The Society of Women Engineers aims to help women achieve their full potential as engineers and leaders.
The society, founded in 1950, also works to expand the image of the engineering profession as a positive force in improving quality of life and demonstrate the value of diversity.
Beyond their careers, engineers can contribute to their communities in a variety of ways. One way is to participate in local government.
The Eastern Washington Section, charted in 1976, believes participating in local government advances our society’s mission. Richland, Kennewick and Pasco all have advisory boards, commissions and committees comprised of citizen volunteers.
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We reviewed city committee compositions as of September 2017. Richland has 12 volunteer committees; four of which have just one woman member and two have none.
Kennewick has eight volunteer committees. Two with just one woman member and one with no women.
Pasco has eight volunteer committees; four of which have just one woman member.
To better understand the reasons for these low numbers, we tried a data-driven assessment by contacting each city manager to request reports on how many men and how many women applied for each of the committees for the last three application cycles. The city managers in Kennewick and Pasco did not reply to our requests.
For the six Richland committees, the city clerk’s data showed a total of 60 men and nine women applied during that time. Of those, 30 percent were incumbent committee members.
The Eastern Washington Section of the Society of Women Engineer encourages the cities to advertise these opportunities widely in order to attract a diverse pool of candidates. We also endorse advertising specific selection criteria for applicants.
Making the criteria clear will help ensure an objective, qualifications-driven selection process. We also recommend that our cities be responsive to citizen requests for information.
To our fellow female engineers, we encourage you to apply for these committees in greater number.
By volunteering our significant expertise in this and other avenues for which we are passionate, we can contribute to our local community’s quality of life and demonstrate the value of diversity.
Alice Orrell has been an active SWE member since college, is a past region governor and is currently the Eastern Washington Section’s president. The Eastern Washington Section’s endowed Wanda Munn Scholarship is granted annually to a non-traditional/re-entry female student pursuing an engineering degree in the Pacific Northwest.