Society features

Being more inclusive pays off for this IEEE society

Small changes over time can lead to big results, the saying goes. A good example is the concerted effort of
IEEE Instrumentation and Measurement Company began over two decades ago to become a more welcoming and inclusive environment for women and members outside of the United States. Since 2012, the company has increased the number of female members by more than 60 percent. And more papers are now submitted by authors from China, India and Italy than from North America.

“We tackled one diversity factor at a time,” says IEEE senior member
Ferdinanda Ponci, the company liaison IEEE Women in Engineering (WIE), a position created over 10 years ago to coordinate joint activities and programs.


Ponci says being a liaison with the WIE committee has been a key factor in his engagement in diversity, equity and inclusion activities.

“This amazing group is a constant motivation and my reality is that women’s participation, career advancement and DCI are very real life changing missions,” she says.

Ponci is one of the people involved in the company’s efforts. She is also a member in a personal capacity of the administrative committee of the society and treasurer of the conference.

“I think we have a really good performance across the board now,” Ponci says, although she adds that there is still more to do.

She is a professor and researcher in zone surveillance and distributed control with the
Institute for the Automation of Complex Electrical Systems at RWTH Aachen University, in Germany.

Ponci recently spoke with
The institute on how she and her colleagues have improved diversity within the Instrumentation and Measurement Society. She said this was done “intentionally, strategically and systematically” as President of the 2016-2017 company, Ruth dyer, Ponci and others recalled on the company’s AdCom. Dyer is currently the Director of Division II of the IEEE.

DETERMINED LAWYERS

Over the past 20 years, the company has increased the number of women presenting and leading sessions at its conferences, workshops and seminars; hold managerial positions; and sit on the technical committees of the program.

The push came from advocates among company executives who were determined to increase representation, Ponci says.

In 1992, there was only one member of the company’s AdCom outside of the United States and Canada, and no women. This was the situation when Dyer’s husband,
Stephen A. Dyer, joined AdCom as editor-in-chief of IEEE transactions on instrumentation and measurement. The IEEE Life Fellow has started working to identify more women and individuals from other geographic areas to include as candidates on the AdCom ballot. A real discussion about diversity, equity and inclusion began then and continues, Ponci says.

Ruth Dyer was elected to AdCom in 1999 and served as first officer in 2007. A second woman was not elected to the committee until 2009. Between 2010 and 2021, the company numbered between six and nine female voting members, says Ponci. They include elected members, officers who are not currently elected, and appointed representatives. Some were recruited from the conference attendees.

From 2007, IEEE Fellow
Reza Zoughi, who would later be elected president of the company in 2014-2015, began appointing many of its current and former students to the appointed positions. He continues to be a strong advocate for diversity.

The company has had at least one woman nominated as its representative for undergraduates, graduates or young professionals almost every year since 2007, Ponci says.

This is important, she said, because the appointees have the right to vote.

Ruth Dyer coordinated the first informal networking session for women in 2006 at the company’s flagship event, the
IEEE International Conference on Instrumentation and Measurement Technologies. There was more participation of women as speakers and chairs of the program’s technical committees at this year’s conference, Ponci says. Since 2012, Women able events took place regularly as part of the program.

The company’s nominations and nominations committee ensured that experienced women were appointed to management positions. The idea was that officers in turn identify other talented women for committee appointments.

“It became normal, and we expected the committees to be more diverse,” says Ponci. “I think it was a big change emotionally and culturally.”

These efforts would not have been possible without the visible support of the leaders of the company, including the Dyers and Zoughi, as well as many other agents who have advocated for diversity and supported the networking events for women at the conferences of the company, Ponci said.

“They attended these events and encouraged other male and female AdCom members to attend to show their support for the company,” she says. “We need more male lawyers because without them it looks like a ‘woman thing’, and it isn’t.”

Women and individuals from various geographic regions who have technical expertise in instrumentation and measurement have been encouraged to publish their research articles in company publications and to serve as reviewers and associate editors.

iStockphoto / IEEE

IEEE Instrumentation and Measurement Magazine marked the contributions and achievements of female members of society and field experts in its June 2016 Special [left]. In his president’s message, Dyer wrote:

“I am always in awe of the strength and excellence that results when we embrace and encourage diversity. Time and time again, we find that the most robust solutions are achieved when a plethora of perspectives are researched and incorporated. As the disciplines of science and engineering continue to shift their attention and efforts towards greater inclusion, we know that our instrumentation and measurement society will continue to thrive and grow, as we are committed to fostering and to reap the benefits of an inclusive society.

In June, the company joined 21 other IEEE organizational units that made the IEEE WIE commitment [see below] working on ‘gender diverse panels at all IEEE meetings, conferences and events’.

GEOGRAPHICAL DIVERSITY

To increase global representation in society, he turned his attention to IEEE regions 8, 9 and 10.

“We have deliberately launched the effort for geographic diversity,” says Ponci.

The company used the same strategy it had with women: getting more qualified people from other regions on the ballot and in personal membership positions; nudge them to become associate editors and article reviewers; and increase their representation on editorial boards. Researchers from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East were encouraged to submit papers to the company’s publications.

Prior to 1997, there had only been one or two elected members of AdCom outside of the United States and Canada, Ponci says. From 1997 to 2009, however, at least one of the four representatives elected each year was from Region 8, 9 or 10. That number increased to three from 2010 to this year.

The first representative of region 9, senior member of the IEEE
Jorge F. Daher, became the president of the company in 2012. The company elected the second representative of Region 10 in 2010 and one every year since.

From 2017, IEEE Fellow
Shervin Shirmohammadi, editor-in-chief of IEEE transactions on instrumentation and measurement, lobbied for the inclusion of people from under-represented geographies among associate editors.

Region 10, which covers Asia and the Pacific region and is home to the largest community of instrumentation and measurement technologists, was targeted first. Most of the current members of the editorial board of the
Transactions come from the region.

“Being able to select the best from a large number of participants is more than we could have hoped for,” says Ponci.

HARVESTING THE BENEFITS

Ponci says efforts to improve geographic and gender diversity are paying off.

“We have been successful in attracting the most motivated and active individuals in all areas” of the company, she says. “The company’s activities have multiplied and improved.

Discussions with members are now a “mix of commonalities and differences,” she adds. “Of course, that requires that people really want to listen and not dismiss the point of view of others. This is something that diversity and inclusion really pushes. It forces you to stop and listen before you reject and before you judge. ”

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