About SWE Chicago

We are the Chicago Regional Section of the Society of Women Engineers. We are dedicated to the professional development of all women engineers in the Northern Illinois and Northwestern Indiana. This site is primarily focused on keeping our members informed of events and activities.

Is the pressure getting to you?

The crowd is on their feet cheering.  The basketball game between University of Kentucky and Texas A & M is in overtime.  With just 1:11 remaining, Ulis scored to give UK a one point lead.  

The clock ticks down … 12 seconds, 11, 10 and at 9 seconds remaining, UK’s Humphries is fouled by Texas while pulling down a rebound.  The clock stops with UK still just holding the lead.  However, with a heightened level of excitement, Humphries slams the ball to the ground thinking the call was against him.  He is no doubt frustrated.  The whistle screams as the official calls a technical foul on Humphries.  It was his final foul of the game and he had to take the bench.

How many times have you acted out in frustration?  

At this point, the protocol of the game allowed Texas A & M to take the shots for the technical foul first, and they did not miss – pulling their score up to a one-point lead.  With 9 seconds remaining, UK had little time to pull this one out.  

What are the consequences of you cracking under pressure?  Are they regrettable?

Because UK’s Humphries was in foul trouble and pulled from the game, and he could not take the foul shots. His teammate had two shots at the basket for that foul called on Humphries.  He made one bucket evening out the score to a tie.

The ball was put back into play.  In those final 9 seconds, UK couldn’t rally to the bucket.  Texas got the ball and drove for a 2-pointer to win the game.  

Humphries stated in the wrap up interview that he “will learn from this.”  Texas expressed ‘Thanks’ as they were somewhat surprised they won against the 14th ranked Kentucky powerhouse.

Do you crack under pressure and regret it later?  

Why do some team members choke under the pressure of presentations or client meetings? The brain can impair critical decision making and memory recall without warning.  Acquire an understanding of how the challenges of a manager or team member affect performance and resiliency and how neuroscience based interventions can address these. The APA reports that stress costs corporations $300 billion a year in absences, medical costs, lost productivity and turnover. Learn techniques to combat emotional outbursts, impulsivity, anger and subsequently lost productivity while increasing your team’s executive functioning and performance

On April 6th, please join SWE – Chicago for a Professional Development event as we are hosted by Continental Corporation for appetizers and speaker Debbie Vyskocil presenting “Choking Under Pressure.”  For more on this FREE event and registration, go to http://chicago.swe.org/events.html.

April Bledsoe, SWE-CRS, VP – Professional Development FY 16

What are you up to?

It starts with an innocent question: “What do you do?” Then you give an answer and reactions can vary from surprise to disbelief to awe. I personally love the wide eyed looks when I tell someone I’m a nuclear structural engineer. However, I have a feeling those stares have more to do with the word ‘nuclear’ than ‘engineer’. Regardless of the satisfaction in defying someone’s expectations, it can become grating to be constantly questioned about your career. “Really?You’re an engineer?”

The #ILookLikeAnEngineer hash-tag has taken social media by storm the past month. So many wonderful women (and men!) have contributed to the growing awareness that there is no one ‘look’ for an engineer. We are an extremely diverse group of dedicated professionals. While this is fantastic, let’s not forget where this all started. It started with a female engineer who got tired of her profession being questioned. “Are you really an engineer?” How many times have we all been asked that or something similar? This experience is not unique to female engineers. In fact, if you look closely (or really just a passing glance) you’ll see this happen to women and minorities in all areas of life.

Are you really into comics/gaming? That question spurred the ‘fake geek girl’ label some men used to diminish females interested in geek culture. Are youreally an athlete? gets asked of anyone who might not have a perfect ‘athletic’ body. Are you really a lawyer? Are you really a sports fan? Are you really an honors student? Are you really [insert whatever you like]? Questioning women in whatever role they declare themselves to be has become so pervasive, we even do it to each other: Are you really a mother if you leave your children to work? And no matter what the question, the ultimate purpose behind it is to make you prove you are what you say you are.

Questioning women’s and minority’s credentials has become such a common occurrence that it’s crept into our professional lives as well. Studies have consistently shown that there is an unconscious bias against women and minorities.  A woman or minority has to have more qualifications to be perceived at the same level of competency as a less qualified male counterpart. This is just a further extension of the ‘prove it’ mentality. It’s as if half of the population decided that the other half is so untrustworthy, our motives should be questioned at all times because you never know when we might be ‘up to something’.

You know what? They might be on to something. I think we are up to something. I don’t know about you, but I’m constantly up to being an engineer. We’re up to our hobbies and passions. We’re up to being wives, partners, mothers, and caregivers. We’re up to being activists and champions of different causes. So let’s not disappoint them shall we? Let’s show them that we are up to something! Be up to whatever makes you unequivocally and uniquely you!

CRS is Kicking it into High Gear!

Hello Chicagoland!

You’ve probably noticed a few changes happening in the past few weeks. Well, as of July 1st, SWE has a brand new look! This has been several years in the making and the result of a lot of hard work at the Society level. The original SWE logo was adopted back in 1960 by then Society President Beatrice Hicks with the help of the Emblem Committee Chair Jeanne Young.


Few changes have been made since then until 2000 when we added the words “Society of Women Engineers” to the gear and adopted the tag line Aspire Advance Achieve.


Now in 2015, 65 years after SWE began, we’ve adopted a new logo to reflect the modern, progressive, and global organization we’ve become.


I hope you will join the Chicago Regional Section this year at any of our wonderful events. From Professional Development to Outreach to Technical Tours. This year promises to be a good one! The Executive Council and Committee Chairs are busy planning workshops and opportunities we hope you’ll find worthwhile. Check out our calendar for more details. If you haven’t been active in a while there’s no time like the present to come back.

Don’t forget to take a look through our website at the committee descriptions. We are still looking for interested members to head up a few of our committees.

I can’t wait to see you at our next event!

Kristine Barnes

FY16 SWE-CRS President

How many ways can you launch a ping pong ball into the air?

Last Saturday myself and several other SWE members participated in the College and Career Expo at Harper College.  We had a booth full of information from Engineer Your Future and fun giveaway from some sponsoring companies.  We also had a room where kids could build ping pong call launchers using paint sticks, small paper cups, duct tape and wooden spindles.

The kids were a bit daunted to begin with because we gave them very little direction.  We wanted them to be creative and it seem to have worked.  They all impressed me with their design and construction skills, especially the ones who launched multiple balls at a time.  Let me assure you that they all earned their “Future Engineer” pins.


Stay In and Vote!

It’s a great privilege to pick your leaders.  Whatever level they are at, they can have considerable influence over your life.  It’s important to take the time and express your preference for how you should be led by voting.  Presidential campaigns are ramping up, but the most pressing election on your calendar should be the SWE elections.  You have until Tuesday, May 1 to pick next year’s leaders.

One of the best part about SWE elections is that you can do it from anywhere, as long as you have an internet connection.  If you are a member, you should have received information with a unique code.  Go to  http://swe.societyelection.com, type in the number, read through the bios, and make your choices.  If you need help, call 312-596-5223 and a live person will walk you through it.

Less than 5% of the SWE membership voted last year.  Do your part to get that number up!


Great Companies for Leaders

CNN recently listed the top 25 companies for leaders.  My favorite was Procter and Gamble.  Every single CEO of P&G started at an entry-level position.  I wonder if P&G will be able to sustain this habit as it continues to be less and less common to stick with one company for your entire career.

My former company used to devote a lot of resources to training for employees, technical and soft skills/leadership.  I appreciated the opportunity to take part in some of that training, but I ultimately left the company because of the horrific management and leaders I had to work under.  I guess it just goes to show the system isn’t perfect.

From what I’ve seen so far, my new company does not have as much structure in place for training and development though they do have an identification process that allows you to be exposed to inside information and senior leaders.  You give up things like that at smaller companies.  The majority of the companies on CNN’s top 25 were well-known.  Can small companies be as successful and systematic at growing leaders as the big ones?

What does your company due to nurture leaders and potential leaders?

Unlimited Vacation

A common theme that keeps popping up on the top stories on LinkedIn is unique benefits. I read an article today promoting four day work weeks.  But the one that was even more appealing was about unlimited vacation.  I’d take either or both certainly.  My company seems to be bucking the trends and discouraging working from home and instituting a stricter dress code.  I was a little shocked at the casualness of dress when I first joined, but I adapted a bit too well perhaps.  It is certainly easier to go more casual than more formal.  Do my dressing habits indicate how I would respond to unlimited vacation?  Would I take advantage?  Maybe.  I generally like my job, but I can usually think of other ways to occupy my time.

Do you have any unique or interesting benefits at your company?  Do you take advantage of it?  What benefit do you wish you had?

Welcome to our blog!

Welcome to our blog!  We are the Chicago Regional Section for the Society of Women Engineers.  This blog will provide news and reviews of events as they happen.  It is also a place for conversations to happen about engineering, technology and anything of interest to female engineers.  Join the conversation now!