Making An Impact - Women in Engineering
It's national Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day! According to data from the US Census Bureau's 2016 American Community Survey, only 12% of engineers and 27% of environmental engineers are women. So today, we're hoping to inspire the next generation of women engineers with the stories of two Klingner professionals who are currently working towards obtaining their licenses: Brooke Mitchell, EI, (Structural Engineering) and Jessica Cary, EI (Environmental Engineering).
Q: Why did you choose to become an engineer?
Jessica: I chose to become an engineer because I had an interest in both science and math. Engineering allows me to use both while working to solve problems. Environmental engineering also gives me the opportunity to spend some of my work day outside which I enjoy.
Brooke: I have always loved math and solving problems, but I didn’t know what career path I wanted to go down. While working at Target I started up a conversation with a customer and he told me I should be an engineer. That was the first moment that I thought about becoming an engineer. I looked up more about what engineering was and decided that it was a perfect fit!
Q: What is your favorite part of your job?
Brooke: I love that every day is different. Every project I work on I get to learn something new and there is always a unique problem to solve. I can easily say that being an engineer is far from boring.
Jessica: I like that I get to do something a little different each day and that I get to spend time doing field work. With a smaller firm like Klingner, I get to see and work on a wide variety of projects.
Q: What has been your favorite project?
Jessica: I don’t think that I have one particular project that stands out from the rest. I enjoy projects that have a nice balance of field and office work. A project that I’ve worked on for the last four years has been monitoring at a closed landfill. I enjoy being able to take samples and gas readings and then bringing those results back to the office to determine how to move forward. I also like to complete Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessments, especially around the Burlington area. It’s interesting to research the area through an environmental lens.
Brooke: One of my favorite projects that I have worked on was a steel tower that holds up a tank. The client was wanting to replace the tower and the foundation. Typically, the entire tower would be demolished at once, but with this project we had to replace the foundation first while keeping the tower up and running. We ended up doing this by shoring the tower with a beam on each side and supporting the beams on two nearby towers. This was a fun project to work on and took a lot of brainstorming before we figured out a solution.
Q: Why do you think it's important for young women to pursue STEM fields?
Jessica: I think it’s important for young women to pursue fields that are interesting to them whether that be a STEM field or not. I think that young women should be encouraged to explore STEM fields and to take as many STEM-related courses as they can in order to encourage those women that would really excel in those fields to pursue them. It can be intimidating choosing a “non-traditional” career path for a woman, but I think the benefit of having a career that it is truly enjoyable outweighs the potential struggle of navigating a field traditionally dominated by men. I would encourage young women who are trying to determine a career path to not dismiss a career path because of traditional gender stereotypes, whether that be a career in STEM like a programmer or engineer, a career in the construction trades, a career in the medical field, or any other field.
Brooke: I think it’s important for young women to know that STEM careers are an option for them. The media portrays these careers as “male jobs,” but that is simply not true. Women belong in this field right alongside men. Our thoughts and ideas need to be heard.
Q: What advice would you give to an aspiring engineer?
Brooke: My advice would be to work hard and to always have an open mind. Never assume the current way of doing things is the best way. The world needs new ideas to grow.
Jessica: For high school students thinking about going into engineering, take as many science and math classes as you can and take advantage of any college credit that you can get while still in high school. Also, start doing some research on the many different types of engineering jobs that are out there. Engineering is a very broad category of careers, and knowing an approximate direction that you want to go will help you pick a school and navigate your first year of college.
For college students studying engineering, get involved in student clubs and competitions and don’t underestimate the importance of writing classes. If your university hosts student design competitions like ¼ Scale Tractor Team (ASABE), Fountain Wars (ASABE), Concrete Canoe (ASCE), Steel Bridge (ASCE), or other clubs that encourage hands-on experience in taking a project from concept to final design, get involved! Also, many engineers need to have writing skills for proposals, reports, specifications, etc., so writing classes are an important part of the engineering curriculum.