I'm a lifetime member of the Society of Women Engineers [S.W.E.]. This is the story...
While I was earning my B.S.E.E., I was encouraged by my electrical engineering professors to become a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers [I.E.E.E.] Being naive, I agreed. The student membership fee was nominal, so when the time came I renewed it for a second year.
During those two years, I learned that joining I.E.E.E. enabled me to pay the membership fee for a minimum of service. If I wanted more, say to join a particular I.E.E.E. professional society I would have no idea if I wanted to join prior to entrance, I would have the privilege of paying more money for that additional membership. I saw this as paying the annual membership multiple times each year: once for the door to the back yard, then once more for every tree house I cared to climb into.
Toward the end of the second year of membership, I feel like I.E.E.E. was utilizing cable television’s traditional business model: pay for access, and then watch commercials; the show you intend to enjoy is mere filler. The online jobs board was atrocious at the time, especially for a student interested in internships and gainful employment post-graduation.
I let my I.E.E.E membership laps after the second year, no regrets. Five years later, fellow engineering classmates-turned-alumni expressed taking the same action for similar reasons.
Back at University, myself now a ronin of sorts, a classmate and friend approached me for help. She was a member of S.W.E., and needed volunteers for an engineering-themed demonstration and education day for area Girl Scout troops. Was I available to help? I asked if I, as a male, was allowed to participate. She didn’t even blink: “I don’t see why not, as long as you sign up for membership by next week.”
I did, and the Girl Scouts enjoyed making hover crafts and bottle rockets. A few years after graduation I decided to become a lifetime member. I’m now in the early stages of connecting with a local chapter, after years of moving around the country.
It turns out that S.W.E. allowed a Men’s Auxiliary of SWE [MASWE] in 1967, but it wasn’t until 1976 that all men were allowed the possibility of full membership as a matter of bylaw. I’d like to think this, and my eventual personal membership in S.W.E., had something to do with Title IX in 1972, but the connection may be only in my mind.
I didn’t mind the funny looks when I turned down a party to hang out with Girl Scouts – enough classmates knew the story for me not to worry. Now-a-days, I’m more than happy for the talking point.