This research paper describes how professional societies provide services to their members with a focus on the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). Professional societies fulfill many roles for their members. For underrepresented groups, the different roles become more important. Despite increasing numbers of women and other underrepresented groups in engineering academia, retention rates of women are still below the national average. Professional societies such as the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) may close the retention gap through community building. Not only do professional societies provide opportunities for networking and career building, but they also provide affirmation that there are others in similar roles. Although there are financial and time constraints to becoming active within a professional society not affiliated with one’s technical area, when academics feel that their involvement is valuable to their career development they will invest necessary time and money into the professional society. Similarities exist between how professional societies retain/attract faculty from underrepresented groups and how universities accomplish the same goal. This research paper focuses on how one professional organization, SWE, is providing opportunities to women in academia that include professional development, recognition/awards, networking, leadership development, and career advancement. In the past, SWE has been viewed as a non-technical professional society. However, SWE is uniquely positioned to provide a community that transcends the organizational boundaries by encompassing technical, service, and professional development areas for women in academia that is inclusive, collaborative, and supportive as well as connected to industry, government and academia on multiple levels.


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Hein, G. L., & Faas, D., & Lucietto, A. M., & Nagel, J. K., & Peters, D. L., & Reck, R. M., & Verstraete, M. C., & O'Bannon, D. J. (2016, June), The Changing Role of Professional Societies for Academics Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27356