International Women in Engineering Day
By Christine Strong | June 23, 2023
On this Women in Engineering Day, I have been reflecting on how I got to where I am. I found myself in the field of engineering with the help of parents who encouraged me and supported my curiosity about engineering. As a 5th grader I attended an engineering and architecture camp and had so much fun learning about infrastructure and construction. At just 12 years old, I attended a Society of Women Engineers youth conference that displayed other women before me who were already paving the way. I began to see representation via women who were proving that entry into this field was possible for me.
I was so lucky to see myself in the representatives of these spaces – seeing women who were doing what I eventually hoped to do. This was transformative for my career journey. Throughout high school and college I had mentors to look to, who had faith in my abilities and communicated that to me with confidence. I am a big advocate for this type of support for women and other underrepresented communities in engineering because I know how critical that support is to the success of an individual journey. I would not be the engineer I am today without others who led before me, believed in me, and communicated their confidence in me.
Statistically, approximately 15-17% of structural engineers are women. While I was unable to find good statistics on the percentage of construction engineers who are women, I’d venture to guess it is even lower. While that may be hard to believe, women in this industry are well aware of this reality. It is far more common for me to be the only woman in the room, meeting, call, or on-site than not. While we still have a long way to come in industry diversity and representation, I have hope we will continue to make progress on this issue.
Today I am taking some time to reflect on what I personally can be doing to facilitate positive change in the industry, especially regarding the support and inclusion of women. Please join me to consider how you too can make a positive impact in this space. I have listed a couple ideas below as a starting point:
If you are a woman in engineering –
Thank you for everything you have done to pave the way for those who will come after you! Your struggle to make these spaces more inclusive has benefited so many women who have joined (and will join) the industry after you.
- Use the platform that you already have to support change in your workplace and the greater industry when possible
- Continue to take up space in your industry with confidence
- Volunteer for panels speaking to and encouraging the younger generation
- Find ways to give back through mentorship
If you want to support women in this industry –
- Consider reading about this topic and working to implement some of your learnings
- There are so many books on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the workplace that are intended to support actionable personal and professional development of this kind
- Support and encourage younger generations of women to pursue careers in engineering and construction
- Sponsor women in engineering/construction/STEM events, panels, guest speakers, career days, etc.
- Teach youth that you know personally to believe in themselves and their abilities, especially in fields that society has not historically encouraged them to go into
- Talk to youth about role models in underrepresented fields who look like them
- Be intentional with recruiting, hiring, and supporting diverse talent
- Prioritize support, understanding, and empathy in the workplace
- Consider what biases may be built into the structures of how things always have been run and work to update systems as required
- Adjust your language to be more inclusive
Thank you for the impact that each of you are making in this industry every day. I am so proud to work alongside many of you and am eager to continue to see our industry grow in its diversity and ability to reflect the entirety of the communities it serves.