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2016 WEPAN Change Leader Forum
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WEPAN's 27th annual conference - the 2016 WEPAN Change Leader Forum - was attended by advocates and leaders from academia, business, nonprofit and government organizations who gathered together to share best practices and hear from leading experts about building inclusive cultures that engage and retain the diverse workforce of the future. After two and half days of interactive dialogue, workshops, panels and presentations, participants left the Forum with new energy, resources, strategies and contacts to help them and their organizations grow closer to their goals. WEPAN's annual gathering has come a long way since its inaugural conference held May 30-June 1, 1990 in Washington, DC. What began as a convening of individuals interested in attracting and retaining women in engineering programs across the country has grown to a forum that brings together thought- and change-leaders who seek to use research-based knowledge and strategies to create and sustain inclusive, diverse, and equitable cultures in engineering. Notable thoughts from Forum attendees this year include:

  • "I grew my network and support system. I also get to engage in issues surrounding the engineering culture--in terms of race and gender biases. I rarely get to discuss avenues to change institutions to create more inclusive environments, but the WEPAN Forum was a wonderful space to discuss these issues and potential solutions."  
  • "Abby Stewart's talk was amazing. It was filled with very specific and helpful institutional data and insight. She was also an incredibly encouraging woman."
  • "This was an EXCELLENT conference, the best of the three that I have attended. The participation of so many NAMEPA members was great - I love the collaboration of the two organizations!!!"
  • "Overall, it was a great opportunity to meet individuals from all over the country who are passionate about progressing women in engineering. It is absolutely invigorating and inspiring."

WEPAN's 2016 Change Leader Forum attracted 195 participants from 3 countries and 36 states.


“Four Frames For the Future” was the theme of this year’s Forum and references WEPAN’s change model, which is structured around the "Framework for Promoting Gender Equity in Organizations." The four approaches identified in the framework provide different perspectives on pathways to achieving gender equity, and ultimately conclude that the complexities of organizational cultures play a significant role in sustaining the desired change. This research suggests that substantial culture change in engineering will require a broader spectrum of partners working at multiple levels. The Change Leader Forum focused on this intentional rebuilding of the culture in engineering education and the engineering workforce. Over the two and a half days of the Forum, participants enjoyed keynote presentations, panels, workshops, focused conversations, High-5 Talks. The Forum was also the venue for the 2016 WEPAN Awards Ceremony.

Highlights of the 2016 Forum include: 

Forum Plenaries 

Title IX on the Playing Field and All Across Campus: Preventing Title IX
Harassment in Engineering

Often associated with sports, Title IX is a policy about which engineering colleges should be informed. Facilitated by Nicole Nieto of Ohio State, a panel of experts in the area of Title IX -- Kellie Brennan from Ohio State, Sandra Roesti from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights, Region 8, and Teresa Wroe of the University of Colorado at Boulder -- opened the 2016 Forum to engage participants in considering how Title IX can be used to create a culture of change within engineering colleges and across campus. Dialogue included actions that engineering faculty, staff and administrators can take to prevent gender and sex-based harassment; initiatives that engineering colleges can undertake to help ensure that their education does not exclude or deny benefits to any person on the basis of sex; and how building a relationship with campus-based Title IX coordinators can help engineering colleges take proactive steps to value difference and manage culture.

Workplaces Cultures Engineering Graduates Can Expect: A Corporate Panel

Facilitated by Joan Buccigrossi, a panel consisting of Mike Hutchings from Rockwell Automation, Livia Konkel from Thomson Reuters, Krystle Rendon from Nucor's Vulcraft New York Division, Laura Sabattini from Catalyst, and Shariq Yosufzai from Chevron Corporation, spoke to the Forum about how they are building inclusive cultures to improve recruitment and retention of technical talent, to increase diversity, and to strengthen innovation and business performance. Businesses today demand "T-shaped" engineers who bring well-developed technical capacity as well as highly-collaborative team skills. Stories from the leaders inspired participants to think about the work they are doing in their own organizations and institutions, and the kinds of collaborations they can create to ensure new engineering graduates thrive and advance in today's global and diverse workplaces.

Celebrating Difference at the Intersection of Race and Gender in Engineering

In this engaging and interactive plenary session, participants explored questions like: What are the similar--and different--experiences of women of color and white women in engineering and STEM environments? What are the implications of these similar/different experiences for building healthy, equitable spaces in engineering and STEM? Dr. Brenda Allen led a discussion that touched on complex factors related to power, privilege, oppression and resistance that shape our culture and underpin women's experiences in engineering and STEM. Following her session, participants found themselves eager to continue conversations on finding ways to build healthy, equitable spaces that support inclusive behaviors at the intersection of race and gender by considering practical guidance, strategies and techniques.

Institutional Transformation: The Process of Change

A highly-respected, leading thinker and researcher on the psychology of women's lives, personality and adaptation to personal and social changes, Dr. Abby Stewart from the University of Michigan engaged Forum participants in dialogue about her university's effort at institutional change over a period of 15 years, the indicators of success, particular factors that may account for that success, as well as factors that operated to slow and limit change. College and university leaders in the audience came away with a better understanding of the complexity and effort required to begin systemic climate change at their own institutions.

Creating and Sustaining Inclusive & Diverse Cultures in Engineering Departments

The final keynote of the 2016 Change Leader Forum brought together team members from the TECAID (Transforming Engineering Culture to Advance Inclusion and Diversity) project, whose focus is to provide intensive professional development for mechanical engineering departments who have committed to faculty-driven culture change. Participants learned about how this project, which provides expert support to five mechanical engineering department teams across the country, has helped faculty and department leaders in creating inclusive educational environments. Brady Gibbons from Oregon State University, Klod Kokini of Purdue University, Diane Matt from WEPAN, and Tom Perry of the American Society for Mechanical Engineering shared perspectives on positive results in diversity and inclusion knowledge, confidence and action by department teams and on possibilities for extending and scaling up the work of TECAID.


Track Sessions 

Intermixed among the plenaries were focused conversations, workshops, panels, high-five talks and showcase exhibits covering a wide range of inclusion and diversity topics categorized into four tracks:

  1. Beyond the Dean's Pledge: Moving Toward Academic Culture Change
  2. Corporate & University Inclusion Initiatives
  3. Roles for Diversity Programs in Engineering Culture Change
  4. Women of Color & White Women in Healthy, Equitable Engineering Environments  







Forum participants engaged in a wide range of experiences together - informative, educational, emotional, enlightening, inspiring and thought-provoking. One thing was clear: Forum participants appreciated the opportunity for dialogue on such important and sometimes sensitive topics. There is the need to continue the conversations in future WEPAN Forums and related programs both virtual and in-person.

See also the 2016 Schedule at a Glance and 2016 Proceedings.


Forum Sponsors



Forum Committee


WEPAN's Change Leader Forum is made possible by the hard work of many volunteers from all over the country, who work many months to pull the annual Forum together each June. Much deep appreciation goes out to Meltem Erol (Forum Co-Chair), Taylor Shire (Forum Co-Chair), and Jennifer Groh (Board Liaison) for their leadership of this committee. 




Planning for the 2017 Change Leader Forum is underway! Click here to learn more.



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