Heather Doty’s first experience with the Society of Women Engineers was in sixth grade, when she wrote about Marie Curie for the group’s essay contest on Great Women in Science and Engineering.
Today, Doty is serving as president of the international organization of more than 42,000 members, which has been championing women in engineering since 1950.
She originally joined SWE as a sophomore at CU Boulder, where she earned her BS and MS in civil engineering, in addition to a BA in music and an MBA. While she said her experience as a female engineering student in the late 1990s was generally positive, she credits SWE with helping her find her community.
“I really enjoyed SWE because it’s how I met people outside my major,” she said. “My double major in music helped me focus in a lot of ways, but I didn’t form the same bonds with my cohort because of the way my classes were scheduled.”
One of Doty’s best memories was piling into a university van with her fellow members to travel to a SWE regional conference during her sophomore year.
“We really bonded, and when they asked who wanted to host the next year, we volunteered,” she said. She would later become president of the CU Boulder section.
Doty will serve as national SWE president through June 2021. As she was preparing to lead the 2020 national conference, which runs through Nov. 13, she was especially looking forward to the scholarship presentation, when she’d get to announce the organization’s support for a new generation of collegiate SWE members.
“We’re giving out $1 million in scholarships for the first time, which is really exciting,” she said.
Doty is also active in supporting engineering students at her alma mater. Through Ball Aerospace, where she works as a project engineer, Doty has worked with the BOLD Center to mentor students and provide resume critiques. At Ball Day in 2018, she led tours of Ball’s facility in Boulder.
Part of the mission of SWE is to make sure those engineers graduate into a workforce that supports them fully, Doty said. They host an annual congressional outreach day for topics like STEM education and family-friendly workplace policies, and have worked on bipartisan legislation around re-entry programs that help people get back into the workforce after military or family leave.
During COVID, Doty has appreciated the activity in SWE’s Facebook group, where women are sharing struggles and solutions around working from home.
“We’re trying to be that organization that’s there for people no matter where they are,” she said.