Breaking Down Economic Barriers to Membership

President Pedro Ray examines e-membership

7 June 2010
ray For engineers and technical professionals in countries where salary levels are low, the cost of membership is an obstacle Photo: Bill Cramer/Wonderful Machine

Diversity is a hallmark and strength of IEEE. It is shown in our range of activities, from publishing and conferences to standards development and education. It is also evident in our hundreds of technical interests represented by our 45 societies and technical councils and their 1952 chapters.

But another type of diversity is key to the vitality and future of IEEE: geographic diversity. Our members now reside in 160 countries. And last year, more than 80 000 new members joined our ranks. Couple that number with those who renewed their memberships, and the total membership grew to a record of nearly 400 000. Although we’re a U.S.–based organization, our transnational spectrum shines through, with 43 percent of members living in countries outside North America. And that percentage has been increasing for many years.

Having members from as many countries as possible can affect the other areas of needed diversity in IEEE. Women, for example, make up 10 percent of membership. With an expanded pool of prospective members worldwide, our IEEE Women in Engineering affinity groups, along with other recruiting efforts, can help bring more women into the fold.

One way to promote such diversity in our membership and thus sustain our success as a leader among technical professional societies worldwide is to make sure that we don’t present barriers to prospective members. For those engineers and technical professionals in countries where salary levels are low compared with other countries, the cost of membership is one such obstacle.

Many more individuals in those countries would join IEEE, and many more existing members would renew, if not for the cost. IEEE dues are comparable to those of many other professional associations and sometimes even lower. However, that’s no consolation to engineers and others who can’t afford the dues. In some cases, the membership fee represents a significant portion of their income.

E-MEMBERSHIP
As a result of economic realities and to expand our diversity, IEEE will offer for the 2011 renewal year an electronic-only membership at a reduced rate. The e-membership will be available to those living in a country with a per capita gross domestic product of less than US $15 000. There are 124 countries that fall into this category. (Please see related item on p. 4.)

In developing e-membership, a financial analysis was done by IEEE to see whether the reduced fees would have an adverse affect on IEEE finances as a whole. The study showed that there will be limited negative impact. In fact, the design of the membership category, which will account for less than 1 percent of overall revenue, helps mitigate any losses and over the long term is actually projected to add to the bottom line. Furthermore, research on alternate membership models suggests that, because of the lower price point for IEEE membership, members in the affected countries will be more likely to join or increase their participation in society activities and use more products and services.

The new membership offering represents a minor extension of the reduced fees already available to life members, student members, recent graduates, retired people, the unemployed, and those who meet the current minimum-income threshold. We have operated with those categories, which now account for about 40 percent of our membership, for several decades. I believe they have helped add to our diversity by making it possible for more engineers and other technical professionals to join IEEE.

An ancillary benefit to IEEE for offering the e-membership is that we increase the pool of members who could serve as volunteers. Member volunteers number in the tens of thousands, with many filling multiple roles. We have a constant need to refresh our volunteer ranks to keep IEEE vibrant and growing. We also need younger volunteers who can learn from the more experienced ones and bring fresh perspectives to bear on a range of activities and issues within the organization.

IEEE membership is valuable because you help make it that way with your continued support of our programs and activities and your loyalty. While we help make membership available to more individuals, I ask you to encourage your fellow technical professionals to consider the benefits of joining you, me, and others around the world in achieving our mission to advance technology for the benefit of humanity.

Pedro Ray
IEEE President and CEO

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