I once read a book review that spoke about how every change begins with a conversation. Ten years ago when I worked in Houston, it was just like that, a conversation that spun into something bigger than anything I could have done alone.
I was at the International Conference on Environmental Systems, in Vancouver, B.C., July of 2003. A woman that I had seen around the office, but who worked on a different team than I was on, talked to me about how few woman engineers she saw at work. I immediately started introducing her to so many of the women I had met through my work and at the conference.
At that time, I was the second woman on my team. The first had been active in the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), and encouraged us to see what we could start in the Houston area. I had gone to one SWE meeting as a freshman in college, and never went back. In college, it just didn't feel like something that I needed. And if it had just been me, I probably would have given up on starting an organization in my community as too much work. But with three of us, every time one or two was busy, the third would usually find one more piece to the puzzle, that would inspire us to move that ball a little bit further. Within two months I had paid my dues and joined the Society.
As advised, we sent out an invitation to lunch at a local restaurant, that brought out a couple of dozen women engineers in the area, some with SWE experience. We started meeting for lunch on a monthly basis, and it snowballed from there. In 2004, I joined about 9 other SWE members in signing the Charter for the Texas Space Center section of the Society of Women Engineers.
I'm still proud of that accomplishment. I've stayed on that section's e-mail distribution, even after I moved away. Ten years later, it feels like I have come full circle, as I get involved in my local section again.
Every new iteration is a chance to learn something more, to do something a little bit better. I know I made mistakes ten years ago, that I mean to learn from and not repeat. I've also learned other skills and theories that I didn't know then.
Last weekend I was at a training workshop. The closing quote said "One woman can change anything. Many women can change everything." Ten years ago, we accomplished more together than I ever could have done alone. That is true again today.