us in recognizing and celebrating the remarkable contributions of SHPEtinas during Hispanic Heritage Month and beyond. Their stories remind us that diversity and inclusion are the driving forces behind progress, innovation, and a brighter tomorrow.
Professional Societies Respond to Attacks on DEI Programs
This summer, two Supreme Court cases effectively ended the use of affirmative action in higher education admissions. The Students for Fair Admissions Inc. v. University of North Carolina and Students for Fair Admissions Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard College reversed 45 years of legal precedent, agreeing with the plaintiff that using race in admissions violates the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.
In her dissent, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote, “The best that can be said of the majority’s perspective is that it proceeds (ostrich-like) from the hope that preventing consideration of race will end racism. But if that is its motivation, the majority proceeds in vain.”
Emboldened by the decision, multiple states immediately set forth dismantling their higher education DEI programs, a rollback that had already been in the works in both public education and in industry. In fact, since the Supreme Court’s affirmative action decisions, many employers are now scrutinizing their DEI efforts, cutting programs and staff as they try to determine ways to increase the diversity of their workforce while bracing for legal challenges to hiring programs and reverse discrimination lawsuits.
Professional STEM societies have a unique position in this battle. Spanning both education and career sectors, we are called to advocate for our members and ensure that where they live, learn, and work are supportive and inclusive for all.
For example, immediately after the Supreme Court decision on affirmative action was issued, more than 45 professional STEM societies signed a statement in response. Organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), it states,
“This court ruling will limit the ways our nation might expand talent in STEMM from historically excluded communities. Despite this outcome, we are committed to seeking legally attentive strategies to ensure a full range of talent is recruited, retained, and advanced across STEMM fields. We will continue to advance initiatives that will enable all students to cultivate their talent to the highest potential and tackle societal challenges while serving their communities.”
In addition to working together to respond to policy issues, professional STEM societies continue to offer a supportive community both inside and outside educational institutions and workplaces. While some organizations may be challenged to maintain their DEI programming, professional societies continue to offer community and professional development opportunities for STEM students, professionals, and employers. We remain steadfast in our commitment to encourage STEM employers to keep DEI a priority for their organizations.
The work of the WCEC is needed more than ever. Despite the pushback, organizations are still seeking ways to build a more inclusive and diverse workforce. As the DEI battle rages on, the WCEC offers a way for organizations to engage with one another and share practices and programs that they find are most impactful in recruiting and retaining diverse engineering talent. The WCEC leadership team understands the importance of this work, and we ask for your patience as we work towards implementing our strategic plan.
What is the Women of Color in Engineering Collaborative?
The Women of Color in Engineering Collaborative (WCEC) was created in 2021 as a partnership network of professional engineering societies and STEM-based companies. The WCEC is working to address systemic barriers that prohibit equitable work environments for women engineers of color.
Since its inception, the WCEC has grown to 29 organizations, created a shared vision and mission, and developed a strategic plan that will guide our efforts over the next few years. In our inaugural newsletter, we want to thank you for your interest and support of our work. We hope that you will engage with the WCEC as we begin implementing the strategies aimed at tackling the following five major challenges facing women of color (WOC) in the engineering workplace:
Improve pathways to internships, scholarships, and jobs in engineering
Reduce microaggressions, racism, and sexism in the workplace
Retain and amplify women of color in the workplace
Increase network inclusivity and sponsorships for women of color
Raise openness and reduce backlash to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practices
In our upcoming newsletters, we will explore each of these challenges and highlight the goals and strategies under each.
Want to Get Involved?
Are you interested in having your organization become a member of the WCEC? Read our membership guidelines and fill out an application. Learn more.
While we don’t offer membership to individuals, we do want to grow the WCEC community! Soon we will begin collecting profiles of amazing WOC engineers for our Inspiring Leaders database. We are also collecting resources from our member organizations to place in our online Resource Center. We will be using this newsletter to get the word out as these activities get underway. Please share the WCEC with your network and invite others to sign up for our newsletter through the Contact Us form on the WCEC website.
Upcoming WCEC Member Events
The WCEC shares the numerous professional activities offered by our member organizations. Member organizations are committed to creating a supportive, encouraging, and inclusive environment for WOC in engineering. Find out more about their events and register to attend!
SASE 2023 National Convention
Atlanta, GA, October 11-14, 2023
The Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE) is one of the fastest growing Asian and Pacific Islander (API) organizations in the country. The SASE National Conference and STEM Career Fair is the largest conference and career fair for Asian Americans in the United States with over 3,000 attendees. Learn more.
International Materials, Applications, and Technologies Conference (IMAT 2023)
Detroit, MI, October 16-19, 2023
IMAT brings together materials experts and organizations for industry collaborators across all market sectors. It is co-located with Heat Treat Conference and Expo and Motion + Power Technology Expo, offering over 500 technical presentations, keynotes, and panel discussions. Learn more & register.
2023 AISES National Conference
Spokane, WA, October 19-21, 2023
The Annual AISES National Conference is a unique, three-day event focusing on educational, professional, and workforce development for Indigenous peoples of North America and the Pacific Islands in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) studies and careers. Learn more & register.
WE23: SWE Annual Conference
Los Angeles, CA, October 26-28, 2023
WE23 is the Society of Women Engineers’ premier event for women in engineering and technology. The three-day event provides an opportunity to network with collegians and professionals, gain insight into career paths, and explore the latest advances. Attendees will have access to distinguished speakers from various industries leading conversations on innovation and development, as well as interactive workshops focusing on leadership skills and other engineering and technology topics. Learn more & register.
2023 SACNAS NDISTEM Conference
Portland, OR, October 26-28, 2023
SACNAS is an inclusive organization dedicated to fostering the success of Chicano/Hispanics and Native Americans, from college students to professionals, in attaining advanced degrees, careers, and positions of leadership in STEM. At the 2023 SACNAS National Diversity in STEM (NDiSTEM) Conference, our community can learn and grow together through two types of sessions: STEM Symposia and Professional Development. Learn more & register.
CAMX: The Composites and Advanced Materials Expo
Atlanta, GA, October 30-November 2, 2023
CAMX brings all aspects of the world's composites and advanced materials communities together for one all-encompassing event. CAMX is where the industry meets to do business and discover the latest in products, solutions, and advanced industry technology. Learn more & register.
2023 SHPE National Convention
Salt Lake City, UT, November 1-5, 2023
SHPE National Convention serves as the country’s largest, annual gathering of Hispanic STEM students and professionals. Registration will open on August 2nd. Make sure to register early because this event sold out in 2022! Learn more & register.
WEPAN Women of Color Summit
Virtual, November 15, 2023
The Women of Color Summit (WOCS) brings together Women of Color in STEM with individuals and organizations who authentically support WOC in thriving and advancing in their chosen fields. The WOCS continues to raise awareness of both the common and the unique experiences of WOC as they navigate STEM careers while emphasizing the need to disaggregate WOC identities in order to develop effective practices. Learn more & register.
ASCE INSPIRE 2023
Arlington, VA, November 16-18, 2023
As our world expands through innovation, technology, and in population, civil engineers have a renewed call to action: Ensure that the built environment is safe, dynamically resilient, sustainable, future-ready, and adaptive to changing climate conditions. Join conversations on the most pressing issues in infrastructure and BE INSPIRED! Learn more & register.
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Funded by the National Science Foundation Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science Program, Awards 2040634 and 2310386, the Women of Color in Engineering Collaborative (WCEC) is a partnership network of professional engineering associations, STEM-based companies, and higher education institutions dedicated to addressing systemic barriers that prohibit equitable work environments for women engineers of color. Through the WCEC, partner organizations will better leverage their resources to promote systemic change while working collectively to decrease the barriers that lead to the attrition of women engineers of color.