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

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

Did you know that women pay more than men for healthcare coverage?

Think what you will about the Affordable Care Act this country is battling over, but did you know that this act would guarantee that women will no longer pay more for insurance premiums than men do for the same coverage.  It’s bad enough we get paid less then men for the same work, but we also have to pay more for the same coverage?  How did I not know this before now?

This practice even has a name – Gender Rating.  There are a lot of disturbing facts in this article, and I won’t repeat them all, but “56% of best-selling plans charge a 40-year-old woman who does not smoke more than a 40-year-old man who does”.  Really?

Passion is a gender-neutralizing force.

Have you heard of Marissa Mayer?  I probably should have been aware of her before now, but better late than never.  Mayer is the new CEO of Yahoo.  She is also the 20th person to work at Google.  She’s one of my new heroes.  And she is the source of the quote in the title of this article.

I’m a firm believer in the idea that women can do engineering, science, technology and math just as well as men, but if forced to give a reason why, I think I would have answered because we are just as smart as they are.  I like Mayer’s reasoning better.  If you have a passion for something, you should follow it.  And the more passionate person is going to succeed, regardless of their gender.

Another great quote from Mayer in the article linked above: “There is such a stereotype of the hacker — the pasty-skinned guy with the thick glasses, the pocket protector, the blue glow coming off of the monitor … people think if they’re going to be good at this, that’s what they need to be.”  Well Marissa, you’re proving them wrong.  You go girl!

Happy New Year!

For SWE, the year starts July 1st.  We do elections in late Spring/early Summer at the National, Regional and Local levels to select a new group of officers to lead the organization.  Over the summer, we re-energize and plan for the upcoming year – professional development, outreach, networking, social and technical events.  It’s a challenge every year to find a group of professional women with demanding careers and busy family lives to lead this volunteer organization but somehow our nominating committee does just that.  Sometimes it takes a little negotiation and cajoling, but we all recognize that supporting women in engineering of all ages and stages of career is important to all of us.  We know this is important to you too and hope that you are making a new year’s resolution to be more involved this year.  Watch this blog, our website and your email to find opportunities to be a part of this great organization all year long.

How can professional organizations get the most out of social media?

Is it too late to revisit sessions I attended at the Region conference back in February?  Hopefully you will indulge me.  I attended a session on using social media in SWE publicity.  This is one area where I envy the collegiate sections.  Their entire population is comfortable with social media and use it practically every aspect of their lives.

We opted to transition from a periodic newsletter to this blog.  The thought was that it would enable us to communicate with the membership more frequently and allow for a two-way conversation.  So I’m encouraging you all to talk back.  Let us know what you want to hear about.  Let us know events that you’d like to see SWE organize.  Pretend you are of an age that you can’t remember a time before email, texts, blogs and the term “social networking”.  What blogs do you follow?  Who do you follow on twitter?  Talk to me baby!

Suggestions for Sustainability

It is becoming more and more clear how we need to conserve or precious natural resources and reduce our carbon footprint. In honor of Earthday, I thought that I would provide my top 10 favorites list of easy ways to show the earth some love (in no particular order).

1. BYOB – Bring your own bag. If you forget (which I often do), and you are only buying 1 or 2 items, then tell the cashier you don’t need a bag. Sometimes I get strange looks, but it feels so good to come out of a store bagless and with the receipt in tow.

2. Turn off the water – remember to turn the water off in between activites of brushing teeth, washing hands, face, etc. This is also an easy way to teach conservation to your children. Remind them that water is a finite resource and we should only use what we need.

3. Buy a manual lawnmower – They are suprisingly easy to use and move quite well. Plus, they are a conversation starter. I can’t tell you how many neighbors we have met, just by using our manual lawnmower. It brings out the retro in all of us, plus, the price pays off in just about 1 year. At about $150 a pop, the reduction in money spent on gas will be priceless.

4. Rain barrels, and even better yet, rain gardens!! How fun is it to watch the rainwater run into a container where it is stored and you know you will be able to use it on a hot day!! I run my rain barrel water through a soaker hose and it works great!! I have yet to start a rain garden, but I hope to in my next house.

5. Plant trees and shrubs and landscape naturally. The trees and shrubs keep your house cooler and native plants require much less water. Most of the native plants I have planted required water the first year. Then after that, they come back year after year with no need for water!! VERY low maintenance!!! Plus, many of them outgrow that menacing creeping charlie (and other annoying weeds)!!

6. Reuse where you can. I can honestly tell you that at one time in our married lives, my husband and I furnished our house completely with hand me downs. We have some more new stuff now, but it always felt so good to give furniture a little more life…well loved is what I say. Also, I have always felt a sense of joy when I found a new treasure whilst “dumpster diving”. One of my favorite pieces of our artwork was found on the curb due to missing a small piece of bamboo frame.

7. Buy local with no hormones or preservatives. Fresh food tastes SOOOOOOOO good!! And it feels so good to know that you are only putting good food from mother earth into your body. It also feels good to know that the food hasn’t travelled around the globe to get to you.

8. Turn off the lights!! And appliances when you aren’t using them. This was one of the original ways to save the environment and it continues to be just as important!!!!

9. print on both sides. I don’t think that I have to say any more about this. If your eyes are particularly good, and you are just printing for reference, then also request to have more than one page per sheet. I have gone so far as printing 4 pages per sheet, double sided, when I have to print out a particularly long reference. I always get some good jostling from others when I do this, but once again, a conversation starter and I think others secretly respect my good eyesight.

10. Try to carpool. This is one of my favorites; however, sadly I haven’t been able to partake in this particular conservation effort. I will put good thoughts into the universe that one day my perfect carpool buddy will arrive.

What are your favorite conservation efforts? This is a conversation and I would love to hear your thoughts!!!

Sweeter Futures

Ever wonder if those random outreach events you volunteer for really make a difference?  SWE has recently launched a portal called Sweeter Futures whose purpose is the track the collective impact of SWE members on the future of engineering.  This initiative was started in Region B and has gone national.  Eventually this portal will become a resource for finding opportunities to get involved with outreach activities.  Until it reaches that critical mass, SWE is asking all members to log the time they spend on outreach activities.  I joined the site shortly after the participating in the DuPage Engineer’s Week event so I could log in my hours.  This site has great potential so go check it out!

Regionals Recap – Part 2 – Investing on Purpose

After breakfast at Regionals we had a break-out session while the students had their membership meeting.  I chose the “Savvy Women Invest on Purpose” session led by Haly Besaw.  She is currently a Financial Advisor for Baird in Milwaukee, but at heart and by degree she is an engineer.  She had some entertaining stories about advising engineers on their finances and how her colleagues didn’t always enjoy advising engineers because we are so numbers and details focused.  I’d never thought about it before, but it would be nice to talk money with someone who thought like me, or at least really understood why I am like I am.

The main thing I took away from that session was to get specific about what my goals are.  Right now I just save money because that is what my parents taught me to do, and I want to be able to live comfortably when I retire.  I need more of a plan and purpose that that.  She told us about a woman who died with something like a million dollars in the bank (or some really large number) but never helped her grandchildren pay for school.  I don’t want to be that lady.  I want my money to do the most good that it can for my family and others so it’s time to get intentional about it.

See?  This is why I write this blog.  I was all convicted about doing this four weeks ago at the conference, but I’d already let it fall too low on my todo list.  Now it will get back up there where it belongs.  So tell me, what purpose are you saving and investing for?