Women are employees, managers, volunteers, leaders, mothers, wives, daughters… They wear many hats throughout the day, and throughout their lives. In a technically focused organization like the American Society for Quality (ASQ), participating as a woman can be daunting at the start. While the demographics of the organization have shifted over time, both younger and more balanced, many more technical roles have been seen as being “for men.”

The ASQ Women in Quality (WIQ) Network is a membership of women and men who strive to create an environment in the quality profession that allows each woman the ability to achieve her fullest potential. The WIQ Network provides the opportunity to network with other women in the quality profession, and learn from each other. The Discussion Board provides a place to ask questions and share experiences. This is a place to learn from others who may have dealt with a similar situation, build your network, and share stories about gender-based issues in the workplace. It is a place to plan and develop careers and examine your work-life balance. The WIQ Network is a place where you can just be yourself. It is an opportunity to learn from others, network, and share.

The WIQ Network was originally an output of a workshop led by ASQ on the membership model and member benefits. The same workshop actually led to the development of ASQ TV, which has become a popular way to learn about quality, one short video at a time. The WIQ Network was started in 2007, and initially had an active leadership structure as well as a newsletter highlighting women who had been honored as ASQ Fellows and offering other relevant content for women who were looking for support within the broader quality community. The original model was based on the affinity groups or networks typically found in larger businesses. At the time, ASQ was in the process of developing Networks as an organizational element. This focus on creating organizations as networks is no longer active within ASQ, but a second group was later organized that focused on Minorities in Quality.

Sentiments towards women in technical roles have shifted over time in many countries.

Another activity supported originally by the group was face-to-face networking, which was accomplished primarily through the World Conference for Quality and Improvement, but also through local sections. When the conference was in Houston, the CEO from Benchmark Electronics at the time was Gayla Delly, and she was recruited to present on cultivating a culture of quality throughout the organization. Her session was well attended, as was the After five session presented as a WIQ Network session. A number of other After five sessions were presented by the WIQ Network team over the years and gave women an opportunity to connect in person, including a session focused on speed networking.

While the WIQ Network did not maintain its active organizational structure after the first few years, it has remained an active organization with a group on LinkedIn. Content is actively moderated to prevent spam, anyone can post to the LinkedIn group, men included. Current topics include women in leadership, women in technology, careers, and work-life balance. Members can also post questions for other members to answer, sharing real life experiences with the group.

Beyond the LinkedIn group, ASQ has also held two virtual Women in Quality Symposiums in 2020 and 2021. The Symposiums have been yet another way for women to network within ASQ. Aligned with the society’s efforts in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, these short events have provided breakout sessions with discussion opportunities and many new ways to connect.

Sentiments towards women in technical roles have shifted over time in many countries, but unfortunately there are still people out there that believe that women are not capable of being engineers or holding other technical roles. Having a technical organization that is supportive of the role of women is helpful. As part of a global organization, it is important for women to be able to support those in other countries as well.

To join the ASQ Women in Quality Network, search for the name of the group on LinkedIn, then click the Join button. New members are welcome to post and introduce themselves and join in the conversation on the discussion boards. To learn about future ASQ Women in Quality Symposiums, go to my.asq.org and create an account if you don’t already have one. Future symposiums will be posted on the events page.