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November 8, 2021

AWiT Recognized for Steadfast Efforts in Advancing Women in STEM

Image of The APL Women in Technology (AWiT) affinity group at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL)

AWiT accepted its third consecutive Gold Mission Award from SWE at SWE’s annual conference for women engineers (WE). The 2021 SWE Gold Mission Award recognizes the efforts of the AWiT leadership team and membership.

Credit: Johns Hopkins APL/Jeff Fiske

The APL Women in Technology (AWiT) affinity group at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) has earned its third consecutive Gold Mission Award from the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), for its demonstrated commitment to SWE’s four goals: professional excellence, globalization, advocacy, and diversity and inclusion.

Organizing a wealth of activities to engage Johns Hopkins APL staff members and the local community, AWiT received its first Gold Mission Award in 2019. The group aims to empower women to achieve their full potential in STEM careers, expand the image of STEM professionals as positive forces in improving quality of life and demonstrate the value of diversity and inclusion.

“AWiT’s leaders and members appreciate SWE’s formal recognition of our hard work,” said Victoria Campbell, president of AWiT and a mechanical engineer in APL’s Research and Exploratory Development Department (REDD). “It feels great to know we provide representation for the women of APL while keeping with the best practices of SWE.”

AWiT’s outreach events, hosted in collaboration with the Laboratory’s STEM Program Management Office, the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland and local colleges and universities, seek to inspire the next generation of STEM talent. Meanwhile, its professional development events provide women staff members with opportunities to showcase their technical work, learn new skills, gain advice from panels and expand their networks. Additionally, the group hosts APL’s Women’s History Month celebration and is represented on the Labwide employee resource group FUSE (Fostering Unity and Staff Empowerment).

During the pandemic, AWiT quickly shifted gears and continued to deliver high-impact, virtual events for its members.

“I think the three events that had the biggest impact were our college visit days, a panel called ‘Navigating Your Career Through Geographical Changes,’ and a series called ‘Coffee and Conversations,’” said Alayna Peterson, vice president of AWiT and a software engineer in APL’s Air and Missile Defense Sector.

AWiT’s virtual college visit days allowed students to meet and network with STEM professionals.

“We used the shift to a virtual format as an opportunity to invite more students,” Peterson said. “Attendance was roughly fivefold compared to past years, and at least 12 attendees have already been accepted to work at APL as either interns or full-time staff members.”

“Navigating Your Career Through Geographical Challenges” was held in partnership with the Lab’s Talent Services Department and addressed concerns, raised by women staff members, about remote work negatively impacting career progression. Recognizing that certain life events, such as becoming a caregiver or relocating for a spouse’s job, affect women more often than they do men, the panel shared examples of productive remote work arrangements and resources to progress women’s careers when they relocate.

The group also recognized the need for informal events to increase engagement and provide staff members with a chance to discuss topics of interest. Over the past year, the AWiT professional development team has hosted “Coffee and Conversations,” a virtual guided discussion series that has covered topics such as gaining confidence as a STEM professional, finding work-life balance while building a career and managing sponsor relationships.

“We look forward to building on the successes of last year,” Peterson said. “We would love to see women at APL continue to lift each other up and mentor one another.”

AWiT, along with APL’s Danielle Hilliard and Morgan Trexler, was recognized at SWE’s annual conference, the world’s largest conference and career fair for women engineers and technologists. Hilliard, a group supervisor in REDD, was recognized with SWE’s Advocating Women in Engineering Award. Trexler, a program manager in APL’s Research and Exploratory Development Mission Area, was presented with the Patent Recognition Award. Read more about Hilliard and Trexler.

“This award recognizes the work and efforts accomplished by the 2020-2021 AWiT officer team, as well as AWiT’s active and supportive members,” Campbell said. “We hope to continue to advocate for women at the Lab. Our history of excellence helps inspire the new officer team to provide top-notch events and resources in support of our aligned mission with SWE.”

Media contact: Amanda Zrebiec, 240-592-2794, Amanda.Zrebiec@jhuapl.edu

The Applied Physics Laboratory, a not-for-profit division of The Johns Hopkins University, meets critical national challenges through the innovative application of science and technology. For more information, visit www.jhuapl.edu.