Seattle AWIS History

Seattle AWIS logo from 1985 when the chapter was launched. The chapter was previously called AWIS-SA. The logo has the Seattle spaceneedle as the A in AWIS, and Mt. Rainier appears as a cartoon behind the text.
Seattle AWIS logo at launch in 1985

The Association for Women in Science (AWIS) was founded in 1971 with the mission to become the leading organization that advocates on behalf of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to achieve business growth, social change, and innovation. Since then, AWIS has grown across the globe with 80 grassroots chapters and affiliates connecting more than 100,000 professionals in STEM with members, allies, and supporters worldwide.

The Seattle Area Chapter of AWIS (Seattle AWIS) was formed in the spring of 1985 through graduate students and post-doctoral researchers at the University of Washington (UW). Early days for Seattle AWIS focused on UW graduate students, postdocs, and faculty in the biological and health sciences with chapter meetings held at UW South Campus Center. The monthly programs focused on the research and accomplishments of individual women in science and career development and women in science issues. Additionally, the chapter developed a print newsletter to share with members and offered a mentor/protegee program. In the late 1980s, Seattle AWIS coordinated with the Society of Women Engineers, Association of Women Geoscientists, and Women’s Transportation Project to plan three annual one-day career development conferences for women in science and engineering fields in Seattle.

In 1991, Seattle AWIS made its first awards of our Scholarship Program, one for $1000 and the other for $250. Our scholarship program has grown so we now award $6000 – $10,000 in scholarships each year. Since the program’s inception, and thanks to the support of our generous donors, Seattle AWIS had awarded over $250,000 in scholarships.

Cartoon picture of the GEMS program, featuring an astronaut, a chemist and someone at a computer.
Girls in Engineering, Math and Science (GEMS) logo

Encouraging girls and young women to study science and increasing their awareness of science career options was a major goal of our chapter. Towards this end, Seattle AWIS participated as panelists, and workshop leaders in many regional Expanding Your Horizons conferences over the years and tutored undergraduate women at UW. The importance of outreach led to the launch of our Girls in Engineering, Math and Science (GEMS) Program in 2003 and our group mentoring program in 2010.

Seattle AWIS has remained a robust chapter, heralded by National AWIS as a model for other AWIS chapters to emulate. Our membership now includes women from many workplaces, career stages, and science fields.