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Have you ever wondered about the best way to confront workplace sexism? Guest speaker Kate Van Dellen provided insight to Dallas SWE members in the April Professional Development meeting.  On Tuesday, April 19 at Coffee House Café Dallas SWE Members were able to have a dialogue about identifying sexism and learning how to speak up when it happens within your workplace environment. You can find a PDF copy of Kate’s presentation here.

One of the major points of the presentation is in discovering the power of calling it out.  Sexism does not go away when you don’t speak up about it.  Most importantly, the way you speak up matters most.  What is your go to response? Kate shared her response being “Not cool” meaning that what is being said is not appropriate and offensive.


Guest Speaker Kate Van Dellen

Have you heard of sexism whiplash?  Kate shared that sometimes people are not even aware that sexism is happening. Here are some key takeaways from this part of the presentation:

  • How can you tell when sexism is happening to you
    • Is it polite?
    • What if we called it “manners” instead of “sexism”?
    • It doesn’t need to be a “man” verses “woman” thing
    • We’re just 6 billion people trying to get along
  •  Sexism is often not about gender, it’s about power
    • Do you feel like someone was trying to knock you down a peg?
    • Is this a win/loose situation?
      • Men are accustomed to women being the losers
      • “You throw like a girl”
    • Does the comment make you feel isolated?

Kate shared many modern definitions of sexism.  One of the definitions states that it is a language that tells a group that someone doesn’t belong based on gender. For women, this is why it is important to empower the next generation of engineers to become advocates in knowing how and when to speak up about sexism.

The call to action from Kate’s presentation is learning what to do if you experience workplace sexism.  Some of the strategies shared include the following:

  • Develop a catch place – Your response to something that you feel is inappropriate in terms of sexism
  • Call it out promptly
  • Write down/email self with a narrative of the incident

Overall, Dallas SWE members walked away empowered to become advocates in calling out workplace sexism, bullying and in celebrating that who you are matters.

SWE Group Photo

Great group at our April meeting! Join us next time!

Bio: Kate Van Dellen’s background is in Aerospace Engineering and she has worked on missile defense, cargo aircraft, business jets, helicopters, and unmanned aviation. In September 2015, she started her own company, New Trees, to provide supplemental education in math and science. She was the FY14 SWE Society Membership Committee Chair and was recently awarded the SWE Distinguished New Engineer Award. She is a blogger for the Huffington Post and was recently featured as an author in VIDA literary magazine. Check out Kate’s article in VIDA literacy magazine here Report from the Field: Calling Out Actions Allows People to Grow

~Alicia M. Morgan, Dallas SWE Program Committee

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